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Old 09-06-2011, 06:22 PM   #1
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I'm Lost


I'll try to make this short & informative:

I have a junction box in my bathroom which houses a GFCI outlet & a 2-way switch. The switches control my vanity light (above mirror) and my exhaust fan (ceiling mounted w/o light).

The switch was bad, I bought a new one and a new GFCI to match. Like an idiot, I didn't label anything before a wire came loose from a pigtail in there and now I'm lost. Here's what I know so far...

Somewhere in there also links everything else on the circuit (heat lamp in shower, hallway light, second GFCI in bathroom) I know which wires are which but I don't know how to run them. I can get everything going one at a time, but I'm not understanding how to get power to the switch w/o tripping the GFCI or blowing a fuse EVERY TIME. The wires are all 12/2 with a black and a white.

I don't understand the load-out and if the common is supposed to be the white neutral on the switch or what. I'm lost! I've learned a lot this far in, but don't know how to link the switches to the items they're supposed to turn on & off. How do they get power?

Oh yeah, for sympathy alone, my wife is also ready to kill me

Thanks guys in advance...I SUCK!

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Old 09-06-2011, 06:25 PM   #2
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What wires are in the box?

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Old 09-06-2011, 06:27 PM   #3
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wires i have in the junction box:

black: vanity light (works when connected to HOT)
black: exhaust fan (works when connected to HOT)
black: (main power? it's HOT)
black: (i assume power for hallway cuz thats what comes on when pigtailed with HOT)
black: (again, assume for heat lamp cuz thats what comes on when pigtailed with hot)

2 seperate stripped copper ground wires (1 for each unit)

a bundle of 4 whites wire-nutted together with one pigtail coming out

1 solo white
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Old 09-06-2011, 06:30 PM   #4
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Does the heat lamp, vanity, and exhasut fan all work with one switch?
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Old 09-06-2011, 06:44 PM   #5
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The heat lamp is on a single switch outside of this box by itself.

The exhaust fan was originally on the bottom switch of the 2-way switch by itself & the vanity light on the top switch of the 2-way by itself. So visually, this box has a GFCI dual outlet on the left & a double switch on the right both being in the box. Everything else passes through this wiring though apparently
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Old 09-06-2011, 06:45 PM   #6
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Which cable does the solo white come from? In other words which black wire is in the same cable as the solo white?
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Old 09-06-2011, 07:20 PM   #7
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It looks nearly seperated from any of the bundles but appears to come from same are as the "black HOT" line which also has a ground wire near where it enters the box.

This an older home (60's) and this is a sloppy junction box compared to others i've swapped outlets that were roomy and less cluttered
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Old 09-06-2011, 08:56 PM   #8
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I'm sorry to not be much help on-topic, but before I openned the thread I saw "I'm lost" and that your username is Lionsfan, and my first thought was "I know the feeling."
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Old 09-06-2011, 09:04 PM   #9
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Some thing is fishy. All the blacks seem to power something when power is applied, yet one of the whites is not used. At least one device should not power up without the white wire connected.
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Old 09-06-2011, 09:34 PM   #10
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i did have both of the whites entering the "line/white" side of the GFCI (lower left side) and all black tied in together to test that everything worked at the same time w/o blowing a fuse...once i tried setting it up in my ideal fashion (with the 2-way switch) is when i lost control of how/where/why wires go...

let me ask this, my switch has a connected brass plate on the common side, does this mean only one "hot" line needs to hit that side and then put the vanity line on upper switch, fan line on lower? someone just suggested i do that and leave the other white line on common "line" side of GFCI and tie in remaining blacks to "line/hot" side of GFCI. what do you think of that set up?

does a white line HAVE to be on the switch if it's tied in too a bundle of whites and pigtailed out to the GFCI?
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Old 09-06-2011, 09:47 PM   #11
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With the following assumptions...you have a stacked switch (one switch on top of another with horizontal movement for switching), the black wire for the heat lamp goes to a separate switch in another box, you now know which wire is which.

Make sure the circuit is turned off at the breaker/fuse panel. The solo neutral (pigtailed with 4? Other neutrals) will go to the neutral terminal on the line side of the GFI. With an appropriately sized wire nut connect the hot coming in, hot for hallway, hot for heat lamp, and 2 - 6" pieces of black #12. One will go to the hot terminal on the line side of the GFI and one will go to the hot terminals of the stacked switch.

The wire for the light will go to one switch leg terminal of the switch and the fan will go to the other.

The bare grounds will go to the ground terminal on the switch and GFI respectively.

Tuck everything neatly inside the box, replace the devices, and restore power. Test with a plug in tester or, even better, DMM.

And of course if you are at all in doubt contact an electrician. Electricity is dangerous.
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Old 09-07-2011, 02:04 PM   #12
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Thank you Dante! Problem solved!

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