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Old 11-24-2012, 06:20 PM   #1
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Stumped by bathroom electrical issue.


I doubt anyone will be able to help on the internet, but I figure I'd post this up on the longshot that someone encountered something similar before.

I have 3 sets of recessed lights in my master bathroom that stopped working this morning. They are on the same breaker/circuit as two exhaust fan/light combos which are still working. I have a 3 gang box with the switches for the lights which are no longer getting power. I even fed the box from a nearby outlet and the lights worked like normal.

I figured it had something to do with the switches that control the other lights. I opened them up and noticed they backwired some of them and used the screws as well. I figured one of the switches went bad, but I connected the hot directly to the wire I believe feeds the recessed light switches and nothing happened.

I looked up in the attic and followed the wires as best as I could without pulling all the plywood and moving everything around. I noticed they laid some insulation over the romex with the paper touching and this started to burn/brown the paper. The lights still work when giving them power from the outlet so I don't think this is the culprit. Could the wire that feeds the recessed light have heated up enough to damage the wire?

I'm stumped. Unless there's a junction box up in the attic, but why wouldn't they just power from the light/fan switches over to the recessed light switches?

I'm sure this is futile, but if anyone has any ideas or advice, please chime in. If I can't figure this out the only other thing I could think of is to connect these lights to the outlet circuit. I guess I'll have to do some attic raiding before going to that extreme. Thanks for any help. I'm sure this doesn't make sense written out, but worth a shot.

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Old 11-24-2012, 06:35 PM   #2
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Stumped by bathroom electrical issue.


What you are describing sounds like a tripped gfci--which has killed not only the power but also the neutral---no neutral and your temporary power has no way back to the breaker box---use your tester and see if the neutral is dead on that circuit---

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Old 11-24-2012, 06:38 PM   #3
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Stumped by bathroom electrical issue.


Ok, bear with me because I'm far from an expert. Where would a GFCI be located on a lighting circuit? Would other lights on the same circuit still work if this was in fact the issue? There are no outlets on this circuit. The lights do in fact work when fed from an outlet on another circuit. It's just the wire going into the box is dead. Thanks!

Last edited by mikegp; 11-24-2012 at 06:42 PM.
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Old 11-24-2012, 06:44 PM   #4
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Stumped by bathroom electrical issue.


The GFI will be in an outlet. Know what a GFI looks like?
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Old 11-24-2012, 06:46 PM   #5
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Stumped by bathroom electrical issue.


Yes, but there's no outlets on this circuit. Lights and outlets are seperated.
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Old 11-24-2012, 06:47 PM   #6
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Stumped by bathroom electrical issue.


I've seen bath lighting that was on a gfci protected circuit----it could be a gfci breaker or outlet---

might not be in this case but I would eliminate that possibility before I started checking the connections ---
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Old 11-24-2012, 06:56 PM   #7
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Stumped by bathroom electrical issue.


Where would I look for one? Wouldn't all of the light on this circuit trip if that were the case?
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Old 11-24-2012, 06:58 PM   #8
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Stumped by bathroom electrical issue.


There are code requirements dealing with bathroom circuits and what needs to be on a dedicated circuit.
I would check into this before you decide to tie those lights into some other circuit. You could wind up creating a code violation.
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Old 11-24-2012, 07:09 PM   #9
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Stumped by bathroom electrical issue.


I could also try to tie into the same lighting circuit somewhere else along the way, but I'm more concerned by what caused this. No signs of a rodent eating through a wire or any broken connections.
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Old 11-24-2012, 07:12 PM   #10
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Stumped by bathroom electrical issue.


I even fed the box from a nearby outlet and the lights worked like normal.

How did you do this?



I figured one of the switches went bad, but I connected the hot directly to the wire I believe feeds the recessed light switches and nothing happened.

How did you do this, and how was it different than the other test?

Turn the breaker of, and bypass the switch.
connect the wire you think goes to the light and the power wire together.
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Old 11-24-2012, 07:15 PM   #11
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Stumped by bathroom electrical issue.


I would start right at the breaker box---begin the search at the beginning of the run----bathrooms often have more than one circuit---

Look for a gfci breaker---it will have a handle and a push button---
If that yields no results---flip all breakers on and off just in case you have a partially thrown breaker--

If that fails--I'd open the cover and test each breaker---

If that fails----look for a tripped gcfi somewhere in the house or outside----houses built in the 1970s often used one gfci outlet to protect the whole danged house---

When was your house built? You do have a tester with two wires?
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Old 11-24-2012, 07:17 PM   #12
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Stumped by bathroom electrical issue.


Listen to JBfan--He's an electrician---
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Old 11-24-2012, 07:20 PM   #13
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Stumped by bathroom electrical issue.


Yes, you really need to figure out where the problem is.

It's kind of impossible to say with your description. Do you know if the hot comes to the switch box first and then to all of the lights and fans? It could conceivably go, say, to one of the fans first, then to the other fan, then been routed either to the cans, or to the switch box to then feed the cans.

I think the place to start is to determine exactly where the hot for this circuit first enters the bathroom and trace it from there. You may need to disconnect and label everything, and then take a meter and discover where the hot begins.

I don't envy you. It can be a real head scratcher.

Of course, you could always call an electrician...
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Old 11-24-2012, 08:25 PM   #14
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Stumped by bathroom electrical issue.


Quote:
Originally Posted by jbfan View Post
I even fed the box from a nearby outlet and the lights worked like normal.

How did you do this?



I figured one of the switches went bad, but I connected the hot directly to the wire I believe feeds the recessed light switches and nothing happened.

How did you do this, and how was it different than the other test?

Turn the breaker of, and bypass the switch.
connect the wire you think goes to the light and the power wire together.
1) I stuck two wires into the outlet after connecting them to the appropriate wires within the switch box.

2) I did exactly what you're saying. I connected the hot to the wire that I believe goes to the recessed lights together within the box that precedes them.
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Old 11-24-2012, 08:37 PM   #15
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Stumped by bathroom electrical issue.


Quote:
Originally Posted by TTW View Post

I think the place to start is to determine exactly where the hot for this circuit first enters the bathroom and trace it from there. You may need to disconnect and label everything, and then take a meter and discover where the hot begins.

I think I did locate it. I believe it's the switch just outside of the bathroom. When I disconnected it from the hot, the second switch on the circuit, in the toilet area was dead. Reconnected and it worked. Disconnecting at the toilet area still left the first switch operational. Disconnecting the wire leaving the fisrt switch also killed the toilet light.

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