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LordX 05-16-2010 08:04 PM

Wiring a Lightswitch/Receptacle Socket - Old one works - new one doesn't?
I am replacing an old electrical receptacle in my home. The old one has a light switch on top, and one receptacle on the bottom (non-grounded 2 prong plug).

I am replacing it with a new one with a 3 prong grounded plug (Yes, the wiring has a ground wire!).

Oddly enough, when I hook up the new receptacle, there seems to be no power to it.

There are two sets of wires - one that I ASSUME comes from the circuit breaker, and then the other I ASSUME goes to the lights?

SO I have 2 black, 2 white, and 2 grounds.

The OLD socket had a VERY odd config. THREE of the FOUR screws had the BLACK wires in them (an odd sort of jury rig was done to get one of the black wires into two screw holes). And then BOTH white wires where in the last screw.... THIS setup worked.

When I got the new socket, I put the black hots into the hot screws, the whites into the two other screws, and then both grounds on the green ground screw.

When I flicked the power back on, NOTHING.... at all.. from the switch, OR the outlet.

I have replaced regular sockets before, but not a light switch/receptacle combo.

And ideas what dumb thing I did to make this not work?

I can take pictures of the OLD socket, and pictures of the directions for the new socket if needed.

PS - I looked at the directions that came with the receptacle, but I have no idea what their stupid visual chart means.... grrrrrrr and none of the directions were in plain english... I mean come on, and electrician already KNOWS how to wire this, only people like ME would need directions, and I need them in lay mans terms!

joed 05-16-2010 08:13 PM

Should be a double gold screw on one side. That gets the hot black wire.
Should be single screw on the switch side. That gets the light black wire.
Should be a single silver screw. That gets a white wire. The two white wires connect together and to the silver screw.

LordX 05-16-2010 08:20 PM

Yes, that is the way that the OLD receptacle is.

The new one isnt though. There are two hot screws, and then a white on either side.

I bought this from home depot... so I dont think it is some obscure thing?

joed 05-16-2010 09:32 PM

Then I guess you need to read any directions that came with the unit.

Post the make and model maybe we can assist.

LordX 05-16-2010 09:34 PM

Ok, will do. I have the direction sheet. I will scan it and upload the photo here tomorrow.

Sparky8370 05-17-2010 09:52 AM

Here's what I think you should do.
Turn off the circuit
Pull wires out
Pigtail the neutrals, strip a little off the end
Make sure neither black is touching anything
Turn circuit back on and test to see which is hot
Turn power back off
Connect grounds, then neutral, then connect hot to the side that has two brass screws connected by a bridge. Connect the load to the brass screw on the other side.

LordX 05-17-2010 11:54 AM

Ok, to be clear here - the NEW receptacle has 2 brass/hot screws, and two silver/neutral screws.

Only the old one had 3 brass screws.

Sparky8370 05-17-2010 02:03 PM

I have never seen one like that, but I would have to assume that one of the screws is a common feed and the other is the load. The only harm that should come out of mixing them up is that the receptacle would be switched as well. Just for ****s and giggles, put an ohm meter across the two brass terminals. You should get continuity when switch is on. If not, I'd say you have a faulty switch and need to exchange it.

PS If you don't have an ohm meter, make sure your door bell works then remove the button. Get the two wires connected to the two brass screws. Flip it on then back off. If your door bell activated, you have continuity. This will only work on something that requires dry contacts, so don't come up with a set of jumpers to use on a regular basis.

AllanJ 05-17-2010 09:54 PM

Psst! I would not use the doorbell circuit as a substitute for a continuity meter, although it looks tempting because of the low voltage and therefore lack of a shock hazard. The little solid wires are too fragile to be repeately taken apart and reconnected to different things and are a pain in the $&%^ to have to restring if one breaks off too short to reinstall the door bell button.

LordX 05-17-2010 09:54 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Ok, here are the directions that come with the switch....

Please remember that I am an ultra mega noob when it comes to terminology for electrical work.

So I have no idea what it means when it says stuff like: Break off tab removed....

I hope that I dont have to use that.

I really do appreciate the time being spent helping me understand this!

AllanJ 05-17-2010 10:08 PM

With one power source for both the receptacle and the light/equipment controlled by the switch, you do not break off the tab.

If the tab was accidentally broken off or if you broke it off and changed your mind, then some short wires (referred to as pigtails) need to be put into an array held together with a wire nut so the terminals that used to be bridged by the tab are connected together using the pigtails.

( The tab is broken off when one cable comes in to feed the receptacle and another cable with power applied elsewhere (a switch loop) comes in to be connected to the switch only.)

Can you rescan the instructions to be bigger? I cannot read it as shown.

Sparky8370 05-17-2010 10:37 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Well obviously he wouldn't be using a doorbell on a regular basis, but in a pinch it is an acceptable alternative.

I cannot read your diagram, maybe you could find it online.

By the wiring I can see on the pictures it looks like:

Screw #
1 Ground
2 neutral
3 hot for receptacle
4 hot for switch
5 switch load

If this is correct, #'s 3 and 4 should have the break off tab between them and only needs to be removed if you are using two different circuits.

Grounds should be pigtailed and connected to #1
Neutrals should be pigtailed and connected to #2
Hot should be connected to #3
Break off tab should be connected between 3 and 4, if not pigtail hot and make two leads, one for each screw.
load should be connected to #5

You really should identify as I described above and be sure you have the right wires in the right place. You very well could have created a direct short and tripped the circuit. Test and see if it's live. You can also remove the switch and connect wiring color for color to determine if circuit is as you assume (most likely) and that it is intact and operational.

LordX 05-17-2010 11:31 PM

Yes, that looks like it makes sense: The break off tab makes it so that I don't have to jury rig the hot wire to make it connect to both the hot terminals, the tab does that for me. Right?

The thing that was tricking me up was the LOAD wire... I thought both black wires went into 3 and 4.... and that the nuetrals went into the other two screws. Now it makes more sense. I will give this a shot on Friday when I am back at that location.

A General Electrical Question: (Nothing to do with the switch above!)
I replaced a refrigerator at this location. The OLD fridge had a 2 prong ungrounded plug (it was from the 70's).

The new fridge will have a 3 prong grounded plug of course.

What does the ground really do for a fridge - or for anything?

If I use a cheater for the new fridge to plug into a 2 prong outlet (with NO ground) is that more dangerous than running the old fridge that had no ground ANYWAY? The same danger? Was it even dangerous at all to run a 2 prong fridge in a 2 prong outlet since they were made for each other?

AllanJ 05-18-2010 06:29 AM

Purpose of ground on an appliance.
In case a wire should short against the metal frame or cabinet, perhaps due to a manufacturing defect followed by trucks rumbling by on the street outside causing vibration, the current will be carried to ground instead of posing a shock hazard to someone using the appliance.

Purpose of ground on electronic equipment.
The above, plus carrying away to ground some of the stray electric fields that may cause hum or noise (streaks or snow in video pictures).

Since (in most situations) you are not allowed to put more than one wire under one screw, having two screws connected to the same place (true when the tab is not broken off) comes in handy.

Jim Port 05-18-2010 09:10 AM

The refrigerator is required to use a grounded circuit. The NEC Article is 250.114.

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