Go Back   DIY Chatroom Home Improvement Forum > Home Improvement > Electrical

CLICK HERE AND JOIN OUR COMMUNITY TODAY...IT'S FREE!

Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 09-28-2008, 07:53 PM   #1
Newbie
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 7
Rewards Points: 10
Default

Two switch in one box: only one working


I'm having a bear of a time figuring out why one switch in a double switch box in the master bathroom is not working. This is recent construction, and both have been working until one side failed recently. No breaker was thrown (checked many times).

One switch controls the vanity light, the other controls a single recessed light over the jacuzzi tub. The vanity light switch is getting power, and functioning. The other switch is not getting power.

The switch box has six 3-wire cables coming in. Three blacks are wire-nutted together, with one black coming out of this wire-nut through the functioning switch, and on to the vanity light. The non-switched hot from this group goes to the nearby closet light. This "side" of the pair of switches works fine.

The other 3 blacks in the box are wired together identically in another wire-nut. The switched hot from this group goes to the recessed light. The non-switched hot from this group of 3 goes to the shower fan/light, which now also isn't working. The problem apparently is that the supply hot for this group isn't hot.

Now here's where I'm lost. There are 3 circuits in the bathroom according to the breaker box legend: outlets (two GFCI protected, behind the mirror), jacuzzi (dedicate circuit with nothing else on it), and light/fan/closet, i.e. everything else. What I don't understand is why there are two different hot supplies coming into this 2 switch box, presumably on the same circuit. Is this common practice? Where might they be joined "upstream" if they are indeed on the same circuit (as they have to be!)? Any clues to help me unravel this mystery?

Thanks!

jdtsmith is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-28-2008, 08:01 PM   #2
Member
 
dSilanskas's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Posts: 474
Rewards Points: 250
Default

Two switch in one box: only one working


Test the switch that is not working. If you have power on one side of the switch turn the switch on. If the power doesn't go to the other screw on the switch replace the switch because its bad.

dSilanskas is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-28-2008, 08:20 PM   #3
Newbie
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 7
Rewards Points: 10
Default

Two switch in one box: only one working


Thanks, but the switch is working fine. The problem is there is no power coming into that switch! I could bypass the switch altogether, but it would do no good: that half of the pair simply isn't getting power, and I can't understand why.

It's occurred to me I could slave everything (vanity, closet, shower fan+light, ceiling light above tub) off the one good hot coming into the box, but there must be a reason there were two supplies coming in like this on the same circuit to begin with. I am assuming they have to be the same circuit by process of elimination (and no hot continuity through to the GFCI outlet pair next door). Is there any better method for determining the circuit of a non-powered cable?
jdtsmith is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-28-2008, 08:41 PM   #4
Member
 
dSilanskas's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Posts: 474
Rewards Points: 250
Default

Two switch in one box: only one working


Hmm thats a tuff one without being there. Did you see if the switch is off the GFCI?
dSilanskas is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-28-2008, 08:50 PM   #5
Licensed Pro
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: SC
Posts: 1,544
Rewards Points: 1,000
Default

Two switch in one box: only one working


Your description doesn't make a lot of sense, but check the white wires. You should have all of them joined together in the switch box. It may be a poor connection there that is causing your problem.
__________________
"Life is hard. Life is harder when you're stupid." John Wayne
HouseHelper is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 09-28-2008, 09:12 PM   #6
Newbie
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 7
Rewards Points: 10
Default

Two switch in one box: only one working


@hH Which part doesn't make sense?

This box is wired like two different and separate circuits with 3 incoming cables each. One set of three has blacks tied (one through a switch), and three whites tied. So does the other. I'm wondering why there would be two incoming supply lines like this.

I have checked the voltage of the incoming lines to ground: one group of 3 is fine, one has no incoming power.

@dS I checked to see if the GFCI was providing power to the switch, but it isn't (easily determined because the cable jackets are different colors). That's why I assume it has to be the "light/fan/closet" circuit. I even checked the bedroom outlets just to be sure they weren't supplying power to the switch.

Thanks!
jdtsmith is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-28-2008, 11:02 PM   #7
Member
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Apple Valley, MN, USA
Posts: 1,002
Rewards Points: 506
Send a message via AIM to theatretch85
Default

Two switch in one box: only one working


Might be a bad connection in the breaker panel, either on the circuit breaker itself or the neutral connection at the buss bar. If it appears to be just one complete circuit affected it could even be a bad circuit breaker. Could find another breaker in the panel to disconnect and temporarily connect the wire for the suspected faulty circuit just to rule out a bad circuit breaker.
theatretch85 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-29-2008, 08:38 AM   #8
Newbie
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 4
Rewards Points: 10
Default

Two switch in one box: only one working


Thanks theatretch. The problem is, the circuit I think it's part of is still supplying power to the vanity + closet, so it can't be at the breaker panel. Since the problematic side is not hot, it's difficult to determine which circuit it's part of, but if I believe the panel description, it should be the same as the other switch in the box. What's confusing me is why then you'd have two supply lines on the same circuit into a single box, and where they'd be joined upstream before the breaker panel. There's no other logical circuit to assign it to, either. Very strange...
jdsmith is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-29-2008, 09:00 AM   #9
Licensed Pro
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: SC
Posts: 1,544
Rewards Points: 1,000
Default

Two switch in one box: only one working


Quote:
Originally Posted by jdtsmith View Post
The switch box has six 3-wire cables coming in. Three blacks are wire-nutted together, with one black coming out of this wire-nut through the functioning switch, and on to the vanity light. The non-switched hot from this group goes to the nearby closet light. This "side" of the pair of switches works fine.
This part makes sense for an incoming hot cable and two outgoing hot cables, with a pigtail to the switches.

Quote:
The other 3 blacks in the box are wired together identically in another wire-nut. The switched hot from this group goes to the recessed light. The non-switched hot from this group of 3 goes to the shower fan/light, which now also isn't working. The problem apparently is that the supply hot for this group isn't hot.
This is the part that doesn't make sense. If there are three blacks tied together, then there cannot be a mix of switched and unswitched.. they either have to be all unswitched or all switched.

Where do the other wires connected to the switches go? Can you get a picture of the wiring in the switch box? That would be helpful.
__________________
"Life is hard. Life is harder when you're stupid." John Wayne
HouseHelper is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 09-29-2008, 09:02 AM   #10
Newbie
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 4
Rewards Points: 10
Default

Two switch in one box: only one working


OK, mystery solved. Just called up the electricians who did the new panel, and they gave me a clue which helped tremendously. It is indeed all one circuit. The panel power comes in to the switch, goes out to the vanity light and master bedroom closet. In the closet, it goes through a GFCI outlet which was hidden, comes back into the same switch box in the bathroom, and from there goes on to the lights+fan above the tub+shower. The hidden GFCI outlet in the closet (not on the GFCI outlet circuit in the bathroom) was tripped. Guess I should have moved that laundry basket first .

It sounds like this is pretty standard master bath new construction technique, so I'm posting in case anyone else runs into this. Thanks all for your suggestions, and sorry for the wild goose chase.

Last edited by jdsmith; 09-29-2008 at 09:09 AM.
jdsmith is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-29-2008, 01:18 PM   #11
Member
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Apple Valley, MN, USA
Posts: 1,002
Rewards Points: 506
Send a message via AIM to theatretch85
Default

Two switch in one box: only one working


Quote:
Originally Posted by jdsmith View Post
OK, mystery solved. Just called up the electricians who did the new panel, and they gave me a clue which helped tremendously. It is indeed all one circuit. The panel power comes in to the switch, goes out to the vanity light and master bedroom closet. In the closet, it goes through a GFCI outlet which was hidden, comes back into the same switch box in the bathroom, and from there goes on to the lights+fan above the tub+shower. The hidden GFCI outlet in the closet (not on the GFCI outlet circuit in the bathroom) was tripped. Guess I should have moved that laundry basket first .

It sounds like this is pretty standard master bath new construction technique, so I'm posting in case anyone else runs into this. Thanks all for your suggestions, and sorry for the wild goose chase.
This sounds like a flagrant violation of the NEC code! The circuit that supplies power to the bathroom must remain in the bathroom. The fact that it powers a closet light and a GFCI outlet in an area outside of the bathroom and then returns to the bathroom is beyond me why any electrician would do that. Was this install inspected once the work was completed?

Unless specifically called for, the Fan and lights do NOT need GFCI protection, only the outlets do. If the manufacturers installation sheet indicates the unit needs to be GFCI protected then you are required to supply that protection. I've seen plenty of installs in a bathroom where the lights are run through the GFCI outlet, so when it trips, there is no light in the bathroom (not a very good situation).
theatretch85 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-29-2008, 01:29 PM   #12
Licensed Pro
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: SC
Posts: 1,544
Rewards Points: 1,000
Default

Two switch in one box: only one working


The circuit he is dealing with powers only the lights for the bathroom so it may extend outside of the bathroom area. There is another circuit for the GFCI receptacles.

If he has a light/vent assembly installed inside tub/shower area, the manufacturer's instructions will require GFCI protection. It is a strange setup, but it is compliant.
__________________
"Life is hard. Life is harder when you're stupid." John Wayne
HouseHelper is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 09-29-2008, 01:32 PM   #13
Newbie
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 7
Rewards Points: 10
Default

Two switch in one box: only one working


Interesting. This is relatively new, inspected construction, so I'm a bit surprised to hear that (though I was surprised to find the circuit left the bathroom too -- which is why I spent many hours opening up all the boxes in it). Perhaps since the bath and master closet are adjacent (in some layouts they could be argued to be in the same room), the power is considered never to leave the bathroom.

Seems over designed to me. Two separate GFCI protected circuits (plus one for the jacuzzi tub)?

Anyone else familiar with this method of "out and back" GFCI protection?

jdtsmith is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Dimmer switch quit working Umabean Electrical 4 07-09-2008 01:25 PM
Light switch not working jathornton1 Electrical 2 04-15-2008 04:13 PM
Basic Switch wiring question; Dimmer to Toggle switch (Pictures included) inspectator Electrical 8 08-07-2007 01:19 AM
Light switch not working! jtbel Electrical 4 12-09-2006 06:34 PM
three-way only working on one switch amydawn Electrical 11 07-11-2006 05:52 PM




Top of Page | View New Posts

Copyright © 2003-2014 Escalate Media. All Rights Reserved.