rewiring outlet with mystery wire

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  #1  
Old 09-06-05, 12:37 PM
tarcook
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rewiring outlet with mystery wire

I am converting all my 2 prong outlets to three prongs. All was well until I went to switch out an outlet that has never worked. Instead of the usual black wires on one side and whites on the other, this outlet has the two white wires on the right side and one mystery red wire on the bottom screw on the left side. There is no 4th wire attached. However, there are 2 black wires loose in the outlet box that have their tips taped together. None of the other outlets have had any red wires. I also have not seen any ground wires in any of the oulets. Is there anyway to figure out which wire goes where? I have an electrician who is great, but he is a FEMA director and it may be months before he returns to the area.
 
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  #2  
Old 09-06-05, 12:43 PM
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First, to address your question, this sounds perfectly normal to me. The red wire is most likely a switched hot wire, with a switch somewhere controlling the receptacle. If this is not the case then perhaps the black wires are switched and another receptacle is switched, or perhaps the receptacle was switched at one point.

Now a more serious issue. You state that you have not seen any ground wires. Unless the ground is provided by conduit (and you have verified it), stop what you are doing. It is against code and dangerous to provide three prong receptacles where no ground exists (unless you also provide GFCI protection). If you haven't verified that a true ground exists and you donít have GFCI protection then you are creating a very unsafe situation. If this is the case, urge you to stop what you are doing and come up with a plan to proceed that is both code compliant and safe.
 
  #3  
Old 09-06-05, 01:00 PM
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What you are doing is not only a violation of the electrical code, but it's sure to cause you a big headache when you go to sell the house. If you are going to violate the code anyway, I have two suggestions:
  1. Keep all the old receptacles. You'll need put them back in before you put your home up for sale.
  2. Don't convert any more receptacles than necessary. Most of the things in your house don't have three-prong plugs, so those receptacles shouldn't be changed. That'll simplify things later on when you need to reinstall the old receptacles.
 
  #4  
Old 09-06-05, 01:10 PM
tarcook
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well even if i leave in the 2 prong oulet the outlet does not work, presumably because it only has 3 wires attached to it. Is there a way to tell which of the black wires if either should be attached t o the 4th screw?
 
  #5  
Old 09-06-05, 01:14 PM
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Did the receptacle work before you started? How were the wires attached to the previous receptacle? Do you have a switch that needs to be turned on?
 
  #6  
Old 09-06-05, 01:44 PM
tarcook
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The receptacle has never worked. As far as I know it is not switch operated. There were two white wires on the right screws and one red wire on the bottom left screw. The top left screw did not have a wire attached. There are two black wires in the outlet box that are taped together and not attached to anything.

Also- as to the grounding issue, there are grounding wires in my switch boxes but not in my outlet boxes. Behind my panel I see several bare copper wires which I assume are ground wires. My electrician had said it was okay to switch out my outlets and switches and that he would install a new panel when he got back from FL, but I assume he is now in New Orleans.
 
  #7  
Old 09-06-05, 02:14 PM
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A red wire implies a switched receptacle. Does this same red wire (or any red wire) exist anywhere else on this circuit? Is there anything else on this circuit except for receptacles? Where is this receptacle physically located? Is there a hard wired light in this same room in the house? Do you have a simple neon light tester?

What type of wiring do you have? Do you have metal conduit? Do you have cloth or plastic covered wires? Does every circuit have a ground wire at the panel? Unless you have a proper ground, do not install these three prong receptacles. Get clarification from your electrician as to where the ground will come from before proceeding.
 
  #8  
Old 09-06-05, 07:11 PM
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I agree this receptacle was switched at one point. Perhaps some one couldn't figure out what the switch did, removed it and covered the wires over in the wall. Look around near door ways and see if you can a patch in the wall where a switch might have once been.
The black wires should have a wire nut on them not just tape.
 
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