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Old 12-17-2009, 11:57 AM   #1
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What's going on behind this blank plate?


I need a little help figuring out what's going on in this box with a blank plate over it. It is located in a laundry closet that was designed for a stack unit (has 220 drier outlet, a 120 outlet, plus the washer hookups. This blank plate is located on the right wall near the door to the closet, the other side of the wall is another closet.

located in the box are 2, 12(?)/3 wires. one has the two hots (red and black) twisted together, the other has the black and white twisted. all wires are hot according to my voltage detector.

Never seen this before and wondering if this a common thing that electricians do for some reason. Just curious what is going on here and if maybe it was put here for a future use (ie wired for an overhead light or something?


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Old 12-17-2009, 12:17 PM   #2
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What's going on behind this blank plate?


The two tied together will trip a breaker on the other end. My guess, since the Washer & Dryer may have been relocated, the circuit should be dead, but if actually hot, then there is something else at play.

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Old 12-17-2009, 01:16 PM   #3
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What's going on behind this blank plate?


when you say "voltage detector" are you speaking of a non-contact type? If so, you are most likely getting some false positives and need to use a tester such as a "Wiggy" or something of the sort.



post back with the results or confirmation and we'll go from there.

while you are checking things, try to find the breaker that shuts off any or all of the power to that box and see if there was any notation on the panel schedule that might clue you. Also, is there a blank plate for a light anywhere? and do you have any switches that do not do anything anywhere else or are there any blank plates anywhere else that might be for a switch not installed?
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Old 12-17-2009, 01:21 PM   #4
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What's going on behind this blank plate?


And clarify "all wires are hot". Do oyu mean that with the wire nuts removed and the wires separated, every single wire is hot (other than grounds)? That seems very unlikely.
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Old 12-17-2009, 02:00 PM   #5
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What's going on behind this blank plate?


Looks like the electrician ran wires for a 3way switch that was never used.
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Old 12-17-2009, 02:03 PM   #6
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What's going on behind this blank plate?


I'm trying to think of why there would be three conductor wire.

Normally 3 conducor wire is used for ceiling fans so you can switch the lights and the fan separately. It's also used for three way switches.

I've read that in Canada they'll run two kitchen circuits using three conductor wire and put the top and bottom of each outlet on a different circuit.

Are there other common uses for three conductor wire?

The only thing that seems to make sense for two pairs of three conductor would be the middle of a four way switch. But the way they're currently connected doesn't really make sense if that's the case.

Something I'd be inclinde to do is separate the wires that are tied together and see if something looses power.
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Old 12-17-2009, 02:09 PM   #7
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What's going on behind this blank plate?


Quote:
Originally Posted by nap View Post
when you say "voltage detector" are you speaking of a non-contact type? If so, you are most likely getting some false positives and need to use a tester such as a "Wiggy" or something of the sort.
It is a wireless voltage detector. It has adjustable sensitivity and with on the lowest setting it would go off when I was close to each wire. I the wires were far enough apart from each other that I don't think I would be getting a reading from an unintended wire while I was testing.



Quote:
Originally Posted by nap View Post
post back with the results or confirmation and we'll go from there.

while you are checking things, try to find the breaker that shuts off any or all of the power to that box and see if there was any notation on the panel schedule that might clue you. Also, is there a blank plate for a light anywhere? and do you have any switches that do not do anything anywhere else or are there any blank plates anywhere else that might be for a switch not installed?
I'll check the panel tonight. This closet doesn't have any other blank plates but the closet next to it has a blank plate at the top...I'll check that out tonight too....no additional switches

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Originally Posted by philS View Post
And clarify "all wires are hot". Do oyu mean that with the wire nuts removed and the wires separated, every single wire is hot (other than grounds)? That seems very unlikely.
I did not seperate the twisted pairs but when I tested them all were hot but the grounds. I'll seperate them tonight and see what they look like.
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Old 12-17-2009, 02:16 PM   #8
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What's going on behind this blank plate?


Quote:
Originally Posted by HouseHelper View Post
Looks like the electrician ran wires for a 3way switch that was never used.
That's what I was thinking but to a closet?

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Originally Posted by pyper View Post
I'm trying to think of why there would be three conductor wire.

Normally 3 conducor wire is used for ceiling fans so you can switch the lights and the fan separately. It's also used for three way switches.

I've read that in Canada they'll run two kitchen circuits using three conductor wire and put the top and bottom of each outlet on a different circuit.

Are there other common uses for three conductor wire?

The only thing that seems to make sense for two pairs of three conductor would be the middle of a four way switch. But the way they're currently connected doesn't really make sense if that's the case.

Something I'd be inclinde to do is separate the wires that are tied together and see if something looses power.
I'll try that tonight as well.

Another note...while my house is from 1929, however, this portion is an addition that was done in the late 80s early 90s. The "modern" breaker box is located on the other side of the room as the closet. and it doesn't appear that the room has had a different use besides a laundry before. I bought the detector per recs from this thread where it appears there is an old knob and tube system in the attic of the original part of the house.
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Old 12-17-2009, 03:25 PM   #9
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What's going on behind this blank plate?


Also check to see what you have to switch off at the panel so that nothing in the j-box is hot. Presumably two separate breakers. If so, are they next to each other? Handles tied together?
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Old 12-18-2009, 03:06 PM   #10
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What's going on behind this blank plate?


OK, so I have made a little progress today. When I separated the red and black from each other the light in "3rd bedroom" (the room which this closet is connected to) went off. After further inspection I realized that the light switch when you walk in the 3rd br is a 3-way switch with only the one 3conductor wire. Seen here:


When I seperate the black and white wires from eachother the light in the master bath (located behind this closet) goes off. Once again, further inspection reveals that the light switch when you enter that room is a 3-way as well with a 2-conductor wire and 2-3conductor wires in the box.


So, I guess at one time this might not have been set-up the way it is now.

Is there a way I can remove one or both of these 3way switches and replace them with a singe pole switch?
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Old 12-18-2009, 07:18 PM   #11
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What's going on behind this blank plate?


You might be able to disconnect that extra switch leg from the master bedroom light. Can you pull that switch out a bit further, and take a couple more photos from different angles? We need to be able to see all the conductors in that switch box, and where they are connected to.

As for the other one, you might have to remove the light and see if there are connections in the ceiling junction box. It should be able to be rewired, but we need more info on that one.
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Old 12-19-2009, 08:46 AM   #12
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What's going on behind this blank plate?


Heres another photo of the Master Bath switch. Basically there are two 3 conductors coming in the left and right at the top of the box and a 2 conductor coming in the bottom. All three blacks are tied together, the white from the 2C and Right 3C are tied and the white from the Left 3C feeds into the switch. The Left 3C red feeds to the bottom of the switch while the Right 3C red feeds to the top of the switch.

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