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Old 09-13-2009, 07:59 AM   #1
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Outlet With Swith and Older (White, Black, Red) Wire


Hi Everyone:

As my home improvement saga continues (working on a two-family home built in 1915 in New Jersey) I'm trying to replace the outdated beige outlet covers in my bathroom with something a bit brighter and cleaner-looking. I've already made one mistake -- I removed the hardware without first noting what was hooked up where.

The hardware I am trying to hookup is a box with one outlet and one switch. In the outlet box I have a total of 5 wires. Two are newer looking plastic insulated wires, and three are older-looking fabric\rubber insulated wires. Because of their age, it's been pretty difficult to identify the older wires, but I think below describes them:

  1. Newer white wire (assuming this is the neutral wire for light, etc. in the bathroom as it's appearance is consistent with the other wires I have seen)
  2. Newer black wire (assuming this is the hot wire for light, etc. in the bathroom as it's appearance is consistent with the other wires I have seen)
  3. Older white wire (assuming this is the neutral coming in)
  4. Older black wire (assuming this is the first hot coming in?)
  5. Older red wire (assuming this is the second hot coming in?)
The assumptions above are based on research I have done online -- is it possible that one these is actually a ground?

Anyway, I have recreated (to the best of my ability the diagram that came with the hardware itself. Here it is -- there are two options that are not well described but that I assume talk about two different ways to hook up the panel -- one where the feed is common (and the switch controls the socket) and one where the feed is separate (and the outlet is "always on") Diagram below.




My attempts to figure this out on my own have so far been pretty much fruitless. I have wired the newer wires on the left hand side, and tried connecting the hot wires on the right (first just one, then both) but the incoming neutral is not used, which I don't think is right. This configuration gave me an "Open Neutral" reported on my outlet tester.

So, electrical wise men of this forum, what am I missing? I have the following thoughts:

  1. First of all, I think I all wires were used on the previous unit (also a switch\outlet combo) but I have no idea if the previous unit was of a similar design or not.
  2. It seems like according to the diagram, I am supposed to connect the outgoing neutral and hot wire to the incoming neutral...is that right? If so, what's the best way to do this?
  3. Also, if I have identified the wires correctly, I don't see a ground wire -- I would have to figure this out as well.

Many thanks in advance for reading this long post!


Last edited by CaptChaos; 09-13-2009 at 08:03 AM. Reason: Removed duplicate image
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Old 09-13-2009, 08:37 AM   #2
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Outlet With Swith and Older (White, Black, Red) Wire


I think the solution would be the one you described in #2.

If this is in a bathroom the receptacle should be GFI protected.

Grounds are only either bare copper, green insulated or green with a yellow strip in properly wired systems.

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Old 09-13-2009, 11:46 AM   #3
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Outlet With Swith and Older (White, Black, Red) Wire


You do need to find out which wire is the hot feed (from the breaker panel). A voltmeter would be very helpful.

Most likely there is only one hot wire coming in. If the hot wire is one of the cloth covered wires, the other non-white cloth covered wire is a continuation going back out for example it might also be controlled by the switch.

I'm reasonably sure that the two white wires should be connected to each other and to the receptacle using an additional short length of white wire. (As suggested by the bottom part of both diagrams above) The neutral terminal screw of the switch/receptacle unit is usually lighter (silvery) colored or (rarely) a short white wire protrudes from the unit making an extra short piece of white wire unnecessary. You must be careful not to connect the neutral to a "switch terminal".
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Last edited by AllanJ; 09-13-2009 at 11:58 AM.
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Old 09-13-2009, 11:59 AM   #4
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Outlet With Swith and Older (White, Black, Red) Wire


Thanks Jim -- can I make those connections in the outlet box with wire screws? For grounding, I grabbed a GFI which I can put up stream, as well as a ground connector for a pipe.

I still am not sure how to make these connections -- is this typical with any switch?
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Old 09-13-2009, 01:37 PM   #5
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Outlet With Swith and Older (White, Black, Red) Wire


I don't have time to read all the posts.

Option 1 look okay, but there is no ground wire shown, going to rec.
2nd. NEC code, does require GFCI protected receptacle.

Now you can buy a combo switch & GFCI Rec. that will meet code.

Now for the rest.

I have five meters on had.

But when I comes down to checking for HOT and Grounded/Neutral wires
I use a pigtail lamp socket, with a 15 or 25 watt bulb screw into the
lamp socket. Then when the lamp light, I note the wire insulation color,
and place a piece of color tape on it. FOR A NONE SWITCH HOT black
insulated wire, I went with Blue tape, FOR SWITCH HOT black insulated
wire, I went with Red tape.

I do believe you know what a switch loop is, when you see one.

Using the pigtail lamp socket is much easier then using a volt meter.

And don't assume anything, check for voltage on ever individual wire, to a know
neutal wire, aka: grounded wired, insulation show be white, to be code. Expect
on a switch loop. Also some switch maybe made up using 3-conductor cable.
In this case, the wireman may have choice red over white along with the black to
make his switch loop. In other cases, 3-conductor is used to send to individual
switch feeder to two loads.

The above is this writer stated opinion.

Be safe.

Last edited by user62257; 09-13-2009 at 01:43 PM.
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Old 09-13-2009, 01:41 PM   #6
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Outlet With Swith and Older (White, Black, Red) Wire


Alan:

Thanks for your response -- you are totally right! Hooking up the neutrals as described has largely fixed my problem. Now that I have done that I think you are also correct that the "extra" red wire is in fact an outbound going to the ceiling light (the newer black wire controls another outlet.

So, if I want to switch to control both outbound components (the second outlet as well as the ceiling light) is it a simple matter of connecting the two wires (much the same way I did the neutrals)?

Thanks (nice to be making progress again!)
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Old 09-13-2009, 02:59 PM   #7
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Outlet With Swith and Older (White, Black, Red) Wire


CaptChaos, so happy to hear that every thing is back on track with
you little electricial wiring project.
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Old 09-13-2009, 05:20 PM   #8
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Outlet With Swith and Older (White, Black, Red) Wire


Thanks for the kind words -- after a trip to the home improvement store I decided to go a slightly different route. I bought a GFI double outlet, and decided to try to wire a regular switch to control the ceiling light down circuit (off the "Load") from the GFI. Everything was looking good, but now when I flip the light switch the GFI circuit trips.

Any ideas on what I may have done wrong to cause the GFI to trip like that?
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Old 09-13-2009, 07:05 PM   #9
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Outlet With Swith and Older (White, Black, Red) Wire


The most common reason for tripping the GFCI as soon as you turn power on is connecting a ground and a neutral together. Up in the house, grounds and neutrals are always kept separate.

In addition, when using the load terminals of a GFCI, the neutral on the load side goes with and serves all down-circuit loads connected to the load side hot terminal. The load neutral is not connected to the line side (power feed) neutral and is not used with down-circuit loads not associated with the load side hot.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 4x42001 View Post
some switch maybe made up using 3-conductor cable. In this case, the wireman may have choice red over white along with the black to make his switch loop.
OT: To make one switch loop using 3 conductor cable, the white may not be one of the switch loop wires. To make two switch loops to one switch box using one 3 conductor cable, the white is the unswitched power down and the red and black are the two switched power lines back say for bathroom light and fan.
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Last edited by AllanJ; 09-13-2009 at 07:18 PM.
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Old 09-13-2009, 07:05 PM   #10
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Outlet With Swith and Older (White, Black, Red) Wire


For checking wiring with a GFCI upstream you need a DVM; using an incand. lamp will trip it.
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Old 09-13-2009, 07:39 PM   #11
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Outlet With Swith and Older (White, Black, Red) Wire


So you now have a duplex GFCI duplex receptacles that trips out, when
you turn on the light switch. I well give you my personal favorite fix's.


Turn of the power to the GFCI duplex receptacle.

Removed GFCI duplex receptacle from the outlet box.

Removed all wires attach to the GFCI duplex receptacle.

Splice white to white with a white pigtail going to the neutral/line side
of your GFCI duplex receptacle.

Splice black to black with a black pigtail going to the hot/line side of your
GFCI duplex receptacle.

Splice the ground to ground with a ground pigtail to the green ground
screw of GFCI duplex receptacle.

Now you have isolated your GFCI duplex receptacle from everything.

The code only require, that all power receptacle, single or duplex, plus
and a exhaust fan located inside a shower stall, to be GFCI protect.

What I have just written out, usually solve's most problems, with GFCI tripping.

By the way, the other posts were 1st. rate. So feel free to follow your
own path.

BE SAFE and wishing success.

But, were here for you, should you need to call.
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Old 09-13-2009, 10:34 PM   #12
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Outlet With Swith and Older (White, Black, Red) Wire


Gents:

Thanks for the fantastic advice. Where I am now is I can get the entire setup to work, but only if I put the GFI downstream of the switch and ceiling lamp. This is functional, and I have read that ceiling light fixtures are low risk for ground faults, however I would like to have the protection throughout. I will take a look at all of the great posts and let you know how it works out during the week.

Thanks again!
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Old 09-13-2009, 11:01 PM   #13
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CaptChaos

If you chose to have your lights in the bathroom GFCI protected,
then you are putting yourself in unnecessary danger.

But your path is your path, so therefore I recommend that you
go to Wal-Mart and purchase some of those round white bubble lights,
that are battery operated, and have the opaque lense, that you push
down, to turn on. Mound one to the wall, within reach of the toilet and
the sink. This way if the GFCI trip, and you lose your bathroom light,
you have a back up light within reach, to turn on. If you have a shower,
place one on the ceiling. To me the bathroom is the worth place
to be, when the light go out.

There great, I even keep two in my truck. I like better than
a flashlight, that I once used.
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Old 09-14-2009, 11:55 AM   #14
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Outlet With Swith and Older (White, Black, Red) Wire


You can check for a ground fault by putting a 7-1/2 w incand. lamp in series with the ground lead, with the GFCI out of the circuit. If the voltage across this lamp is more than 1v you have a legitimate ground fault.

Also, the trip time of a GFCI depends on the fault current. See Fig. 6.7
http://books.google.com/books?id=NKs...ime%22&f=false

Last edited by Yoyizit; 09-14-2009 at 12:01 PM.
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Old 09-14-2009, 12:26 PM   #15
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Outlet With Swith and Older (White, Black, Red) Wire


i recently did updating in Weehawken as well.

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