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Old 11-01-2011, 10:08 PM   #1
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First post: Strange wiring for disposal/dishwasher


Hi All!

First post from a guy who is renovating his house that was purchased in late July. We haven't moved in yet and are in the process of a near-total gut job. Wiring for the house is fairly modern except for some bugs here and there.

I've become pretty competent in fixing some of the minor electrical issues this house has, except for this one, which I drew a (messy) diagram for. The house came this way..

Here's what it looks like (neutral wires colored pink for visibility):




Here are the issues I am having:

- The upper GFCI plug tests and resets perfectly fine.

- When I flip the left switch to the "on" position, it trips the breaker in the service panel, causing everything else naturally to become a vegetable.

- When I flip the right switch, nothing happens at all.

- The lower GFCI plug never tests or resets, and won't let me reset. I am positive that the white, black and ground wires are correctly placed on it.

- There is a spare black wire that is standing alone that is spliced to the white splice in the right switch's J-box, and the black wire is capped on the other end behind the upper GFCI.



This is setup in the kitchen under the sink, and I assume that one plug is for the dish washer and the other is for the disposal.

My questions are:

1) What was the previous owner trying to accomplish here? I have seen disposals on a switch but never the power to the dishwasher.

2) Why does the breaker trip when I flip the left switch?

3) Why does the lower plug never seem to have power going to it?

4) How can I better wire this? I am totally dumbfounded.


Thank you!
Andrew


Last edited by SnoSkiDrew; 11-01-2011 at 10:23 PM.
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Old 11-01-2011, 10:20 PM   #2
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First post: Strange wiring for disposal/dishwasher


I have a headache looking at that!

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Old 11-01-2011, 10:22 PM   #3
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First post: Strange wiring for disposal/dishwasher


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Originally Posted by Billy_Bob View Post
I have a headache looking at that!

Yeah it's not a great drawing, or a great wiring configuration. I had to go back by the house twice to make sure I had all the connections right.
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Old 11-01-2011, 10:34 PM   #4
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First post: Strange wiring for disposal/dishwasher


Perhaps if we straighten out the circuit breaker part...

This is what a typical circuit breaker panel looks like...
http://chaneyelec.com/wp-content/upl...breakerbox.jpg

Typically one black wire from a 20 amp circuit would go to one 20 amp breaker. The white wire would go to the neutral bar. And the ground wire would go to a ground bar or a shared neutral/ground bar.

Then can you post a picture of the wiring under the sink? That might help.

Then what do you want and need? I would guess you want the dishwasher plugged into an outlet which is always on. And that you would want a switch to operate the garbage disposal?

Also a white wire is not necessarily a neutral wire. If a black hot goes into a switch and a white wire comes out the other connection on that switch, it is also hot (and should have black electrical tape on it on both ends to indicate it is a hot). And typically the black hot is switched. That might help to clear things up.
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Old 11-01-2011, 10:51 PM   #5
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First post: Strange wiring for disposal/dishwasher


Quote:
Originally Posted by Billy_Bob View Post
Perhaps if we straighten out the circuit breaker part...

This is what a typical circuit breaker panel looks like...
http://chaneyelec.com/wp-content/upl...breakerbox.jpg

Typically one black wire from a 20 amp circuit would go to one 20 amp breaker. The white wire would go to the neutral bar. And the ground wire would go to a ground bar or a shared neutral/ground bar.

Then can you post a picture of the wiring under the sink? That might help.

Then what do you want and need? I would guess you want the dishwasher plugged into an outlet which is always on. And that you would want a switch to operate the garbage disposal?

Also a white wire is not necessarily a neutral wire. If a black hot goes into a switch and a white wire comes out the other connection on that switch, it is also hot (and should have black electrical tape on it on both ends to indicate it is a hot). And typically the black hot is switched. That might help to clear things up.

In regards to the service panel, I am not sure I guess which one goes to the panel and which one comes from it. I just know that they come and go from the same hole out of the ceiling through the studs, then into this configuration. I suppose unless it's necessary, ignore the to/from panel part.

Ideally I'd like the situation you described above. In fact, I've never even seen an independent switch for the dish washer. I've only seen one for the disposal.


It's not the greatest pic, but here is the pic of the 2 switches side by side (right switch removed for visibility).

The diagram is honestly the best example as the 2 switches and 2 plugs are spread apart a few feet.



The white/black/white splice is circled in green.
The white/black splice that connect to left switch is in blue.
the red/black splice that connects to right switch is in pink.
The plain black wire that connect to the right switch is in orange.

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Old 11-01-2011, 11:32 PM   #6
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First post: Strange wiring for disposal/dishwasher


Yes that is a... shall we say... "challenge"!

Anyway that will require the services of an experienced electrician. He will need to figure out where each wire goes. And that could possibly entail doing some testing with the electricity on - not a DIY thing!

The problem with testing wires like this is you need to know construction and where wires are likely to go. Then go to those locations and disconnect things so you can use a continuity tester to verify where the wire goes. If certain things are left connected, you can get false readings.

For example all the neutrals and grounds in the house are connected together at the circuit breaker panel. So you could use an ohm meter from a neutral white wire poking out of that mess to a nearby outlet, get a reading, then conclude that was where the wire went. But not so! You may be just reading the connection through the electric panel!

I would recommend an electrician. Ask for someone good at tracking down where wires go. They might also have special tools for this.
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Old 11-01-2011, 11:41 PM   #7
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First post: Strange wiring for disposal/dishwasher


Quote:
Originally Posted by Billy_Bob View Post
Yes that is a... shall we say... "challenge"!

Anyway that will require the services of an experienced electrician. He will need to figure out where each wire goes. And that could possibly entail doing some testing with the electricity on - not a DIY thing!

The problem with testing wires like this is you need to know construction and where wires are likely to go. Then go to those locations and disconnect things so you can use a continuity tester to verify where the wire goes. If certain things are left connected, you can get false readings.

For example all the neutrals and grounds in the house are connected together at the circuit breaker panel. So you could use an ohm meter from a neutral white wire poking out of that mess to a nearby outlet, get a reading, then conclude that was where the wire went. But not so! You may be just reading the connection through the electric panel!

I would recommend an electrician. Ask for someone good at tracking down where wires go. They might also have special tools for this.


Thanks for the advice!

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