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Old 01-31-2010, 10:51 PM   #1
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Outlet Wiring Question (Please Help!)


I was replacing an old outlet because I broke it and I noticed something confusing (to me). The outlet box has two romex wires coming in (2 black wires, 2 white wires, + grounds). Each black wire seems to be hot from different breakers. The connecting tabs were in tact so therefore the blacks from two different circuits were connected to one another. When I disconnect the blacks and whites and cap it off, the light fixture and fan in the adjacent bathroom doesn't work. Does this make sense? It seems strange to me that the hot wires are connected from separate circuits and.. I would have thought that maybe the outlet was passing the load on to the bathroom light & fan, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Does my description make sense? Thanks! Right now I removed the outlet and just wirenutted the blacks together, and the whites together. (essentially just removing the outlet). Everything works, and no tripping. but I'm not comfortable with the two blacks being joined. Any thoughts?

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Old 02-01-2010, 06:29 AM   #2
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Each black wire seems to be hot from different breakers.
"seems"? I am curious if you actually confirmed this by identifying the two breakers powering each wire?

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Old 02-01-2010, 06:34 AM   #3
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Outlet Wiring Question (Please Help!)


Sorry. Yes I did confirm by testing. Each black wire is live from two individual breaker switches on the right side of my panel.
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Old 02-01-2010, 06:45 AM   #4
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Outlet Wiring Question (Please Help!)


What method did you use to test this? How do you know for sure that each is a hot from a different circuit?
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Old 02-01-2010, 07:40 AM   #5
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Outlet Wiring Question (Please Help!)


When breaker 6 and 24 are off both black wires are not live. When 6 is on but 24 off, one of the black wires is live. When 24 is on, but 6 is. Off, the other black wire is live only. When 6 and 24 are both on, but the whites and blacks from each circuit are not pigtailed respectively, the light and fan in the adjacent bathroom doesn't work.
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Old 02-01-2010, 08:16 AM   #6
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Outlet Wiring Question (Please Help!)


In a normal panel, #6 and #24 would be on opposite hot legs, so joining the two wires together would result in a bolted short. What are you using to test whether the wires are hot or not? If using a noncontact tester, you may be getting a false positive reading. Use a meter or test light.
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Old 02-01-2010, 09:14 AM   #7
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Outlet Wiring Question (Please Help!)


I'm at work, so not near my panel now. But from what I recall it was 6 & 24... I do remember they were both on the right side of the panel.. One was towards the top, and the other towards the bottom. I used a non contact tester, but I consistently got a very instant, long/sustained reading on the hot wires as described above. I would be surprised and happy if it was false. But I don't see how that would be the case.
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Old 02-01-2010, 09:27 AM   #8
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I just found this info online... maybe this is the situation? And the phantom voltage is induced from one of the two breakers?

"Dealing with phantom voltage.
Here’s the situation: You think that you’ve turned off the correct circuit breaker, but a hot-to-neutral receptacle test reads 50v. If the circuit is de-energized, it should read 0v. Or, if the circuit is mislabeled and is still on, the tester should read 120v. You may be getting a false-positive reading, known as phantom voltage. Phantom voltage is caused by a live cable that induces a harmless voltage on a parallel de-energized cable. The simplest way to get a true reading is to use a solenoid-type tester, such as the Ideal Vol-Con Elite."
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Old 02-01-2010, 09:44 AM   #9
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Outlet Wiring Question (Please Help!)


Quote:
Originally Posted by HouseHelper View Post
In a normal panel, #6 and #24 would be on opposite hot legs, so joining the two wires together would result in a bolted short. What are you using to test whether the wires are hot or not? If using a noncontact tester, you may be getting a false positive reading. Use a meter or test light.
Picking up a meter is probably cheaper than a new tester.It's also useful for testing for shorts and checking battery vlotages.A tester is good for warning you of a potential danger.
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Old 02-01-2010, 10:43 AM   #10
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Outlet Wiring Question (Please Help!)


But just in case... does the situation make any sense if it tests 120v on both wires when they're disconnected from each other?...
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Old 02-01-2010, 11:55 AM   #11
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Outlet Wiring Question (Please Help!)


Quote:
Originally Posted by joshg3p0 View Post
But just in case... does the situation make any sense if it tests 120v on both wires when they're disconnected from each other?...
It is possible that you have a circuit being "fed from both ends". If that were the case though, the bathroom light would work when the blacks were disconnected if one breaker was on and the other were off. (But not the other breaker)

From what you've told us here it really just sounds like that other wire continues the circuit and you are reading something wrong.
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Old 02-01-2010, 12:22 PM   #12
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Outlet Wiring Question (Please Help!)


If the light switch is flipped on, any phantom voltage would be gone when you tried to measure it.

Repeat all of your measurements with the light switch flipped on.
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Old 02-02-2010, 06:34 PM   #13
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Outlet Wiring Question (Please Help!)


Ok... so here's the deal. The fan and light in the bathroom is only energized when BOTH breaker 6 and 26 are turned OFF. The fan and light will become dead only when BOTH breaker 6 and 26 are turned OFF.

The outlet in the adjacent room behaves in the same fashion. With both breakers on, the outlet is measuring a comforting 121volts. Does this information help at all?
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Old 02-02-2010, 06:42 PM   #14
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Outlet Wiring Question (Please Help!)


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Originally Posted by joshg3p0 View Post
The fan and light in the bathroom is only energized when BOTH breaker 6 and 26 are turned OFF
The fan and light will become dead only when BOTH breaker 6 and 26 are turned OFF
Huh ?

Off or On does what ?
Sounds like a MWBC that is messed up
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Old 02-02-2010, 06:44 PM   #15
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Outlet Wiring Question (Please Help!)


Quote:
Originally Posted by joshg3p0 View Post
Ok... so here's the deal. The fan and light in the bathroom is only energized when BOTH breaker 6 and 26 are turned OFF
I assume you mean ON here?
Quote:
The fan and light will become dead only when BOTH breaker 6 and 26 are turned OFF.

The outlet in the adjacent room behaves in the same fashion. With both breakers on, the outlet is measuring a comforting 121volts. Does this information help at all?
If it is 6 and 26 instead of 24, then both are on the same bus and you have the two circuits interconnected somewhere... the fun now begins to find where... a junction box, switch box, or light box. First step would be to trace each circuit.

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