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Old 03-11-2012, 05:23 PM   #1
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Identifying a circuit type, with an orange wire


I am trying to replace a rocker switch that runs my Panasonic bathroom exhaust fan with a programmable switch that allows me to run the thing automatically several times a day to help suck moisture out of the condo (it's a 1962 condo with concrete walls, aluminum windows, and no central air).

I initially bought a GE SunSmart Timer but it requires a neutral, which I don't think I have. I understand there are some other switches like Intermatic ones that don't require neutrals.

I don't think I have a neutral because the condo is old and I don't see a white wire in the box, but what's strange is that I do see an unconnected orange wire in there. Does anybody know what that could be? Image is attached. Essentially there are 2 blues, 1 red, 1 black, and 1 orange (unconnected) in there. The only thing I can find about orange wires is something called a "high leg delta" circuit, which seems reasonable because it's supposedly used to control fans and lights off the same circuit, which is exactly what's going on here (one can light, one heat lamp, and one fan).

Any ideas?
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Old 03-11-2012, 05:36 PM   #2
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Identifying a circuit type, with an orange wire


I don't see a neutral in your box. I suspect the orange is another switch controlled hot, maybe for a night light in the fan.

The orange is not part of a high leg delta. Three phase service in a residence is not needed.

Since you have a conduit system you should be able to pull a neutral to the box.

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Old 03-11-2012, 06:15 PM   #3
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Identifying a circuit type, with an orange wire


Are you in the USA? Just asking to be sure ...

As Jim said the wire colors indicate you have a conduit system. One switch appears to be a two switch combination device and the other is a single pole switch.

Unless the combination device has a receptacle (I can't tell) and a switch I would suspect there is no neutral in the box which is also confirmed by the fact there are no white wires.

High leg delta is a three phase system where the B phase is identified with orange marking as the high leg and cannot be used for 120 volt branch circuits. The orange wire shown is simply a wire meant to be used for a hot wire or switched hot in the branch circuit.

If the orange originates in the fan/light box and is unused you could use it to pull a neutral to the switch box
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Old 03-11-2012, 09:23 PM   #4
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Identifying a circuit type, with an orange wire


Thanks guys. Yep, I'm in the U.S. I have no idea why it was wired the way it was, with no neutral at the switch, so it seems like the path of least resistance would be to just buy an Intermatic timer that doesn't require a neutral. I think they use batteries to keep a bit of power going to the timer. I could probably pull wire to this location pretty easily since it's a few feet away from the circuit breaker but there is another location which needs a timer as well and it's quite a bit further away.

Agree? Simplest to just get a different switch?
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Old 03-11-2012, 09:37 PM   #5
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Identifying a circuit type, with an orange wire


The neutral you need should be in the box with the utilization equipment. It should be an easy pull down to the switch box.
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Old 03-12-2012, 06:35 AM   #6
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Identifying a circuit type, with an orange wire


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If the orange originates in the fan/light box and is unused you could use it to pull a neutral to the switch box
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Old 03-12-2012, 06:41 AM   #7
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Identifying a circuit type, with an orange wire


Like STubbie said if that unused orange wire at the switch location is also at the fan location, wire nut the orange at the fan location to the neutral at the fan location. Now you have a neutral at the switch location.

The elctricity does not care what color insulation is over the neutral conductor but maybe wrap some white tape around the orange insulation at the switch location and fan location
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Old 03-12-2012, 08:43 AM   #8
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Identifying a circuit type, with an orange wire


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Like STubbie said if that unused orange wire at the switch location is also at the fan location, wire nut the orange at the fan location to the neutral at the fan location. Now you have a neutral at the switch location.

The elctricity does not care what color insulation is over the neutral conductor but maybe wrap some white tape around the orange insulation at the switch location and fan location
The electricity might not care, but you are advocating the OP to commit a code violation. Use the orange wire to pull in a neutral (white). If the possibility exists that the "orange" leg might be used in the future, pull in the white AND a wire of any color other than green, grey, or white.
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Old 03-12-2012, 09:58 AM   #9
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Identifying a circuit type, with an orange wire


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Use the orange wire to pull in a neutral (white). If the possibility exists that the "orange" leg might be used in the future, pull in the white AND a wire of any color other than green, grey, or white.
Good idea.

Hey at least I suggested taping the ends of the orange wire with some whit tape. Gimme credit for that. SO would be 1/2 a code violation.
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Old 03-12-2012, 10:23 AM   #10
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Identifying a circuit type, with an orange wire


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The electricity might not care, but you are advocating the OP to commit a code violation. Use the orange wire to pull in a neutral (white). If the possibility exists that the "orange" leg might be used in the future, pull in the white AND a wire of any color other than green, grey, or white.
Absoultely, there are many times I have sacrificed a wire being used to pull another wire. You just have to be sure to pull in its replacement .....

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