On/Off Switch to GFCI

Old 05-17-04, 06:37 PM
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Unhappy On/Off Switch to GFCI

I'm a new user but I've been reading your posts for the last couple of days trying to find a solution to my problem. I'm also a novice at wiring but I try to follow instructions. I want to control a small water fountain using an on/off switch mounted on the outside of my shed. (I successfully replaced a receptacle in my kitchen with a switch/receptacle. The switch on the receptacle now controls the GFCI on my patio to which is connected the power cord (buried in conduit) from a water pump. I have a small water fountain in my yard and I can now turn it on/off from inside.) I installed another very small water fountain on the other side of my patio and since I thought it should also be on a GFCI receptacle and I have power to my shed, I decided to basically do the same thing with the small pond. Didn't want to use existing GFCI on patio because I connect a TV there. Thought it wouldn't be too difficult. Wrong!

1. Circuit in shed is connected to 20Amp breaker in main panel box. Power goes to 4-way receptable in garage. From there it goes to another 4-way receptacle at far end of shed. Cable from panel to second 4-way is 12-2wg. From second 4-way power moves on 14-2wg cable to a ceramic socket/light fixture with receptacle and pull switch for light above door of shed. The fixture is end-of-run. I'm pretty sure all cabling should be 12-2 but I've read some differing opinions about this on your forum. Therefore,

2. I put in a receptacle box for the GFCI and an outdoor box for the switch. Switch and it's box are listed for outdoor use. I ran 14-2 cable from the light fixture to the GFCI box and from there to the outside box for the switch.

3. I connected the GFCI receptacle according to instructions included, but really screwed up wiring to the switch. I found a post (can't remember who or when) saying switch had to be connected before the receptacle or the switch wouldn't work, plus I finally found a post from joed on 1-18-04, 3:14 pm which finally made some sense to me. (I knew the switch had to have two hot wires connected to it, but couldn't figure out how to accomplish this until I read joed's post.) So, finally I connected the black wire going to switch box to the hot-line on GFCI, pigtailed the black wire from the source to the white wire going to the switch, connected the white wire from the source to the neutral?-line on GFCI, and finnally connected black and white wires in switch box to switch. I can now control the GFCI from the switch, but......

4. I can't test/trip the GFCI unless I turn off the outside switch first. No good to me since now the GFCI is like any other receptacle (almost) and won't protect anything.

Sorry to be so long winded, but I know you guys like detail and besides, this can't be a very difficult wiring project, can it? What am I missing?

Any help you can offer will be appreciated. My DIY books don't quite cover this exact situation but they have been helpful.
Old 05-17-04, 07:45 PM
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If i'm reading this right, why don't you put a gfci in your first four way receipticle box in the shed.This is provided that everything is on the same run. This is because everything downstream of a gfci is protected including your switch outside. Then to stay in code use a gfci receipticle outside. That gfci will protect itself. What you did was called a switch loop.
Old 05-18-04, 07:40 AM
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On/Off Switch to GFCI

To anyone who reads my original message, I overlooked the obvious. If the switch controlling the GFCI is not set to on, GFCI doesn't have power to test/trip. DUH!

Thanks to anyone and everyone.
Old 05-18-04, 08:16 AM
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While you're wiring, you either need to change all the #14 wire on this circuit to #12 or replace the 20 amp breaker with a 15 amp breaker. 20 amps on #14 wire is a fire hazard. Should not be any confusion - 20 amp breaker, no higher than #12 wire anywhere in the circuit, no exceptions.

RUSSELLN114's suggestion is probably the fastest fix, but I don't know if you have a good grasp on wiring a "switch loop" which is what you've set up. I fear you may still end up with an unsafe situation.

At the receptacle you should have white from the hot wire connected to the GFCI white load terminal, black from the hot wire connected to white to the switch (which you should color both ends of black with a marker). Then connect black from the switch to the GFCI black load terminal. The white (colored black with marker) and black wires at the switch should be connected to the switch, one on each screw. Ground wire to ground screw on switch. You should end up with 1 black, 1 white and 1 ground wire connected to the GFCI and no more.

Things would have been much simpler if you had run power to the switch before running it to the receptacle. Then you would have simply had to wire nut both the whites together and both the grounds together at the switch and put one of the black wires on each side of the switch. Next time...

Hope this helps.

Doug M.

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