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Old 02-05-2011, 02:55 AM   #1
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Both sides of a switch are hot?


Hi, so I recently moved into a fairly new building and in my room there's a switch on the wall. Long story short, I tried everything I can think of and cannot figure out what the heck the switch is for. There is no ceiling light, and it controls none of the wall outlets.

So a couple of days ago, I decided to take it apart and test its connections with a multimeter. I got some interesting results. First, I noticed that no matter which position the switch is on, the two wires connected to it(a red and a black wire) are always at the same voltage. Second, when I measured each individual wire to ground, BOTH wires registered 120V's. I took out the switch so that the two wires are just hanging in air, completely separated, and got the same readings. As you can imagine, I'm a bit stumped. How can both wires be hot at all times? There are no other switches in the room, and those two wires are the only ones with exposed ends inside of the switch housing, so I really can't think of any reason for this to happen.

Is this a wiring problem? Thanks for any responses!

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Old 02-05-2011, 06:47 AM   #2
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Both sides of a switch are hot?


That might have been a switched outlet-------someone failed to break the tab on the outlet that would separate the constantly powered side from the switched side---Should not be hard to trace---Mike---

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Old 02-05-2011, 07:44 AM   #3
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Both sides of a switch are hot?


Do you have access to the service panel which services this switch? If yes are your circuits labeled? Did you disconnect the power before you removed the switch?
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Old 02-05-2011, 08:01 AM   #4
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Both sides of a switch are hot?


Do you own this building? Or are you renting a space/apartment?
If the latter you should NOT be touching the electrical there. Call the landlord.
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Old 02-05-2011, 08:33 AM   #5
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Both sides of a switch are hot?


is there a neutral in the switch box?? have you measured between the red and the black?? what do you get?? 120V or 240V
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Old 02-05-2011, 10:05 AM   #6
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Both sides of a switch are hot?


Quote:
Originally Posted by oh'mike View Post
That might have been a switched outlet-------someone failed to break the tab on the outlet that would separate the constantly powered side from the switched side---Should not be hard to trace---Mike---
I agree, probably supposed to control a half-switched outlet. Often it's the outlet closest to the switch.
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Old 02-05-2011, 03:13 PM   #7
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Both sides of a switch are hot?


Quote:
Originally Posted by jlmran View Post
Do you have access to the service panel which services this switch? If yes are your circuits labeled? Did you disconnect the power before you removed the switch?
Yea, I did, but of course I had to switch the power back on to test it after removing it.

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Originally Posted by Speedy Petey View Post
Do you own this building? Or are you renting a space/apartment?
If the latter you should NOT be touching the electrical there. Call the landlord.
Well, it's a condo in a building and my roommate owns it. He's fine with me testing the electrical stuff, but I suppose maybe the condo management can help too?

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Originally Posted by rditz View Post
is there a neutral in the switch box?? have you measured between the red and the black?? what do you get?? 120V or 240V
There's a green wire hooked up to a a screw inside the switch housing, and I think that's a ground so that's what I measured each wire against. When I measure between the red and black I get 0V no matter what. I think the two wires are shorted somewhere else.

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Originally Posted by oh'mike View Post
That might have been a switched outlet-------someone failed to break the tab on the outlet that would separate the constantly powered side from the switched side---Should not be hard to trace---Mike---
Thanks, I'm gonna take apart the outlet near it and see if that's the case.
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Old 02-05-2011, 04:09 PM   #8
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Both sides of a switch are hot?


YES! I fixed it! It's exactly as you guys said, somebody forgot to break the tab between the two outlets in a switched outlet. I first took a look at the nearest one to the switch, but it was hooked up normally with a power(black), a neutral(white), and a ground(green). However, I did notice the tab you guys talked about connecting between the two outlets' neutrals and powers, so I figured the most likely culprit is still a short there and went on to check out the other outlets in the room. What do you know, one of the outlets is hooked up exactly like that with an extra red wire that's connected via a tab to the other other outlet's black power wire. I removed the tab and voila, I no longer have to walk all the way to my bed to turn on the light!

Thanks a ton guys!
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Old 02-05-2011, 08:02 PM   #9
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Both sides of a switch are hot?


That is surprisingly common---I always suggest that a person leave the old outlets on the floor under the one that was replaced--until the system has been tested.

A 240 dead short can happen if the switch and outlet are on different legs at the breaker box---
--That will add some excitement to the job!

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