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Old 05-31-2011, 01:12 PM   #1
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Restoring power to detached garage


Hi everyone,

I have a 1930 Craftsman home with a small, detached garage. When we bought it there was no power to the garage but there clearly had been at one time as it's fully wired with receptacles inside and outside the garage, a switch inside the garage, and a light.

The small backyard has a small light post halfway to the garage with a receptacle at the base -- these both operate normally.

I would like to restore power to the garage. I did some investigative work and found when I opened the receptacle at the base of the light pole that three wires had been capped off. I disconnected the receptacle, connected the capped wires to the corresponding-colored wires formally connected to the receptacle, and restored power. The light in the garage was on. I tested the light switch beneath it and the light went off, but wouldn't turn on again. The fuse in the box had blown.

I am either very close to fixing this or very close to causing a fire.

Here are the details:

In the light post receptacle, there are two separate "bundles" of wire coming up from the ground. Each contains a Red, Black, and White wire. Three of these were capped, three were wired into the receptacle. The light has a black and white which were connected to the receptacle as well. I took out the receptacle, moved the light wires away, and connected red to red, white to white, and black to black.

In the garage junction box, a red/black/white comes up from the ground. A black/black/white goes up to the light bulb. A black/white exit to the left, to a junction box with nothing in it. A receptacle was wired in there before I removed it.

I feel like this is an easy fix with the right knowledge; I need to know why the fuse blew and how to determine which wire is which.

Any tips would be appreciated. I hope I've provided enough details here.

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Old 05-31-2011, 02:27 PM   #2
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Restoring power to detached garage


Hmm... This question will likely be met with hesitation and recommendations that an electrician should be involved. It sounds like you might not have a great deal of experience with this kind of work.

Starting with the basics, are you saying that your fuse box in the house is a fuse box as opposed to a circuit breaker?

First of all regarding myself, I'm a lay person not an electrician, and I have a 1917 house and my approach has been to try to gradually replace my entire electrical system with newer electrical that meets current codes.

If it was me, I'd be running new wire underground... But then again, if I'm reading right and you'd be attaching to a fuse panel, I don't know what the rules are for that. I do know that old wiring can be used but upgrading has to be done to current code. I'm not sure if this counts as something that would meet current code, I only know it sounds like it probably does not meet current code.

You don't seem to mention any bare copper wires?

In current wiring practice you'd typically find a black wire that is hot, a white wire which is neutral and a bare copper which is ground. A red wire may also be hot or it may be the switch operated hot for the outside light post.

I don't know what law says exactly, but in my opinion trying to reconnect old wiring is probably the least safe option given the choice between reconnecting, leaving disconnected and starting from scratch.

Replacing the garage and its contents will always cost more than starting from scratch on the electrical - if nothing else, starting from scratch on the garage would mean you'd have to start from scratch on the elctrical anyway.

I'd be inclined to assume that there was a reason the wiring was disconnected if it was done so on purpose.

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Please do NOT consider any "before" picture of my house as any kind of endorsement of any particular construction method. In fact, you should probably assume that if I post a "before" picture, I am posting it because I am soliciting advice on a proper replacement for one of MANY things done wrong by a previous owner.
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Old 05-31-2011, 02:35 PM   #3
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Restoring power to detached garage


Thanks for your reply.

You're right, I don't really know what I'm doing. I called an electrician who came out already and assessed the situation. He identified which wires were hot and advised that I rip out all the old wiring in the garage and replace it with a new setup as it would be simpler and easier.

I do have enough knowledge to install a receptacle, light, and a switch and then connect it to the power.

Oh, the answer was that the red and the black are both hot and the white is neutral. The red is probably connected to a different fuse than the black one.
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Old 05-31-2011, 02:58 PM   #4
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Restoring power to detached garage


Yeah... See, even then though I'd be unsure how to proceed with adding a new garage electrical system when it came to connecting it into an older fuse panel... If it was my house and I was doing it myself I'd feel that the project has to start with an upgrade to a modern service panel if a fuse panel is what I had to work with....

Which is somewhat the situation I have with my house. Our house had been upgraded to a modern 100A fuse panel, but a lot of work was done wrong. I'm not an electrician, but one thing I'm doing right that has never been done based on my search on the history of the house - I'm doing all my work under permit.
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Please do NOT consider any "before" picture of my house as any kind of endorsement of any particular construction method. In fact, you should probably assume that if I post a "before" picture, I am posting it because I am soliciting advice on a proper replacement for one of MANY things done wrong by a previous owner.
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Old 05-31-2011, 05:27 PM   #5
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Restoring power to detached garage


First you have to determine where in the system the fault lies,
Is it the cable from the post to the garage ?
Is it in the light cicuit of the garage ?
Is it in the line that goes to the j box ?
Or the recepticule wiring ?

carefully check each section first,
If you cannot see the fault,
Isolate each section from the line,
and then reapply power,
You should find that by isolating one section
the power should stay on !
You then know which section is faulty.

Heres an old electrical tip to save fuses,
Wire a light bulb in series with the supply line.
If things are ok then when you turn on the light
in the shed both lamps will light at half intensity.
This means all ok so far.
But when you turn on the faulty section
the lamp will light brightly.
this indicates a short circuit (bad).
And the lamp will stop the fuse blowing.
by reducing the fault current,
and giving a visual indication that some thing is wrong.
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