||01-08-2009 12:17 AM
Electric wire in cold air return
Electric wire in a cold air return is clearly not allowed according to code, as pointed out in several other threads on this board.
Here is my situation. I needed to move a light switch and thermostat. I cut a hole in what I thought was an empty wall away from ducts, other utility, etc, and ran my wires. Running the thermostat wire showed me that the entire wall (it is a small wall) is open and being used as a cold air return - even though the vent grates are well to the right of where I am working. Apparently the house was built with central heat and no air, and someone cut the headers above the vents and possibly a vertical wall framing with a drill to make the entire wall act as a vent.
I really didn't want to repaint this room (has a 270 gallon fish tank against the wall), but that is not an option if I cannot keep my switch where I put it. I am thinking of opening the entire wall, installing some sort of barrier to make the vent less wide (shouldn't matter, since the openings are less than 1/2 the width of the vent), and running my wires on the other side of the barrier. Alternatively, running the wires through the vent somehow would make this an easy project. Several others have pointed out the code refers to areas designed for use as vents or phlegms, and I question if this applies to an entire way chewed up by an overzealous air conditioning installer cutting 2x4s with a power drill. Alternatively, I can patch the opening for the switch, and put things mostly back the way I found them.
I know phlegm rated wires in the vent is probably safe and probably not to code. I want everything in my house done right, or at least the part I do. I also question whether leaving this cold air return the way it was is a smart idea, or if I should fix it.