Figuring Out Panamanian Switch Wiring
I'm an American living in Panama City, Panama, and encountered some interesting wiring which I am trying to decipher and hoping someone can be of assistance. Code is extremely lax here and I am constantly surprised by the inconsistency of creative and dangerous wiring.
I've done some small home electrical work myself and understand the basic concepts, but this one had me perplexed.
I was helping a friend to replace a conventional switch in an apartment building with a dimmer for a 110V incandescent light fixture that was too bright. I came over and he already had the box open, and had disconnected the old switch. There were 3 wires coming into the top of the switch box: 2 orange and one yellow. The old switch had a ground screw, while the new dimmer did not.
I reasoned that the 2 orange wires were the hot lines - 1 coming directly hot directly from the panel and the other returning hot up to the light, and that the yellow was the ground. I know that commonly return lines should be taped or otherwise indicated as not a direct hot, but figured this just hadn't been done.
I connected the orange lines to the 2 screws on the dimmer, and wired the yellow to the metal box, as the switch had no ground itself. I threw the breaker and nothing happened; turning the dimmer switch, still nothing.
I scratched my head and, as a test, connected the yellow to one side of the switch and orange to another, turned power back on, and voila! Switch is working fine. I isolated the other orange line and taped it up for the time being.
So what could the electrician have done here - I'm now thinking that one orange line was the hot, the yellow is the "return" line to the light, but what could the other orange be? Possibly neutral? Yet if that were the case, wouldn't it have fried the dimmer, or at least tripped the breaker, when I tested it the first time?
I'm planning on getting a multimeter and contacting a local electrician to investigate further but any tips would be appreciated.
Drew in Panama