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Old 10-31-2011, 02:29 PM   #1
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Strange Wiring In Light Switch


Hello all:

I have attached a picture below of the light switch in question. This light switch is next to the front door to my house, which is located in the living room.

The two black wires going to the right are the switched hot for the porch light directly outside the front door. As you can see, the romex comes in from the top of the box for both the supply, and the wire that goes to the light itself.

Coming in from the bottom of the box is a separate romex wire. Putting my volt meter on the hot and common shows a voltage of 220v.

Any idea what this could be for? It's a long shot of a question, I know. I just can't seem to fathom a purpose (past or present) for this line.

Thanks in advance for any clues!
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Old 10-31-2011, 04:40 PM   #2
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Strange Wiring In Light Switch


Probably a MWBC (Multi-Wire Branch Circuit). Go to the breaker panel and see if there are two breakers, with their handles tied together that kill power to that circuit, if you switch them off. Helps to have a helper when you do this. The sad thing is, they should have relabeled the white wire as such, with red tape. Noticed that the upper right has two black, can you post a better picture, that is not such a close up, showing the complete box with the ends of the wires.

Pictures can be zoomed in by using Ctrl-Shift +, so these macro zooms are unneeded.

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Old 10-31-2011, 04:51 PM   #3
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Strange Wiring In Light Switch


Thanks for the reply. I'll look into Multi-Wire Branch Circuits and see if that is what it is.

The pictures were taken with my iphone camera, so the zoomed out shots just show the inside of the box as completely dark...which does not help much.

There is one hot and one common coming from each of the romex cables coming from the top of the box. The way the wires are routed makes it look like two black on the right and two white on the left, however the bottom white is coming from the romex on the right, and the top black is coming from the romex on the left.


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Originally Posted by gregzoll View Post
Probably a MWBC (Multi-Wire Branch Circuit). Go to the breaker panel and see if there are two breakers, with their handles tied together that kill power to that circuit, if you switch them off. Helps to have a helper when you do this. The sad thing is, they should have relabeled the white wire as such, with red tape. Noticed that the upper right has two black, can you post a better picture, that is not such a close up, showing the complete box with the ends of the wires.

Pictures can be zoomed in by using Ctrl-Shift +, so these macro zooms are unneeded.
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Old 10-31-2011, 04:59 PM   #4
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Strange Wiring In Light Switch


Use a flashlight, or place a light to shine in. You can pull the wires more apart and separate them better, it can help to see which side they come in. Also you can pull the photo back into your computer and edit where they go, it can help in tracing.

If the only hot wire coming in the box is the one on the bottom, then start from there, and check the breaker panel. Just remember to cut power to that circuit, or just cut it complete to all circuits one by one, if the breakers are unlabeled, until you find that circuit. Take the cover off of the panel also, to make sure that the white & black are correctly wired to either two single breakers, with a handle tie, or a double pole breaker.

We have discussed this stuff over and over on here, including mwbc's, which there is plenty to search for.
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Ren: Now listen, Cadet. I've got a job for you. See this button? Ren: Don't touch it! It's the History Eraser button, you fool! Stimpy: So what'll happen? Ren: That's just it. We don't know. Maybe something bad, maybe something good. I guess we'll never know, 'cause you're going to guard it. You won't touch it, will you?

Last edited by gregzoll; 10-31-2011 at 05:01 PM.
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Old 10-31-2011, 05:05 PM   #5
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Strange Wiring In Light Switch


how was it connected when you pulled the plate off? i'll give it a shot.you have 3 pairs of wires coming into there.. the light... the switch..., and the 115V feed.that 220V on the black to white stops me where is the neutral for the light from the house feed if that white is hot to ground...
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Old 10-31-2011, 05:06 PM   #6
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Strange Wiring In Light Switch


There are two hot wires coming in.

The black wire at the bottom of the picture is hot and is currently not connected to anything. The common wire next it is also not connected to anything. They both just had wire nuts on the end of each (used as caps) and were tucked in the back of the box.

The other black (hot) wire comes in at the top right. It goes through the switch that is currently connected, and out to the fixture via the the top left.

The bottom wires in question are not connected to anything. There is only a single pole switch in the receptacle. I am hoping to determine the purpose of the bottom wires before tucking them back into the back of the box.


Quote:
Originally Posted by gregzoll View Post
Use a flashlight, or place a light to shine in. You can pull the wires more apart and separate them better, it can help to see which side they come in. Also you can pull the photo back into your computer and edit where they go, it can help in tracing.

If the only hot wire coming in the box is the one on the bottom, then start from there, and check the breaker panel. Just remember to cut power to that circuit, or just cut it complete to all circuits one by one, if the breakers are unlabeled, until you find that circuit. Take the cover off of the panel also, to make sure that the white & black are correctly wired to either two single breakers, with a handle tie, or a double pole breaker.

We have discussed this stuff over and over on here, including mwbc's, which there is plenty to search for.
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Old 10-31-2011, 05:12 PM   #7
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Strange Wiring In Light Switch


if you pop your CB panel you should see that bottom white connected to the hot side of the 208V into the panel is this the first time into this box...the last human probably wondered also
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Old 10-31-2011, 05:14 PM   #8
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Strange Wiring In Light Switch


Quick diagram of the box wiring:
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Old 10-31-2011, 05:17 PM   #9
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Strange Wiring In Light Switch


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Originally Posted by biggles View Post
if you pop your CB panel you should see that bottom white connected to the hot side of the 208V into the panel is this the first time into this box...the last human probably wondered also
When we bought the house, there was a double pole switch in this box, however the bottom pole wasn't connected to anything.
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Old 10-31-2011, 05:47 PM   #10
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Strange Wiring In Light Switch


Find out where that bottom romex goes. It will take some work, but it can be done. You can purchase a tone and trace (ie fox & hound), but the circuit has to be dead when using.
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Ren: Now listen, Cadet. I've got a job for you. See this button? Ren: Don't touch it! It's the History Eraser button, you fool! Stimpy: So what'll happen? Ren: That's just it. We don't know. Maybe something bad, maybe something good. I guess we'll never know, 'cause you're going to guard it. You won't touch it, will you?
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Old 11-01-2011, 08:49 PM   #11
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Strange Wiring In Light Switch


Here is a picture of the panel if anyone is interested...
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Old 11-01-2011, 09:11 PM   #12
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Strange Wiring In Light Switch


There is no way that 4 circuits are feeding everything lights & recepticles. Unless they split the house in half, along with the two other breakers, what are they feeding? Can you post a shot of the label on the panel showing what feeds what? Also a farther shot showing if the meter is attached. Is there a sub somewhere inside? How big is this place that you live in?
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Ren: Now listen, Cadet. I've got a job for you. See this button? Ren: Don't touch it! It's the History Eraser button, you fool! Stimpy: So what'll happen? Ren: That's just it. We don't know. Maybe something bad, maybe something good. I guess we'll never know, 'cause you're going to guard it. You won't touch it, will you?
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Old 11-01-2011, 09:30 PM   #13
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Strange Wiring In Light Switch


Quote:
Originally Posted by gregzoll View Post
There is no way that 4 circuits are feeding everything lights & recepticles. Unless they split the house in half, along with the two other breakers, what are they feeding? Can you post a shot of the label on the panel showing what feeds what? Also a farther shot showing if the meter is attached. Is there a sub somewhere inside? How big is this place that you live in?
I also find it odd that 200 amp service is feeding only 5 110v breakers and 2 220v breakers.

The house is quite small (1080 sq. feet) but I assure you, that is the only panel. The panel is unlabeled except for the 220v breaker on the left (labeled A/C). The 220v on the right is the dryer outlet in the garage (unused).

I'm guessing the panel is unlabeled because the breakers switch off (seemingly) random circuits (for example one will switch off the garage and half the living room).

There are 24 outlets total in the house (just counted).

I've attached additional pictures below:
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Strange Wiring In Light Switch-box2.jpg   Strange Wiring In Light Switch-box3.jpg  
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Old 11-01-2011, 10:14 PM   #14
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Strange Wiring In Light Switch


It is not 110v nor 220v breakers. Breakers do not care what voltage they are in a sense, that they are built by engineering standards to protect for a certain amperage. Start by labeling the breakers. A sharpie for instance helps. Then map out with a diagram of the floor plan and excel or google doc's spreadsheet, so you know how the circuits are mapped out.

How many total rooms are there (ie Kitchen, Bath, Living Room, Bedroom 1, Bedroom 2, etc.) If you can find the model# of the panel, that can help to find out the proper layout for the panel, if the label on the lid/cover is faded or gone. Sit down with pencil & paper, draw out a rough sketch of the floor plan, then make notes which breakers feed what circuits in those spaces. Colored pencils help, when drawing lines & making circuit notes.

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Ren: Now listen, Cadet. I've got a job for you. See this button? Ren: Don't touch it! It's the History Eraser button, you fool! Stimpy: So what'll happen? Ren: That's just it. We don't know. Maybe something bad, maybe something good. I guess we'll never know, 'cause you're going to guard it. You won't touch it, will you?
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