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Old 04-01-2009, 05:32 PM   #1
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Tracing light switch to an outlet


I moved into a condo that has a 3-light switch at the entrance. The 1st light switch controls the kitchen lights, the second controls the dining area light. I'm trying to figure out what the third one does.

I tested the top and bottom receptacle of each of the outlets by plugging in a lamp to see if the switch controlled an outlet, with no luck. Then, I inspected the wiring and found out that the switch is hot - it has a black and a yellow wire attached. However, upon the inspection of the outlets, I found that they only have a black, white and a green ground wire (i.e. no yellow switch wire).

Any suggestions on how to find out what that 3rd switch does and what that yellow wire is connected to?

Thanks in advance!

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Old 04-01-2009, 05:45 PM   #2
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Tracing light switch to an outlet


if it's by the entrance, maybe it's a light outside?

if you've got a wire tracer, you could disconnect the switch from the feed, connect it up to the switch leg and run the probe around the walls to see where it's going. that might not be overly effective though depending on where it's going and how strong the signal can be.

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Old 04-01-2009, 06:03 PM   #3
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Tracing light switch to an outlet


You need to take some guesses. Does the wire leave the top or bottom of the box. Take some guesses at where it might go based on that and open a few boxes looking for the yellow wire. Does it leave the switch box with any wire that you know where it goes? Open that box and see where the yellow goes from there.
Use your investigative skills.
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Old 04-01-2009, 06:24 PM   #4
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Tracing light switch to an outlet


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Originally Posted by 31b View Post
if it's by the entrance, maybe it's a light outside?
My house has a switch at the front door that basically controls nothing- It was likely placed when the house was built/wired as it terminates in a jb in the basement. My guess for an external lamppost at a later date as the house already has a light near the door.
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Old 04-01-2009, 06:39 PM   #5
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Tracing light switch to an outlet


If it is new construction, my guess is that they ran a 3wire to the dining light so you could install a fan/light.

If it is older construction my guess is that someone has replaced the receptacles and din't break the tab on the 1/2 switched one.

Also, check the neighbors TV and garage door opener
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Old 04-01-2009, 07:41 PM   #6
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Tracing light switch to an outlet


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Originally Posted by 220/221 View Post
If it is new construction, my guess is that they ran a 3wire to the dining light so you could install a fan/light.

If it is older construction my guess is that someone has replaced the receptacles and din't break the tab on the 1/2 switched one.

Also, check the neighbors TV and garage door opener
My thoughts exactly, hence why I was inspecting the outlets in hopes of finding the yellow wire

So, I walked over to my neighbors' and asked if they knew what the switch does. Apparently it controls a 1/2 switched receptacle in the dining area. Opened it up - no yellow wire?! I think i'm just going to give up and think of something creative to do with the switch... replace it with an outlet, perhaps, since it's got a hot wire.
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Old 04-01-2009, 08:24 PM   #7
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Tracing light switch to an outlet


Found the problem!!!

I went back to inspect the receptacle next to the one my neighbors told me about and probed the conduit for any other wires. Surely enough, I was able to pull about 5 inches of yellow wire which was folded into the conduit and what's scary is that it was bare!

Now I can't find any other/yellow wires going to the dining receptacle. My guess is that someone tried to move the switched outlet and failed

Anyway, my new problem is the absence of the switch wire at the receptacle I need to be switched. I guess, I'll have to pull a wire through to the next outlet using the existing conduit. Is this possible? If so, can anyone advise on how to pull wire about 10 feet through existing conduit?
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Old 04-01-2009, 08:58 PM   #8
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Tracing light switch to an outlet


It may be very simple to push in a wire.

Use solid wire. Bend the end over about 2" , squeeze it tight and put a little bit of tape tightly around the spot where it meets the wire (in case you need to pull it back so it wont get stuck) Think stealthy and aerodynamically.

Keep the wire from kinking as you push it in. A little bit of wire lube will make a big difference. Use Astroglide if you have some around

If it wont push, tie on to another wire, replacing it along with the yellow.
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Old 04-01-2009, 09:19 PM   #9
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Tracing light switch to an outlet


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It may be very simple to push in a wire.

Use solid wire. Bend the end over about 2" , squeeze it tight and put a little bit of tape tightly around the spot where it meets the wire (in case you need to pull it back so it wont get stuck) Think stealthy and aerodynamically.

Keep the wire from kinking as you push it in. A little bit of wire lube will make a big difference. Use Astroglide if you have some around

If it wont push, tie on to another wire, replacing it along with the yellow.
Thanks for the advice! Do you know specifically what the wire I need is called (my guess is just a standard 15-amp copper wire)? Also, as I'll have to pull from box to box, I'll have no choice, but to bend the wire to 90 degrees. Would that pose an issue with pushing the wire?
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Old 04-01-2009, 09:40 PM   #10
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Tracing light switch to an outlet


#14 THHN (or THWN....same thing)

If it is EMT (non flexible conduit) it should push thru 10' and a couple of 90's easily. Push about 4 or 5" at a time. Hold it/guide it close to the where it enters the conduit. Don't let it bend/kind.
Technique is important grasshoppa. Become one with the wire
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Old 04-02-2009, 08:36 PM   #11
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Tracing light switch to an outlet


Hi all,

Just wanted to thank everyone for their assistance as i successfully pushed the wire from box to box and now enjoy an operating light switch.

By the way, 220/221, i discovered what Astroglide is and you are a perv! though, I'm sure it would have worked on the wire....

Thanks again!
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Old 04-03-2009, 01:15 AM   #12
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Tracing light switch to an outlet


Perv? Me?

I had to move a bed the other day to install a ceiling fan for a client and I found a pocket rocket laying under the bed.

I am sure she would have been horrified if she remembered it was there so I just kicked it under my drop cloth.
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Old 04-03-2009, 07:27 AM   #13
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Tracing light switch to an outlet


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...i discovered what Astroglide is and you are a perv! though, I'm sure it would have worked on the wire....
You can buy wire lube by the quart or gallon! I call it industrial K-Y !

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Old 04-03-2009, 08:44 AM   #14
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Tracing light switch to an outlet


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You can buy wire lube by the quart or gallon! I call it industrial K-Y !

Ever push 75 ft of 3/0 copper mains through 2" PVC conduit WITHOUT that stuff? I have. Yes, I wired my own house. Yes I was sore the next day. Yes I just about pitched a fit when I saw that stuff in the wiring section of Lowe's a couple days later.

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