Mystery Light Switch

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Old 05-11-06, 08:11 AM
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Mystery Light Switch

I just recently moved into a new condo, and have encountered a bit of a mystery. In the main living space there is a light switch panel with three switches on it. One for the kitchen track lighting, one for the living room track lighting, and a third that didn't appear to control anything. At first I assumed it was connected to one of the outlets, but after testing them all I've come to the conclusion that is not the case. The condo's ceiling has exposed beams, so there can't be any hidden wiring up there for a fan that used to be there or anything. I truly have no idea what this switch controls. I asked the old owner but he said he couldn't remember, he had the place on the market for over two years before I moved in so he forgot aparently. Is there anyway to try and track down where this wiring goes? I have not yet tested to see if power is going through the switch, I will go out and buy a multimeter and do that today. If it turns out there is power, does anyone have any suggestions as to how to track down where it goes?
 
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Old 05-11-06, 08:30 AM
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Did you check both halves of each receptacle? Did you test receptacles in other rooms, such as an entry room? Are there any outside lights?

Are there other condos in the same complex? maybe one of your neighbors knows.
 
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Old 05-11-06, 05:37 PM
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They sell non-contact wire tracers and you can trace wires hidden in walls and ceilings with them, and locate metal. But this inexpensive testing tool may or may not help you out if other hot wires are grouped with the one you want to trace. But, they do make great toys for entertaining yourself and the kids with as they flash a light when you have found a 'live wire', and the flashing gets obviously pronounced when you energize the circuit. You can adjust the sensitivity on them.

The checking with a neighbor suggestion by racraft is very wise IF the units are alike and have the same 3 switches. You should do this first before wasting your time with anything else.

You said the beam eliminates any chance they hid a wire up there? I couldn't say this is true or not because I dont' know if the beam was there from the beginning?...added later?...had a hole where a light or ceiling fan was, plugged very inconspicously maybe?

If you are absolutely certain that that switch does not control at least 1/2 of just one of the wall outlets in that room, I would start thinking that there might have been some other ceiling light, originally, besides that track light.

But also...look to see if that mystery switch has the word "on" and "off" printed on the toggle. If it doesn't, it is a 3-way switch to somewhere.

Also make sure that the mystery switch does not control an outside light or lights that are on the outside on each side of the garage (where you can't see it from the inside of the house), as we have condos like this with the same 3-switches, and the new tenants also thought there was a mystery switch until I took them outside and around the corner, to show them how they are flipping on and off the garage lanterns hanging on the siding. And it was a 3-way switch, and inside the garage was the other switch for those lights.
 
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Old 05-12-06, 05:08 AM
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Most likely there was originally a cieling fan instead of track lighting in the living room. Two circuits would have been run to the fan for a light to be included. Check under the track light for an extra set of wires.
 
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Old 05-12-06, 06:54 PM
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Originally Posted by mdtaylor
Most likely there was originally a cieling fan instead of track lighting in the living room. Two circuits would have been run to the fan for a light to be included. Check under the track light for an extra set of wires.
Nice catch...maybe. It will be nice to find out.

Findingemo,

Just which wall in the house is this 3 gang switch on, anyway? Is it at the front door?, or an interior wall where say you transition between living room and kitchen or hall?

And please do tell if the switch says "on" and "off" on it.
 
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Old 05-13-06, 05:12 PM
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findingemo,

I really hope you come back to tell us what it served.

Any poster requesting our help should be courteous and let us know if what we are suggesting helps them out. Or, even if they later learn it was something so silly...so stupid...don't be shy. Tell us anyway.
 
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Old 05-14-06, 04:55 AM
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I still haven't figured out what it controls or used to control. I checked the track lighting in both the kitchen and living room and do not see any extra wires. I've searched high and low and can't find any extra wires anywhere. My condo is actually a renovated old factory, and it is very easy to tell where the wiring comes out of the wall for the various lights, so I would of thought I'd be able to see if there were some extras. As for asking a neighbor, that's a good idea but the only problem is I have yet to get to know any neighbors who share my same floor plan. Once I do I can ask, but until then I'll have to rely on other methods. The switch itself is right at the end of the hallway where it widens out into the kitchen/living room. The condo is laid out so you enter into a long hallway with a bedroom on either side, at the end of the hallway it widens out into one big room that is divided into the kitchen and living room.
 
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Old 05-14-06, 05:16 AM
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You said in your first post that you would attempt to determine if voltage is actually to and going through this switch. Have you done that? Are there really wires on the switch? Can you find an ampprobe and determine if there is current draw through the switch?

Beyond that...if there is voltage to the switch, turn off all breakers except the one that provides voltage to that switch. See what works in your condo. If it was wired properly then the wire end will be near the room that is left with electricity.

There are audible tools that you can buy/rent/borrow that provide an indication of electricity when simply near a hot wire. That would seem to be your best bet...
 
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Old 05-14-06, 05:13 PM
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We HAVE to find out what is up here before I (we?) go nuts. Keep us up to date.

And finding,

You never did say if the switch was a 2- way or 3-way by if it says "on" or "off" on it.
 
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Old 05-15-06, 07:43 AM
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Sorry, I forgot about looking for the "on" "off" on the switch. I just checked, it does have it printed on it. Looks identical to the switches on either side. I have taken the faceplate off and there are wires hooked up to the switch, but I have not yet checked them for current. I don't have a multimeter at the moment and wanted to make sure I couldn't figure it out another way before I went out and bought one.

I'm starting to wonder if this switch was installed with the intention of using it somewhere but then the first owner just ditched the idea. In the kitchen/living room there are only two bundles of wires coming out of the wall that is shared w/ the person nextdoor. Those two sets of wires run to the track lighting in the kitchen and the living room. I've taken the cover off both and I see no extra wires. I've also checked along the walls/ceiling for holes where wiring used to be and have found none.

I think I'm gonna break down and go buy a multimeter today or tomorrow and check that. And don't worry, I'll be sure to keep you updated.
 
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Old 05-15-06, 08:33 AM
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I'm not sure if this has anything to do with the mystery switch, but it might. Even if it doesn't, if anyone knows what it means I'd appreciate an explination. I just took the covers off both the track lighting in the kitchen and in the living room. The one in the kitchen has three wires, a white one, a gray one, and a green one. This is what I'm used to seeing, a positive, negative, and ground. The one in the living room however has four wires. White, black, green, and red. The red one is connected to a terminal in the track lighting that is located between the positive and negative terminals. Does anyone know what this means?
 
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Old 05-15-06, 08:40 AM
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The terms positive and negative are incorrect. They do not apply to alternating current (ac), they only apply to direct current (dc). The proper terms for alternating current are hot and either grounded, return or neutral.

You have found what the mystery switch is connected to.

I am not familiar with track lighting, so I don't know what the switch controls.

One possibility is that the track lights can be split so that some are controlled by one switch and some are controlled by another switch.

Perhaps someone more familiar with track lights can offer the answer.
 
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Old 05-15-06, 08:42 AM
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my apologies on the incorrect term usage. My electrical experience is very limited, and mostly with computer and automotive wiring which uses DC. So that red wire is what the mystery switch is controlling?

*edit*

In case it helps here are a couple pics of the two different connections.

http://i1.************/ztht9d.jpg

http://i2.************/zthv6s.jpg
 
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Old 05-15-06, 08:46 AM
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Almost certainly. When you get a chance, look at the switch. I bet a red wire is attached to it, that is paired with the black wire from the other switch.

No need to apologize for the incorrect terminology. You're not the first to use those terms, and won't be the last. By the way, the black wire is the hot wire, and the white is the grounded wire, which is probably backwards of what you might be thinking.
 
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Old 05-15-06, 09:01 AM
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that is backwards from what I would of thought, thanks.

*edit*

Just checked the switch, there is indeed a red wire and a black wire coming out of it. Now I guess I know where it goes, I just need to figure out what it does.
 
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Old 05-15-06, 12:40 PM
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Originally Posted by findingemo
that is backwards from what I would of thought, thanks.

*edit*

Just checked the switch, there is indeed a red wire and a black wire coming out of it. Now I guess I know where it goes, I just need to figure out what it does.
What it does is control the light on a fan that was originally planned to be there...
 
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Old 05-15-06, 01:31 PM
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I assumed that, but what I'm wondering is what it does on the track lighting currently installed. It's hooked up to something so I would imagine it serves some function, maybe just not with the current fixtures I have up there. Any track lighting gurus out there know what it could do?

Oh yeah, in case it makes any difference I found a brand name on the track itself, Ruud Lighting, Inc.
 
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Old 05-15-06, 01:41 PM
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Did a little more digging around, and I may have figured it out. After going to the website for Ruud Lighting, it looks like the track in the kitchen is a one-circuit track, and the track in the living room is a two-circuit track. I guess that means if I get the right fixtures I can have some connected to one switch, and some to the other.
 
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Old 05-17-06, 04:42 PM
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Two CIRCUIT light? I would rather instead believe it is for a two switch light, on ONE circuit, that would allow for turning off half the lights if you want. Just a guess.

As far as how track lights work, for those unfamiliar... they are neat in the sense that just one normal circuit with hot-neutral-ground powers the whole strip (track), where that the strip is energized and not just each socket. You then can slide the track lights to any location on the track and still have power to that individual light. To remove any one light, you can pop them out of the track with a 90 degree twist.
 
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Old 05-17-06, 10:53 PM
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ahh let you know that the two circuit track lighting is common in commercal area but for home it will show up once a while.

just a head up a quick warning with track lighting do not overload the circuit

it is too easy to get the track light to overload it fast espcally with larger spotlights

if you want to know how many watts you have on the track light for max circuit rating if you have 12 gauge wire with 20 amp breaker you can go high as 2400 watts but for 15 amp circuits with 14 gauge wire it limted to 1800 watts

the fast way is just add all the bulb wattage on that track circuit you can go high as 1200 watts max to be on safe side

:: pay attetion here with two circuit track lighting ::

there is two way to figure out the loads depending on how it connected.

with voltmeter [ becarefull with live voltage here ] read black wire to white wire you should get 120 volt ok then read red wire to white wire you should get 120 volt also but go one more step further read black and red you should get either 0 or 240 volt.

if black and red wire read 0 volt what you have to limit the load to 600 watt per circuit due the netural wire [ return line ]

if black and red wire read 240 volt then you can run high as 1200 watt load each

if you dont understand this please do ask us we will expain this

read this instruction at least twice to get in your head in correct way

Merci , Marc
 
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Old 05-18-06, 04:17 PM
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Originally Posted by findingemo
Did a little more digging around, and I may have figured it out. After going to the website for Ruud Lighting, it looks like the track in the kitchen is a one-circuit track, and the track in the living room is a two-circuit track. I guess that means if I get the right fixtures I can have some connected to one switch, and some to the other.
many of the heads for two circuit track are designed so only one head can be set for either circuit.

I am not familiear with Ruud but on many of those I have installed, the contact point on the head can usually be moved up or down to facilitate contacting either circuit.

note: be sure to install the head in the correct direction. some heads can be installed rotated 180 deg and forced into place incorrectly.
 
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Old 05-19-06, 02:06 PM
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checked the heads on my fixtures, doesn't look like they are adjustable. Would of been nice if they were though. Guess that second circuit is kinda useless then.
 
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Old 05-19-06, 07:34 PM
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Rudd Lighting company do have a two track to single track adpatoir device i am sure Juno do have same thing too as well.

but as i will suggest to concat the Rudd lighting tech centre their number is 1-800-236-7000 [ 7 am to 6 pm CST or CDT ]

or go on their website maybe they have somthing on the listing which i did check on my master catalog book it dont show the adpator from 2 to 1 track switching device so it dont hurt to ask them if cant find anything then i will suggest to check on Juno website they might but i can't say for sure yet because i haven't check their site yet as i typing here.

if need more question feel free to ask us

Merci. Marc

Mod; this phone number is related to the Rudd lighting tech centre and i hope you understand it thanks again
 
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