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Old 06-24-2010, 07:02 AM   #1
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How to waste time by not thinking

This should be under one of the "stupid things I've done" threads ...

When we bought our house seven years ago, the bedrooms had no ceiling lights, just a switched outlet in each room. I put some ceiling fixtures in some of the rooms, but left two rooms the way they were. A few years ago, I painted one of the kids rooms and replaced all the recepticles. I had forgotten to remove the tab between the hot screws, and by the time I realized it, I thought "oh well, the outlets are all live. So what if the switch doesn't do anything?" and I left it, always intending to come back and fix it later.

Yesterday, while fixing up the house to sell it, I though I'd better fix that outlet or the buyers may be confused by the switch that doesn't seem to do anything. Now remember, it's been a few years since the new outlets were put in.

I shut off the breaker, and went straight to the outlet, pulled the plate and started working. It struck me a little odd that I would have wired it differently (remember that part later), but proceeded to tie the blacks together with a pigtail for the "always live" outlet, marked the white to black for the wire coming from the switch, put it all back together, turned on the breaker and went to check my work. The bottom outlet had power, and the top one didn't just as expected ... except that it still didn't have power after I hit the switch. . Took it all apart again to check everything, put it all back together and retested ... still nothing from the switch. Replaced the switch with a new one ... still nothing.

So I took my trouble light and plugged it into each outlet in the room to try and figure out where the power was flowing from and to. First recept, all good. Second recept (the one I had been working on) bottom good, top no good. Third recept ... nothing! By now some of you are figuring it out!

I pulled the plate of the third and what did I find? A pigtail and and two black wires screwed to the recept. In my haste, and lack of planning, I let my memory convince me that I had the right outlet, I wasted about an hour wiring the wrong outlet and trying to figure out why it wasn't working, when all I had to do was kill the breaker, and break the tab off the RIGHT outlet, and I would have been done. So, I swapped recepticles, put the wiring back to the way it was, and quit for the day.

After that mindless experience, I'm sure I'm going to need all of your help when I tackle the mess that is the panel. Don't worry, most of it is labeled ... but not the breaker for the 3 basement plugs. After trying each of the unlabeled breakers to find the right one ... it was the last one I tried ... the double poled 60a breaker!!!


gdoucette is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-24-2010, 07:07 AM   #2
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I hope you are not saying that there is a 60 amp breaker "protecting" general use receptacles in your basement. If so this is very wrong and a potential fire hazard. The NEC limits general use receptacles to no more than a 20 amp circuit.


Answers based on the National Electrical Code. Local amendments may apply. Check with your local building officials.
Jim Port is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-24-2010, 07:39 AM   #3
Join Date: May 2010
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Hi Jim,

That's exactly what it looks like. I have more exploring to do to figure where the circuit goes, but what I see so far is that the double pole 60a amp breaker, when shut off, kills my basement plugs and the lights in my sun porch. What I haven't figured out yet is how the circuit is configured. The wire coming of the breaker looks big, like #8 stranded, but the wiring to all of the fixtures is 14/2. It almost looks like there might be a sub-panel off the 60a breaker, and the everything is connected to that ... and there is a small fuse-type panel box beside the main panel, but neither I, nor my electrician friend, could figure out what that panel was for.

The house used to have electric heat, but now has a wood/oil furnace. So half of the main panel is now empty breakers except for the dryer circuit and this 60a. I wonder if the previous owners added the little sub panel to gain circuits when they built the sunporch, before the electric heat was taken out. None the less, I think a major cleanup at the panel is in order ...
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