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Old 12-08-2019, 11:25 PM   #1
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previous hack job?


Hello, I am no certified electrician but I been doing the basic stuff like adding a new outlet, changing outlets and switches etc. Today, I notice my combination switch (toggle + outlet) started to malfunction as the lights won't turn on unless i play with it. Also my outlet on this switch never worked since I moved in. So I decided to change the combo switch, and saw 3 wires going to it. I don't like messing with old BX cloth wiring but that was exactly what I have.

Upon testing which is the Line, Load, Neutral, somehow my new Klein non contact voltage tester was beeping on 2 out of the 3 wires, even when i removed each wire off the old switch and turn the breaker back on. I noticed one wire was loose near the back of the box like it was ready to rip off, scared the crap out of me since I know old cloth wiring can become brittle and insulation would fall off. i immediately break part of the wall to see underneath the box just to find no cable to the box. So I removed the bx clamp off the box just to find out the 3rd wire was actually connected to the clamp screw. A relief but also confusion.
Why did my new Klein non contact voltage tester NCVT-1 beep on the wire connected to the box? faulty non contact voltage tester?

So whoever install this combo switch either did a previous hack job or was so lazy to get a regular toggle switch that all he or she had left was a combo switch at the time of install. Now I am left with 2 wires in the box from the same cable coming from the top which i am guessing is from the light fixture. Installed a regular switch with the 2 wires and finally got a working light fixture again. Tried to use my Klein Tester to test the 2 wires and no voltage detected on one of the 2 wires when the light is on which doesn't make sense. went all around the metal box and it kept beeping too. Am i using this wrong? green light and it beeps red all around the box but not on the load wire when the switch is on. I guess it is time to return this and get me a fluke, my craftsman worked better than this Klein, sadly i lost it. here are some pictures.

https://imgur.com/Lr2HDdW

https://imgur.com/bHNnLF1

https://imgur.com/h79uu8A

https://imgur.com/9QZ45hs

https://imgur.com/TNqfNph

https://imgur.com/vS5zgoo

https://imgur.com/B5bxeyG

Last edited by bklynsoulja; 12-08-2019 at 11:29 PM.
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Old 12-08-2019, 11:39 PM   #2
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Re: previous hack job?


You don't have a neutral so who ever wanted the outlet thought they could use ground for a neutral, but you don't have a ground either.

I don't know why you would get the readings you are getting.
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Old 12-09-2019, 12:35 AM   #3
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Re: previous hack job?


non contact testers are higly un reliable,
This is why electricians don't rely on them,
they can and do give false readings.


Ghost Voltage Can Look Real
Ghost voltages can be caused when energized circuits and non energized wiring are located in close proximity to each other, such as in the same conduit or raceway. This condition forms a capacitor and allows capacitive coupling between the energized wiring and the adjacent unused wiring.
When you place your multimeter leads between the open circuit and the neutral conductor, you effectively complete the circuit through the input of the multimeter. The capacitance between the connected, hot conductor and the floating conductor forms a voltage divider in conjunction with the multimeter input impedance. The multimeter then measures and displays the resulting voltage value.
Most digital multimeters today have an input impedance that’s high enough to show this ghost voltage, giving a false impression of a live conductor. The meter is actually measuring voltage coupled into the disconnected conductor. But at times, these voltages can be 80-85 % of what the “hard” voltage should be. If not recognized as a ghost voltage, additional time, effort and money may be lost troubleshooting circuit problems.
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Old 12-09-2019, 05:15 AM   #4
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Re: previous hack job?


I agree with Neal in that the original installer wanted that receptacle, but had no neutral since it was a switch loop. He/she improvised and used the BX to provide a return path as a neutral. Big error. You have the switch installed without the receptacle and it works as it should. Congratulations on finding the problem, posting it here.
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