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Old 09-08-2012, 04:02 PM   #1
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Tracing Down Old K&T Neutral Wiring


I have completed a lot of electrical work in the past but I have never wired an entire house. Mine has K&T wiring that I want to update for the lighting. Right now my bedroom light, bathroom light, hallway light and basement light are all on one circuit. I would like to update and split that into two circuits so that the bathroom light/fan are on its own circuit.

I would like to remove as much of the old K&T wiring as possible. It's pretty obvious which hot wire to remove, but how do I trace down which neutral wire(s) they used in the load center? What are some ways to do this?

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Old 09-08-2012, 04:13 PM   #2
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Tracing Down Old K&T Neutral Wiring


Fox and Hound set.

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Old 09-08-2012, 04:19 PM   #3
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Tracing Down Old K&T Neutral Wiring


I have a signal tracer but it didn't work. With the Fox and Hound set wouldn't I have to remove all the neutrals and check each one separately anyway?
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Old 09-09-2012, 09:53 AM   #4
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Tracing Down Old K&T Neutral Wiring


i am doing the exact same thing. turn the power off. remove all the K&T (you don't have to remove it. leaving it behind is ok). then run all new wiring. i am also replacing all fixtures, box's, recepticals and switches. all new everything.
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Old 09-09-2012, 12:30 PM   #5
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Tracing Down Old K&T Neutral Wiring


Yes I'd like to update everything but I'd like to also learn how they wired everything for future reference. The problem I'm having is that this circuit makes no sense. They have the hot run from a hallway light to one side of the switch. From the other side of the switch it runs downstairs to a basement light switch. From the other side of that switch to the hot side of the basement light fixture. The neutrals are all hidden. I've read that sometimes back then they used to fuse the neutrals and treat them like hots. Whats throwing me off is the way they have these two switches wired. I would think that one switch would defeat power to the other switch and vice versa, but that's not how it worked and I'm trying to figure out why. It makes no sense and that's what's frustrating. They were certainly creative back then
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Old 09-09-2012, 12:45 PM   #6
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Tracing Down Old K&T Neutral Wiring


Keep in mind, K&T was set up as Multi-Wire Branch circuits a lot of times. Also, they only had maybe 4 circuits at most, and homes had no more than 30amps, some with 60amp circuits back in the day. It does keep you busy with Pencil & paper, when tracing this old stuff out.
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Old 09-09-2012, 08:36 PM   #7
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mine is a branch setup, like greg said. i have fixtures all over the house on 1 breaker. i don't really care how they did it, i just want it all GONE. and each room on its own breaker. i am lucky, in that the basement has all newer wiring, including the panel. above the basement joists = a WHOLE nuther story !
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Old 09-09-2012, 08:42 PM   #8
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Tracing Down Old K&T Neutral Wiring


For the lights, in multiple rooms, how do you wire the neutrals? Are they just looped from one light fixture to the next? I've wired lots of lights in the same room, but never room to room.
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Old 09-10-2012, 07:20 AM   #9
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Go look outside along the power poles. K&T distribution is just a small sized version of how power lines deliver electricity to the home, but without the Capacitor banks & transformers.
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Old 09-10-2012, 10:26 AM   #10
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Tracing Down Old K&T Neutral Wiring


Quote:
Originally Posted by AngelArs View Post
Yes I'd like to update everything but I'd like to also learn how they wired everything for future reference. The problem I'm having is that this circuit makes no sense. They have the hot run from a hallway light to one side of the switch. From the other side of the switch it runs downstairs to a basement light switch. From the other side of that switch to the hot side of the basement light fixture. The neutrals are all hidden. I've read that sometimes back then they used to fuse the neutrals and treat them like hots. Whats throwing me off is the way they have these two switches wired. I would think that one switch would defeat power to the other switch and vice versa, but that's not how it worked and I'm trying to figure out why. It makes no sense and that's what's frustrating. They were certainly creative back then
The neutrals will be at the fixtures. K&T wiring has splices usually buried in the walls or ceiling (soldered and well taped) so what appears to be a single wire running between switches is actually a tap from a hot "loop". Many times, to lessen voltage drop, the hot would actually loop from the fuse, around the perimeter of the house, then back to the fuse.
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Old 09-10-2012, 11:26 AM   #11
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Tracing Down Old K&T Neutral Wiring


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K&T wiring has splices usually buried in the walls or ceiling (soldered and well taped) so what appears to be a single wire running between switches is actually a tap from a hot "loop". Many times, to lessen voltage drop, the hot would actually loop from the fuse, around the perimeter of the house, then back to the fuse.
Wow, they should have made it MANDATORY to give each home owner a wiring diagram of how their home was wired. Now, the only way to trace anything down is to open up all the ceilings and walls. They were very shortsighted.

Now it will be a major pain to rewire this entire house, but I guess it needs to be done. I'll have to rip all the walls open, and it's a two story house. I'll probably have to add a sub-panel too now, because I'll need more separate branches and I wanted to update to AFCI breakers, and I don't think they make tandom AFCI breakers yet.
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Old 09-10-2012, 11:32 AM   #12
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Tracing Down Old K&T Neutral Wiring


if you are going to go through the trouble of ripping down the walls and replacing it all, i'd just replace the panel too.

I never even thought of trying to understand the K&T at my old house. Just ripped it all out and replaced.
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Old 09-10-2012, 11:40 AM   #13
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if you are going to go through the trouble of ripping down the walls and replacing it all, i'd just replace the panel too.
Why? It's only around 4 or 5 years old.
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Old 09-10-2012, 06:55 PM   #14
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Tracing Down Old K&T Neutral Wiring


Turn off main power first !
Once you have identified the hot lead, remove it from the breaker,
Check it with a tester to make sure its dead ! ,
Remove neutral wires one by one from the neutral buss,
And use a continuity tester between the removed hot wire
and the neutral wires.
Slow process , but it will work.
Be extra cautious when working in any panel,
even when you know its dead !
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Old 09-10-2012, 07:23 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by dmxtothemax View Post
Turn off main power first !
Once you have identified the hot lead, remove it from the breaker,
Check it with a tester to make sure its dead ! ,
Remove neutral wires one by one from the neutral buss,
And use a continuity tester between the removed hot wire
and the neutral wires.
I just spent the last two hours doing something very similar.

I removed the hot wore from the breaker and capped it.

Then I used my meter to trace down all the effected lights neutral wires, against the neutral wires in the panel. It appears that they only used one neutral. I removed it, and capped it also. Now I'm just trying to find out how to wire multiple rooms on one circuit with the new wire.

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