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Old 10-24-2008, 12:09 PM   #1
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Wiring help


Hello all. I had so much success with my last post I thought I would pose this next question.

I installed a new breaker box this week. My old one was a 100 amp box from 1950. Most of the breakers had double or triple the connections. I am amazed my house is still standing. Over the past two years I have found countless splices with the old nylon covered wire. Usually just wrapped in electrical tape and tucked in a corner. I have been going one by one and putting them in boxes.

Now to the questions. I upgrade to a 200 amp box and also upgraded my power to 200 amps. I installed a breaker for every wire. Everything in the box works except for one breaker. From the old box there was a 20 amp 2 pull breaker that had an old Nylon covered wire connected to it. I reconnected it to a 20 amp 2 pull breaker in the new box. But as soon as I flip the breaker it blows and trips the main breaker. I have tested it with other 20 amp 2 pulls and a 30 amp 2 pull and I get the same results. All other breakers and power is working great.

What is not turning on? 3 Lights and 2 outlets. But this happens to be the hall and living room. So my family is going nuts. I followed the wire up along the chimney in my house up into the attic. So I crawled up there and found the wire. I followed it through attic under insulation and found where it connected to a junction box under a ceiling fan. Just before it gets to the ceiling fan I found a huge splice wrapped in electrical tap. Imagine my shock!

So i wrapped the connection and found that the black and red wire were connected to one wire (can't tell what color since the wire is so old) and the white was connected to another. I decided to disconnect everything, cap it off and test the breaker. I did and the breaker did not trip. So now I want to reconnect them, but the other wires only have two, and this one has three (red, black and white). Is this why it was tripping? Was the old breaker just not able to trip because it was so old? I am kind of at a loss. I need some expert advice.

Thanks.

BenJoe

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Old 10-24-2008, 12:15 PM   #2
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Why is this circuit connected to a double pole breaker?

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Old 10-24-2008, 12:17 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by jerryh3 View Post
Why is this circuit connected to a double pole breaker?
Well it had a black, red and white wire. In the old box it was connected to one. (I thought). So I connected it again. Should it not be?
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Old 10-24-2008, 12:19 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by BenJoeM View Post
Well it had a black, red and white wire. In the old box it was connected to one. (I thought). So I connected it again. Should it not be?
Only if it was a multi-wire branch circuit. But if both the red and the black were connected to same wire before, it should have never been connected that way.
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Old 10-24-2008, 12:20 PM   #5
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Ok so if I understand you correctly, on the breaker I should put the red and black in the breaker together on a single poll breaker. and reconnect the wires?
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Old 10-24-2008, 12:24 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by BenJoeM View Post
Ok so if I understand you correctly, on the breaker I should put the red and black in the breaker together on a single poll breaker. and reconnect the wires?
Can you take pictures of the box in the attic?
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Old 10-24-2008, 12:30 PM   #7
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Look at a book on house wiring.

You will see that 120V outlets and lights use the black to one breaker and the white to the neutral bar.

There is a thing called a Multi-Wire Branch Circuit which has a shared neutral, but I would do a little more learning for now before attempting to install such things. Read about this.

Anyway for now you said there was a black and a red wire and you connected these to a double pull breaker and both of these wires were tied together in your attic? Well no wonder the breaker was tripping! That was a dead short.

For now to get things working I would try just one wire - say black on one breaker and the white to neutral. See what that does.

Can you post pictures?
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Old 10-24-2008, 12:31 PM   #8
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Wow thanks for the great advice.

I will try exactly what you said. I am going home for lunch and I will see if I can get some pictures.

BenJoe
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Old 10-24-2008, 12:32 PM   #9
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Quote:
Imagine my shock!
Pun!

Quote:
So i wrapped the connection and found that the black and red wire were connected to one wire (can't tell what color since the wire is so old) and the white was connected to another. I decided to disconnect everything, cap it off and test the breaker. I did and the breaker did not trip. So now I want to reconnect them, but the other wires only have two, and this one has three (red, black and white). Is this why it was tripping? Was the old breaker just not able to trip because it was so old? I am kind of at a loss. I need some expert advice.
It sounds like what you're saying is that the cable feeding those lights and receptacles is 3-wire (black, red, white), and the red and black were tied together at the attic on one end, and those red and black wires were connected to the two poles on the double pole breaker?

If that's the case, then it was causing a short circuit, and should not be on a double pole breaker, nor should they be tied together in the attic. (The short was 240V between the two hot legs of your service).

The only thing that has me scratching my head is that if the old double pole breaker wasn't tripping, your house should have burned down with that setup, unless..

- Those two wires were mixed up when you re-did the panel, and they weren't on the same double pole before (or they were both tapped onto one pole of the breaker).

- One pole of the breaker was bad and not conducting.

- You only had 120V service when you had your 100A panel.

So if you're sure you have the cable traced properly to the attic, did you only have 120V service previously (in which case a double pole breaker wouldn't have been necessary, but who knows why it was done that way)?

The solution sounds like it would be to cap the red wire on both ends, hook the black wire to a single pole breaker, and tie the wiring back together in the attic in a j-box, minus the red wire..

Also make sure the wiring is all 12ga. if you're putting it on a 20A breaker. Otherwise use a 15A single pole.

Edit: I type slow... What they said.
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Old 10-24-2008, 12:33 PM   #10
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P.S. For the future, it is a good idea to take pictures or draw a wiring diagram of how things are *before* disconnecting them. Then you can re-connect them the same.
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Old 10-24-2008, 12:35 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Billy_Bob View Post
P.S. For the future, it is a good idea to take pictures or draw a wiring diagram of how things are *before* disconnecting them. Then you can re-connect them the same.
Thanks! I thought I had kept pretty good track, but the old box was a mess and I guess I missed one. Either way, I am glad I found the splice in the attic and I am getting it into a box with a cover.
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Old 10-24-2008, 03:42 PM   #12
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Yeah, the original cable had both black and red circuits hooked to the same phase. You reinstalled them on seperate phases and caused the phase to phase short. It happens.

Treat the red as a spare wire. Don't hook it up at the panel or the jbox.
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Old 10-24-2008, 05:18 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by 220/221 View Post
Yeah, the original cable had both black and red circuits hooked to the same phase. You reinstalled them on seperate phases and caused the phase to phase short. It happens.

Treat the red as a spare wire. Don't hook it up at the panel or the jbox.
i went home at lunch and hooked it up to a single poll 20 amp breaker and it worked!!!

Thanks guys. Now I just need to reconnect everything.
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Old 10-24-2008, 09:36 PM   #14
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I have a little more time now, so I'll "splain" some things...

It sounds like you have an old house. In an old house there is no telling what wiring you may find.

There may be old wiring, which when it was installed, was installed properly to code at that time. This stuff is pretty safe so far as it is not going to burn down your house*, but not as safe as modern electrical wiring which also has a great amount of protection from electrocution built in.

*The insulation on old wiring can crumble, especially around light fixtures, then it is quite dangerous.

Then you can have "homeowner" work which was not done properly and could have a fire and/or electrocution risk. The circuit breakers may be too large for the wiring used. The wire size used at the breaker panel may switch to a smaller size downstream and therefore the breaker is too large for the wiring. Junction boxes may not have been used. Outlets might have been added without installing an electrical box in the wall and lamp cord used in the wall to wire the outlet. No telling what my have been done!

So the thing is to learn how wiring *should* be done, then you can recognize dangerous wiring.

Then these days GFCI's protect people from electrocution in wet areas like a bathroom, kitchen, garage, and outside.

AFCI circuits protect from arcing in all other rooms of the house where a GFCI is not required. (Depending on your local code.)

Tamper resistant outlets keep that kid from sticking a metal object into an outlet.

Whole house surge protectors protect your electronic gizmos from voltage surges.

The thing to do is learn all about this stuff. Find out which of these gizmos are required by your local electrical inspector's office.

Then before doing any re-wiring, I would suggest getting a couple of books on home electrical wiring and reading them cover to cover.

You should then know how things should be safely wired. And then be able to tell when looking at your old wiring if it is safe or not. Learn if you can leave it or if it needs replacement.

Here is a manufacturer's guide on some of the latest code changes for home electrical wiring...
http://www.homedepot.com/hdus/en_US/...n_codebook.pdf

Here they have a ton of books on electrical wiring...
http://www.buildersbook.com/Merchant...tegory_Code=40
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Old 10-27-2008, 11:01 AM   #15
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Thanks for all your help.

I got everything reconnected and everything worked great!

I had taken down a ceiling fan a few feet from this splice to see if there was something wrong in there. The box is really crowded with old wires. But I put everything back. When I turned on the light switch, the breaker blew. So I pulled everything out and some of the old nylon wire was coming apart and may have been touching the side of the conduit box. I repaired them with black electrical tape and reinstalled. Now everything works, no breaker flips. But the fan, nor the light, will turn on. I checked and the wires going in are connected and live. But no power. I am wondering if I fried the fan.

Thanks for the reading material. I will get on it. Thanks again!

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