Again GFCI in a bathroom

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  #1  
Old 11-14-00, 10:05 AM
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I have double gang box in the bathroom: two receptacles plus one block of two flip switches. All wiring is done with two wires (black and white only). It gives four pairs total: two pairs are coming in the box and two pairs are going to fixtures. Right now the only one switch is used to turn on the light and fan. I believe that the receptacles work independently from the switch.
What I would like to do is to replace the receptacles with a GFCI and at the same time to separate the switches - to have one for light and another one for fan.
I re-wired the box keeping the current layout but with no apparent reason I received a shortage so the breaker in the basement breaks. I noticed that there is a spark in the GFCI if I try to push reset button on it. When I put the original receptacles back it works just fine.
I would appreciate if someone could help me with answering two questions: 1) Could I do what I would like to do and 2) Could you explain the re-wiring for me (step-by-step) and maybe post the wiring diagram or something.
Thanks much!
 
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  #2  
Old 11-14-00, 11:21 AM
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If you had two switches before, why did only one control both light and fan -- what did the other switch do? Or was there only one switch before?

It would be nice to know how the four pairs of wires were connected before you started. This gives us some clue as to what they are. And you said that there were "two pairs are coming in the box and two pairs are going to fixtures." I'd be curious to know how you knew that -- are the walls open so that you can see where the wires go?

Also I'm unclear in that you said you would "like to" replace the recepticle with a GFCI, but then it seems you already have done so.

The first thing to do is figure out what those four pairs of wires are. One pair is clearly providing line power to the outlet. This same pair probably provides line power to the switch(es). Then one pair apparantly provides switche power to both the light and fan (since you seemed to indicate that you could not previously operate them independently). This leaves two pairs unaccounted for -- these two pairs could have nothing to do with the bathroom.

If previously, one switch operated both the light and fan, then you probably cannot separate these functions without running extra wiring through the walls. But you should be able to install the GFCI with no problem.

To be able to tell you what to do, we need to know what those four pairs of wires are. You can figure this out in one of two ways: (1) if you know, tell us **exactly** how things were wired before you started, or (2) use a multimeter to test the wiring.

Sorry this is so confusing, but we have a lot of wires and connections to sort out.
 
  #3  
Old 11-14-00, 01:39 PM
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Thanks John,
I do have two flip switches in the box and it looks like the second one does just nothing – it's not wired, I mean that there is no hot wire connected to the switch. I have no idea why – we just moved in and I was advised to install GFCIs where water is… I've installed like a couple already but those were easy ones – 2 or 4 wires in the gang box only.
Before I try to reproduce the wire layout let me tell that I just "played back" – at the moment I have old receptacles installed (because I could not figure out how to install the GFCI). If I test the receptacles with the tester it shows no problem.
Regarding the wire layout. I have two pairs (black and white in each inside a white plastic tube) in the left top corner of the box and exactly the same two pairs in the right top corner of the gang box. Let's number them from the left to the right: #1 and #2 are at the left (and coming in) and #3 and #4 are at the right (and coming out). Receptacle block is grounded through its ground terminal to the gang box.
So white from #1 goes to the upper white terminal of the receptacle block. White from #2 goes to the bottom white terminal of the receptacle block. Hot #1 goes to the upper hot terminal of the receptacle block. Hot #2 goes to the bottom hot terminal of the receptacle block. White from #3 goes to the upper white terminal of the receptacle block. White from #4 goes to the bottom white terminal of the receptacle block. Hot from #3 goes to the upper hot terminal of the switch block. Hot from #4 goes to the bottom hot terminal of the switch block. There is one more wire (black - hot) connecting bottom hot terminal of the receptacle block to the upper white terminal of the switch block.
This is my current wiring…
I hope that helps.
Again, I would like to have GFCI instead of receptacles and possible to have two switches operating.
I cannot use multimeter at the moment but for me it looks like I have two lines going to each fixture: light and fan. I hope that I'm right
Thanks much!
 
  #4  
Old 11-14-00, 04:34 PM
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I can see why John was having trouble translating what you have by what you said. It is rather confusing.

It is my understanding that you receptacle and your light/fan works as it is wired now using the normal receptacle.

Lets try working on one problem at a time. I suspect that the problem that you are having installing your GFI is that you are installing line to load or vise versus. You will have to find the black and white from the romex coming into the box. Your GFI receptacle will be marked line and load on the back of the GFI receptacle. Connect the power cable that you identified black to black and white to white on the line side of the GFI receptacle if your GFI has pigtails to connect to. If your GFI has screws to connect to then connect the black of the power cable to the copper screw of the GFI receptacle on the line side. Then connect the white of the power cable to the silver screw on the line side of the GFI. Now connect the other blacks that were originally connected to the old receptacle together with a pigtail added under a wire nut. Then connect that black pigtail to the brass screw or black wire of the GFI receptacle on the load side. Then connect all the whites together under a wire nut with a pigtail coming from that white nut and connect it to the silver screw on the load side of the GFI receptacle.

Now as for the switch leave it as it was, untouched because it is working properly already.

Now if you want to switch the fan and light seperately then you will have to add another romex between the switch box and the fan in order to add another switch leg for the fan by seperating the light. You will only use the black wire of that added romex, blanking off the white as unused. You should be able to take the wire of the fan off the wire nut in the fan and connect it to the black wire of the romex you added, and then connect that black that you added to the other switch. You should have what you want at that time.

I am like John, you are rather confusing in your discription and the wiring style that exists but I believe if you try the above it should work.

The problem that I suspect you have is mixing line and load on the GFI receptacle causing a short circuit. The seperating of the fan and light should need another insulated conductor that you don't have unless you add it.

Hope this helps

Wg
 
  #5  
Old 11-14-00, 05:17 PM
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Thanks winny. Your second post was as clear as your first post was confusing. I agree with everything Wg said, but I thought I'd add some more information.

I think your presumption that #1 and #2 are "coming in" and #3 and #4 are "coming out" is not based on any evidence.

About the only thing we know for sure is that #4 is the switched leg to the fan/light. Incoming power could be on either #1, #2 or #3. Since they are all connected together, there is no way to tell without separating them and connecting them to a voltmeter -- this is exactly what you will need to do to ensure that you correctly wire the GFCI.

My guess is that #3 is line power, but that's only an unconfirmed guess. If this is true, then #1 and #2 are load power which likely have nothing to do with whatever is going on in the bathroom (i.e., they provide power to somewhere else).

I'm assuming that you start this test with the power on and the outlet verified to work (use a lamp or equivalent).

Test line #3 first. Here's how. Turn the power off. Carefully disconnect the black from #3 from the switch. Do not disconnect any other wires. Turn the power back on. If the outlet no longer works, then #3 is your line power.

If this test doesn't work, turn the power back off, reconnect black #3 to where it was on the switch and disconnect black #2 from the outlet. Turn the power back on and again test the outlet. If the outlet no longer works, then #2 is your line power.

If this still doesn't work, turn the power back off, reconnect black #2 where it was before, and test #1 just like like you tested #2.

Now you've identified "line power". Connect this black and its paired white to the "line" connections on the GFCI (black to gold, white to silver).

Disconnect all other black wires except #4 from where they are currently connected (leave #4 black connected to one switch screw, and leave the short black jumper connected to the other switch screw but disconnect the other end of the black jumper). Connect all the loose blacks you now have to a pigtail and connect the pigtail to the "load" side of the GFCI. Connect the remaining three white wires to a pigtail and connect it to the silver screw on the load side of the GFCI. Leave black #4 connected to the switch throughout.

Turn power back on and you should be in business. Test the GFCI. When you press the test button, the fan/light should go out too. At least a couple of things (outlets or lights outside the bathroom) elsewhere should also go dead when you press the test button.

Good luck.
 
  #6  
Old 11-14-00, 07:15 PM
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Thanks much John and WG
I believe that I understood the point that the power comes from opposite then I though end. Certainly I guessed that it comes from #1 or #2. You’re absolutely right! So for the first two installed GFCIs I was just lucky  to get the line and load right.
I will follow your descriptions. However it could happen on weekend only…
I do appreciate your help very much!
Take care!
 
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