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Old 06-26-2019, 11:55 PM   #1
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They ran 240V to regular old light sockets...arooo?


Hi Folks,


House background - built 2000, second owners, moved in 4 months ago, have a home 'warranty'.



The other day our dishwasher and disposal quit. They are on what appears to be their own circuit (the breaker that tripped only killed the two outlets for the those appliances), with the two 120V outlets duplexed - one switched and one constant hot.


Wife called warranty company, the sent an electrician Monday AM. I had to be at work (new job). The diagnosis was a "dead short" in the "red wire", so the electrician swapped the "white" and "red" and everything worked. How you swap wires, where there is a dead short and make things magically work, I don't know. Shorts don't just go away. He blamed a "staple" wearing through wire insulation. (Seriously?



This evening I go into the basement room (haven't been in there since Sunday), flip on the lights and one pops. I go look at the breaker panel, and the same breaker for the dish washer and disposal is tripped.



I reset the breaker, put in some new bulbs to see what would happen. This time, the new bulbs popped, but *2* breakers tripped - the dish washer and disposal breaker AND a second breaker. Took all the bulbs out of that branch in the basement, reset the breakers and took my Fluke to the sockets - 248.8V on all of them.



In the past 4 months up until Monday, things had been fine. Then this electrician gets in there and does who knows what.



I'm going to place a service call to have a different tech come out, but anyone have a clue as to what he did? For now, since I don't want to die in a fire, I removed all the bulbs and turned the switch to the basement lights off (not the breakers, just the wall switch).



I'm a computer guy, not an electrician and this one goes well beyond me and my *very* basic understanding of AC and DC electronics.



I also took the Fluke and checked the other kitchen outlets, to make sure I wasn't getting 240V on anything else - so far I haven't found any more.



What a week this has been! I appreciate any insight the more skilled folks out there might have (mostly so I can tell if this company is BSing me).
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Old 06-27-2019, 12:04 AM   #2
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Re: They ran 240V to regular old light sockets...arooo?


The electrician who wired the house ran a multi-wire branch circuit - that's 120v on the black and 120v for the other leg on the red. The white is neutral and shared by both circuits. One circuit is your DW and disposal, the other is obviously for basement lights.


By swapping the white and red at a splice, the neutral for your basement lights became 120v on the opposite leg thereby changing the 120v circuit to a 240v circuit.
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Old 06-27-2019, 01:05 AM   #3
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Re: They ran 240V to regular old light sockets...arooo?


The first so called electrician is NOT an electrician !
He is a butcher !


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Old 06-27-2019, 06:11 AM   #4
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Re: They ran 240V to regular old light sockets...arooo?


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The first so called electrician is NOT an electrician !
He is a butcher!

I prefer the term "charlatan".
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Old 06-27-2019, 07:13 AM   #5
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Re: They ran 240V to regular old light sockets...arooo?


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Originally Posted by LawnGuyLandSparky View Post
One circuit is your DW and disposal,
the other is obviously for basement lights.
Well, that's how it ended up.
Earlier... I suspect it was meant to be one (15A) for each appliance.


I'd suggest reverting to that sort of isolated MWBC layout
....and finding some other source to feed the lights.

Last edited by TarheelTerp; 06-27-2019 at 07:16 AM.
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Old 06-27-2019, 09:24 AM   #6
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Re: They ran 240V to regular old light sockets...arooo?


[QUOTE=dmxtothemax;5867099]The first so called electrician is NOT an electrician !
He is a butcher !


Butchers everywhere are offended by this.

Whatever you want to call him, do not let him back in your house! He is not qualified to hand an electrician a screwdriver.

I think Tarheel nailed it. Follow his suggestion.
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Old 06-27-2019, 09:52 AM   #7
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Re: They ran 240V to regular old light sockets...arooo?


First, thank you all! I also agree that the guy was a lousy *something*.



Of course this doesn't explain why the breaker was originally tripping in the first place. I guess I should have added this to the first post:


Day 1 - DW/Disposal breaker pops. Manually reset and things are fine.
Day 2 - Pops again and this time will not reset (moved to full "off", then back to "on" and it just sprung back to "trip" position). Unplug DW and disposal from outlet under the sink and try to reset (was thinking an internal short in one of the two). Still won't reset. Wife makes phone call.

Day 3 - The bad man does bad stuff to my home wiring.



Sounds like it's time to have his 'fix' undone and then find a proper person to troubleshoot the problem!
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Old 06-27-2019, 10:34 AM   #8
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Re: They ran 240V to regular old light sockets...arooo?


Split circuits used to be common for kitchens, they would split the plugs so the top and bottom use different hots and they don't trip if two heavy load appliances are used.

There's nothing wrong with have this type of circuit, you do not need to convert them to individual circuits. Its odd to have basement lights on one, more expected to have a dishwasher and disposal on separate hots but sharing the neutral.

The breakers are tied together so if one hot is overloaded and trips or is manually shut, both hots are de-energized so its safe to work on the circuit.
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Old 06-28-2019, 09:49 AM   #9
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Re: They ran 240V to regular old light sockets...arooo?


So I did some investigating last night.


With all the breakers on and NO light bulbs in the basement sockets, I verified again that I got 240V at the sockets.


Then I popped off the breaker for the DW+Disposal and checked the basement light sockets again - 120V. At the DW+DIsposal, no voltage. Call this "BREAKER B".



BUT, the GFCI outlet in the wall next to the switch for the DW+Disposal was still hot.



Turned the DW+Disposal breaker on and went through the breakers (turning off/on) until I found the breaker that turned off the neighboring GFCI outlet. That also cut power to several other outlets in the kitchen. AND this left 120V at the basement light sockets. Call this BREAKER A.



With Breaker A and Breaker B in the 'ON' position, I get 120V at the GFCI+downstream outlets, 120V at the DW+Disposal outlets, and 240V at the basement lights.



I think the basement lights were a scabbed-on addition by the previous HO, who was apparently a bigger moron than I realized (more on this later).



So when the 'electrician' swapped the hot (red) and the neutral (white) to restore the DW+Disposal outlets, the new 'hot' on the DW_+Disposal circuit also became an additional hot on the basement circuit, but from an opposite phase, and ONLY on the light part of the circuit, not the GFCI kitchen outlet part of the circuit?



How is that possible? I would have thought the basement lights AND the GFCI outlet on Breaker A would now be showing 240V, but that's not the case. I'm guessing the new problem was created in the box housing the disposal switch and the GFCI outlet in the kitchen? The old problem, of the breaker tripping for the DW+Disposal is still unsolved though, until the new FUBAR is un-FUBAR'd.



I can't get anyone out here soon (all booked up) and I am not qualified to fix this myself. But I do want to understand WTH is going on a little better.



Side note about previous owner - there is a conduit run from a junction box on one side of the garage that terminates in a 120V outlet on the other side, for a wall-mounted Shop-Vac. For reasons unknown to me, I was compelled to remove the junction box cover and look.


The guy ran an *extension cord* from the junction box, through the conduit, to feed the Shop-Vac outlet. Even I know better than to do that. At least in that case, I can power off that circuit and run proper conductors, based on what I've read on the forum, and from the bits of NEC I've found.

Gads. I worked as a plumber's apprentice PT in HS and nearly FT through college. I've seen my share of crappy work from "tradesmen" and fixed enough of it for paying customers to know what I'm good at and not good at. And though I don't work in the trades any longer, I have to say I'm appalled at what I've seen in the electrical of this place (and a tad spooked).



I won't go into the plumbing mistakes I've been correcting - but at least I know what I'm doing in that realm. Seems overall the level of 'skill' in the various trades is declining rapidly (partly driven by cost).

Last edited by crossedwires; 06-28-2019 at 09:56 AM.
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Old 06-28-2019, 01:48 PM   #10
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Re: They ran 240V to regular old light sockets...arooo?


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I won't go into the plumbing mistakes I've been correcting
- but at least I know what I'm doing in that realm.
Focus on this statement.

Rookie DIY for adding something all new and such is one thing.
Digging into the several boxes to find where errors are made? Not so much.
I think it might be time to bring in someone who knows more.
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Old 06-28-2019, 03:25 PM   #11
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Re: They ran 240V to regular old light sockets...arooo?


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So I did some investigating last night.


With all the breakers on and NO light bulbs in the basement sockets, I verified again that I got 240V at the sockets.


Then I popped off the breaker for the DW+Disposal and checked the basement light sockets again - 120V. At the DW+DIsposal, no voltage. Call this "BREAKER B".



BUT, the GFCI outlet in the wall next to the switch for the DW+Disposal was still hot.



Turned the DW+Disposal breaker on and went through the breakers (turning off/on) until I found the breaker that turned off the neighboring GFCI outlet. That also cut power to several other outlets in the kitchen. AND this left 120V at the basement light sockets. Call this BREAKER A.



With Breaker A and Breaker B in the 'ON' position, I get 120V at the GFCI+downstream outlets, 120V at the DW+Disposal outlets, and 240V at the basement lights.



I think the basement lights were a scabbed-on addition by the previous HO, who was apparently a bigger moron than I realized (more on this later).



So when the 'electrician' swapped the hot (red) and the neutral (white) to restore the DW+Disposal outlets, the new 'hot' on the DW_+Disposal circuit also became an additional hot on the basement circuit, but from an opposite phase, and ONLY on the light part of the circuit, not the GFCI kitchen outlet part of the circuit?



How is that possible? I would have thought the basement lights AND the GFCI outlet on Breaker A would now be showing 240V, but that's not the case. I'm guessing the new problem was created in the box housing the disposal switch and the GFCI outlet in the kitchen? The old problem, of the breaker tripping for the DW+Disposal is still unsolved though, until the new FUBAR is un-FUBAR'd.

The reason you're getting 240 on one circuit and 120 on the other is because the circuit getting 240 had it's neutral turned into a hot by swapping wires, the other circuit getting 120 still has it's neutral. Without pictures of all the splice points it will be impossible to correct this and yes, the original problem will manifest itself again - but at least the original problem can be corrected.


In the meantime - from your description you have countertop outlets connected with appliances which is a violation - sounds like the DW and the DISP were also "scabbed in" although pictures could confirm this.

Quote:


I can't get anyone out here soon (all booked up) and I am not qualified to fix this myself. But I do want to understand WTH is going on a little better.



Side note about previous owner - there is a conduit run from a junction box on one side of the garage that terminates in a 120V outlet on the other side, for a wall-mounted Shop-Vac. For reasons unknown to me, I was compelled to remove the junction box cover and look.


The guy ran an *extension cord* from the junction box, through the conduit, to feed the Shop-Vac outlet. Even I know better than to do that. At least in that case, I can power off that circuit and run proper conductors, based on what I've read on the forum, and from the bits of NEC I've found.

Gads. I worked as a plumber's apprentice PT in HS and nearly FT through college. I've seen my share of crappy work from "tradesmen" and fixed enough of it for paying customers to know what I'm good at and not good at. And though I don't work in the trades any longer, I have to say I'm appalled at what I've seen in the electrical of this place (and a tad spooked).



I won't go into the plumbing mistakes I've been correcting - but at least I know what I'm doing in that realm. Seems overall the level of 'skill' in the various trades is declining rapidly (partly driven by cost).

Since it's unknown if or how some lighting in the basement was scabbed in, it's probable this integration changed aspects of the circuit and the warranty electrician is not at fault. Originally I thought the bsmt lights and the DW/DISP were on a multi wire branch circuit (MWBC) which is 2 separate 120v circuits sharing a neutral on opposite legs of a panel - but since you've now revealed a couple of countertop outlets are involved (which makes more sense) it's likely the MWBC was for 20a countertop outets and 20a appliances (DW & DISP) which is common, and the basement lights were illegally added on.
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Old 06-28-2019, 05:18 PM   #12
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Re: They ran 240V to regular old light sockets...arooo?


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The reason you're getting 240 on one circuit and 120 on the other is because the circuit getting 240 had it's neutral turned into a hot by swapping wires, the other circuit getting 120 still has it's neutral. Without pictures of all the splice points it will be impossible to correct this and yes, the original problem will manifest itself again - but at least the original problem can be corrected.


In the meantime - from your description you have countertop outlets connected with appliances which is a violation - sounds like the DW and the DISP were also "scabbed in" although pictures could confirm this.


Since it's unknown if or how some lighting in the basement was scabbed in, it's probable this integration changed aspects of the circuit and the warranty electrician is not at fault. Originally I thought the bsmt lights and the DW/DISP were on a multi wire branch circuit (MWBC) which is 2 separate 120v circuits sharing a neutral on opposite legs of a panel - but since you've now revealed a couple of countertop outlets are involved (which makes more sense) it's likely the MWBC was for 20a countertop outets and 20a appliances (DW & DISP) which is common, and the basement lights were illegally added on.

Countertop outlets are on a single breaker. Appliances are on a different single breaker. Other than sharing what I believe is a single neutral (MWBC, I think you call it?). The countertop outlets are not involved - they always have 120V.



I guess I'm not making any sense without pictures and simple wire/linediagrams. I'll keep looking into it and try to draw something that depicts what I see in the wall box with the GFCI on one breaker and the feed for the DW/Disposal on the other breaker.



In my brain (and maybe this is wrong to the pros) I see 3 circuits. The screwed up basement lights are one. The GFCI 'half' of the MWBC is the second. The DW/Disposal 'other half' of the MWBC is the third. For the MWBC, since they share a neutral, is that considered "a" circuit, not 2?



Assuming my house hasn't burned down by the time I get home. Ugh.
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Old 06-28-2019, 10:45 PM   #13
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Re: They ran 240V to regular old light sockets...arooo?


I think you should not touch or change anything until you can contact the company who sent the electrician.

There may be malpractice on their part.

For now use your meter and test receptacles and light sockets and put (preferably red) Scotch tape over any and all "regular" receptacles and sockets that show 240 volts.
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Old 06-29-2019, 01:13 AM   #14
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It sounds like you originally had a breaker go bad on the dish washer circuit. I've run into that a couple of times with my crazy old house - and for $20 it's worth exploring as a first option, because even if it's not the breaker, it's always handy to have a spare 🙂

A staple coming into contact with the wire is not diagnosable unless it's seen. Did the guy see this? If not, it was just a guess.

Swapping the red and black on a 14/3 wire connected to a two pole breaker shouldn't cause these issues you are having since both poles of the breaker supply 120 volts regardless, and each line is independent of the other and only create 240 volts when they are connected together (like at an oven outlet or a split receptical). I bet the guy tiwsted the red and black together at a socket, or otherwise connected them together. But because those outlets are feeding other things, this can't be done as it will feed 240v down the line unless each red and black are separately connected (red to red, black to black) inside the outlet box, and jumpers are used to supply power to the receptical.

If the lights are somehow recieving 240v through one black or one red 14 guage wire, then that could confirm the theory of shenanigans at an outlet. And it's a big safety issue. Like malpractice big, as one person put it.
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Old 06-29-2019, 10:04 AM   #15
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Re: They ran 240V to regular old light sockets...arooo?


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So I did some investigating last night.

I can't get anyone out here soon (all booked up) and I am not qualified to fix this myself. But I do want to understand WTH is going on a little better.

I wish you were in SE Michigan rather than northern Nevada, then I would stop by today or Monday.
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