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Steve19 02-20-2011 11:32 PM

Old Bathroom - all electrical on one circuit? how to change?
Hi guys,

I'm new to the board. I was hoping some of you veterans can help me out.

I bought a 30 year old home last month with one bathroom (my first home). When I turn on the main light switch, the light turns on, as well as the fan. There is an old silver electrical outlet near the sink that only operates a low powered electrical item, such as a shaver. The outlet will only work when the light switch is turned on. When I try to plug in a hairdryer (with the light switch on or off) the hairdryer will not turn on. Why is this? Too much power taken up by the fan and lights? I tried tracing to see if the electrical wire has it's on idependent feed to the electrical panel in the basement, but I can't locate the wire (the electrical panel is in my laundry room and the ceiling is not finished, so I can track all the wires)

What I would like is to have the lights turn on with its own switch, have a separate switch for the fan, and I'd also like to have the silver outlet be able to power a hair dryer. I also hope to change this silver outlet to a modern/safer outlet.

Will I have to tear down the walls to fix what I'm asking? If there are any tutorials or suggestions you have, I'd greatly appreciate it. I'm new to electrical, so any guidance would be great.

Thanks everyone!

Saturday Cowboy 02-21-2011 12:37 AM

sounds like we have multiple problems, the hairdryer hints at all kinds of bad things. Yes you may have to do some fishing or drywall. Is there an attic or celler above/below that we can access?

frenchelectrican 02-21-2011 01:47 AM

I don't know how handy are you but this bathroom do denfitly need some change along the way.

How easy this home construction is ?? is any way way you can get above or below the bathroom ??

The shaver outlet which I used in European terms as shaver socket and it will have isolationg transfomer to limit the voltage and current to very low level and that is pretty much anquite now.

It will be much easier to run a new 20 amp circuit for the bathroom GFCI receptaple { this part you will need 12-2 NM cable } and leave the light alone for timebeing until you change the switch box which I will save that for a moment due the old wiring connection it will throw you off the track if not pay attetion.


Steve19 02-21-2011 08:21 AM

Thanks guys.

I do have access above and below the bathroom. I guess if I have to tear out a section of the wall I will to put in a new wire, but I was hoping to get around that :wink:

Please correct me, but can I use the existing wiring and do the following: change the silver electrical outlet to a new GFCI receptacle (this will allow me full power because I won't have an isolating transformer?); and install a new switch, adjacent to existing light switch, for the fan?

Thanks guys!

hhuggles 02-21-2011 01:34 PM

Since you do not have access above or below the bathroom then the bandaid solution to easy your comfort in the home is to change the outlet to a GFI. This will allow the dryer to not be limited.
Not having access above or below the washroom means to rewire the bathroom to add the extra switch and wire to the fan that there WILL be damage to patch.
My concern with no access makes me aware previous owners have done renovations from the original build. I have been involved with Mike Holmes job sites enough to recognize there may be more problems then you are aware of.
Purchase a $10 plug tester and go around your home testing for correct wiring. I will gamble there are a few with missing grounds among other problems. I will also gamble there are a few overloaded circuits too.

Remove a plug or two in your home and look for the two big concerns in homes that age. Aluminum wires or copper wiring but no ground wires.

Aluminum wiring is a fire hazzard and not having ground wires makes anything pluged into that circuit a potential shock hazzard.

Been doing electrical for 20 yrs. :eek:

Sfeyelectric 02-21-2011 01:41 PM


Originally Posted by hhuggles (Post 595140)

Aluminum wiring is a fire hazzard

That's not true, it is safe. Just have to use slightly different size such as 12awg on 15 amp circuit!

SD515 02-21-2011 02:13 PM

Some pictures might be a good idea

Steve19 02-21-2011 03:26 PM

I'll have pictures posted in an hour.

I pulled off the covers for both the light switch (which also turns on the fan) and the silver electrical outlet, and both have a white and black wire, along with a ground. The wiring is copper, not aluminum.

I suspect I can change the silver outlet to a GFI recepitcal, as suggested above, and be able to use a hair dryer, however, I'm not sure if I can install a separate switch for the fan because I can't trace where the wiring comes from or where it goes to? I guess this is where I will need to rip down a wall to find out?

Thanks guys.

Steve19 02-21-2011 05:46 PM

6 Attachment(s)
Ok guys, here are some pictures.

I ended finding a junction box behind the bathroom mirror which was completely exposed and full of dust. It appears (correct me if i'm wrong) that the fan is connected to that junction box and then routed to the light switch. The light switch then connects to the silver electrical outlet. The light switch is on the wall adjacent to the silver electrical outlet (i didn't think it was necessary to attach a picture)

Is there a way to configure the wiring to the way I asked in my original post since i've found this junction box?

Thanks guys!

frenchelectrican 02-21-2011 11:09 PM

Acorrding to the photos you provided in here indeed that is a shaver transfomer you can ditch it and buy a GFCI receptale however this part may get little tricky due you may have a 4X4 box so therefore there is two options you can do with this one.

* option one is get two gang flat mudring and get a GFCI receptale plus a dectora receptale and get the standard cover it should able cover this pretty good otherwise next option which I will post it in a second.

* Option two change that one to shallow 4X4 box and get a raised one gang mudring and use the GFCI recetaple that useally do the trick.

I noticed that you are from Canada area due the style of the junction box giveaway.


Steve19 02-21-2011 11:19 PM


If I change the silver electrical outlet to a GFI receptale, I will still have the same problem. I will be running the light, fan, and the electrical outlet (but it will now be at full capacity because the transformer will be removed). I was hoping to run a hairdryer on that line, but there will be way too much electricity and cause a short each time I use it. I guess i'm stuck to having a 'modern' looking electrical outlet if I change the face plate, but will still have to run only small electrical items such as a tooth brush charger or shaver, and not a hair dryer.

frenchelectrican 02-21-2011 11:22 PM


Originally Posted by Steve19 (Post 595469)

If I change the silver electrical outlet to a GFI receptale, I will still have the same problem. I will be running the light, fan, and the electrical outlet (but it will now be at full capacity because the resistor will be removed). I was hoping to run a hairdryer on that line, but there will be way too much electricity for the line.

Maybe and maybe not all it depending on how this oringal circuit layout if not used with other rooms then it is not a issue but if have used with other rooms like bedroom lights / receptales etc etc if that the case then it will be much wiser to run a new circuit for this one so you don't have to worry about overloading the exsting circuit.


hhuggles 02-22-2011 08:18 AM


Originally Posted by Sfeyelectric (Post 595145)
That's not true, it is safe. Just have to use slightly different size such as 12awg on 15 amp circuit!

Specifically with aluminum wires the concern is in the connections. I have opened up boxes with the marrette and wire melting due to a bad connection(wrong marrette). Yes the wire unaltered, underloaded is fine.

Similar thing with houses with knob and tube. Unaltered and underloaded is fine. People do alter and add to the electrical system from the original build. One outlet and one light per bedroom, two plugs in the livingroom does not suffice for the families of today.

Insurance companies don't insure homes with knob and tube anymore. As more claims come forward from those homes with aluminum wire, they will be forcing people to change their wires or be without insurance.

For this bathroom, since you found the junction box. How many wires are in the junction box? in the switch?
And did you trace the wires?
Something is not yet identified correctly and will be the key to get to the solution you want.
Where does the fan connect in to.
It could be needing a 14/3 from the junction to the plug or it could be needing a wire to the switch.
An option I am thinking is putting a GFI and a switch at the outlet location and have the fan switched from there. The issue is where is the fan connected into the circuit and where is the constant power.
After finding those, it is a matter of bringing constant power and the switch wire from the fan to the outlet location. 2gang flat plaster ring and a 2 g plate and the only patching is where the wires were run.

handy andy 02-26-2011 05:30 PM

You have a number of issues.
First: replacing re current plug with a GFCI is simple. I did this in my former 1972 house. I did get a cover plate that covers the whole square box. Can't remember where the cover plate came from. May have been an electrical supply store rather than a home depot type store. But if the power to this is off when the light switch is off, then you probably want to replace the input supply line.

Second: It looks like the fan was added after the initial construction and wired to the original light outlet box and then the light moved. You do want the fan switched separately from the light. This probably means replacing the current light switch box with a 2 gang box and rewiring from this point on.

Third: Circuit loading: You need to find out what all is on the circuit feeding the bathroom. If this circuit feeds bedrooms and other areas of the house, then running a new circuit for the bathroom may be a good idea. For this, you have two things to consider. Maximum outlets per circuit and maximum load. The canadian electrical code specifies the maximum number of outlets per circuit as 12. The fan counts as an outlet. For loading; if the current circuit can handle a hair dryer then you are ok as this is the only extra load you are looking at!

Steve19 03-12-2011 05:40 PM

Hi guys,

I apologize for not replying sooner. I had several family issues to deal with these last few weeks.

The junction box contains five seperate feeds, all of which are connected into one red cap. One feed is for the fan; another is for the light switch; and a third feed is for the electrical outlet. There are two other feeds, one of which I'm assuming is the main electrical supply. That leaves one feed unaccounted for. I'm not sure what it's for, but they are all connected together.

Based on this information, is there a way to isolate which feed goes where? I know which one is for the fan, but the other 4 feeds I have no idea. If I were able to identify each feed, could I not wire the bathroom at the junction box so that I can have an independent light switch, and then have a switch and outlet (where the silver box is.. see picture above) to control the fan and outlet?


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