Newbie with outlet problems

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  #1  
Old 08-28-06, 05:05 PM
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Question Newbie with outlet problems

I recently painted my living room and decided to change out the outlets because they were getting old and dirty. I did everything by the book. I have done this before and had no problems. I changed out each one at a time and tested them for power. The last one I did was a simple three prong receptacle. There is a double switch on this wall. One switch operates the outside light and the other operates this receptacle. This last receptacle was and end of run with only one hot one neutral and one ground wire. My problem is that after exchanging this one none of the outlets in the living room or my bedroom will now come on. The breaker switch is showing red when I turn them on and off. I have double checked them all and can't seem to find a solution. Anyone have some advice.

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  #2  
Old 08-28-06, 05:15 PM
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Are you saying the breaker will not turn on? It trips instantly? Recheck all your receptacle connections. One of them may have come apart. The bare ground wire may have come in contact with the hot screw when being pushed back into the box.
 
  #3  
Old 08-28-06, 05:16 PM
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Since you have a switch controlled receptacle, was both halves energized by the switch? Most normally, not. On the receptacle you removed from this location, were the connector tabs removed? Did you remove any of the wiring from the switch controlling this receptacle?
If the breaker is showing red, then it is tripping immediately upon turning it on. You need to determine which cable is your supply line. Somewhere you blinked and hooked up the switch wire incorrectly, or forgot to break off the connector tabs.
 
  #4  
Old 08-28-06, 06:15 PM
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Red face I believe you are correct!!

OK. There is a double switch on the wall, not a two way but one switch that operates the outside door light and the other switch operated the plug. So which connector plate do I need to break? Is it the one for the switch or the one for the plug?

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  #5  
Old 08-28-06, 07:44 PM
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How many wires to the switch? If it is four plus grounds indicting possibly two switch loops you would break the connection on both sides. You need to determine which White pairs with which black and put each pair on a set of screws.

If you have 6 wires (plus grounds) the "hot" black wire goes to the side with the unbroken connection the other two black wires go on the side where the connector is removed.

If the receptical only has two wires plus ground you don't break the connector on either side.
 
  #6  
Old 08-28-06, 07:54 PM
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If it worked until you changed the last receptacle then the tabs are not your problem. With only one cable(black, white, ground) into the receptacle box the tabs are not supposed to be broken on this receptacle. Not breaking the tabs usually only makes the receptacle not switch off. It does not kill power in other rooms.

How many breakers did you need turn off to change the receptacles? Does any thing on the circuit still work?
 
  #7  
Old 08-28-06, 08:29 PM
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Sounds like the tabs to me. I would bet one half of the switch is on 1 phase and the other half on the other so the tabs are giving you a short across 240.
 
  #8  
Old 08-29-06, 09:26 AM
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Based on th OP information that the switch operates the last receptacle with only on cable, it is not the tabs. However it could be the tabs if the OP would come back and answer some of our questions. The main questions being how many breakers did it take to kill the power and did he save the old receptacles to inspect the tabs.
 
  #9  
Old 08-30-06, 11:25 AM
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Red face odd wiring

The double switch appears to have 2 lines coming in and one going out. As far as what wires are connected. The switch that controls the outlet has one hot connected to the brass side and one hot wrapped around the green ground. The other switch has one hot wire attached to the brass side and then the hot wire from the other green ground connected to this green ground. The white wires are not connected at all and are just capped off. Is this odd or am I crazy. There is also a ground wire in there but it is not connected to either switch. My guess is that this switch is a the end of a run and the switch that operates the light outside is the last connection. Any ideas? The more I learn the happier I will be.
 
  #10  
Old 08-30-06, 11:39 AM
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If you did not modify the switches at all then and what you are telling us is correct, then you have a real problem. Tell us ALL of the wiring in complete detail at the switch, at the receptacle in question and at the outdoor light.

I suspect that your description of the switches is not correct. A switch has two switch terminals plus sometimes a green ground screw. Not all switches have the ground, many older switches do not. Do you really mean that a hot wire connects to the green ground screws on each switch? If so, what is connected to the switch terminal you have not discussed? Or do you mean that the wire connects to one of the terminal screws on each switch? Are the white wires capped separately, or are they capped together?

By all of the wiring we need to know cables and wires in cables, then how they are connected to anything in the box.

The bottom line is that if everything worked before you started, and if you replaced each and every receptacle identical to the way it was previously connected, including breaking the tab, if appropriate, then your new setuo would work.

Either you did not replace everything identically, or you changed something else and forgot to tell us.
 
  #11  
Old 08-30-06, 12:42 PM
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"The switch that controls the outlet has one hot connected to the brass side and one hot wrapped around the green ground."

?????

A hot wire tied to ground? If the box itself is grounded, then you just tied a hot directly to a neutral, essentially. The only thing you should see screwed to a grounding screw is a bare copper wire or a green wire. I'm hoping you typed that out wrong...
 
  #12  
Old 08-30-06, 03:43 PM
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Best description

OK, here is the best complete description.

The outlet on the wall has one black wire to the brass screw and one white wire to the silver screw and a aluminum ground wire to the green screw. No plates have been broken. The switch originally controlled both plug recepticles. This seems normal to me. Now the double switch that controls this outlet goes like this... the box with the double switch has a total of three lines coming in. The right switch that controls the outlet has one black wire connected to the brass screw and another black wire from another line connected around the green screw. All three lines have their aluminum ground wires connected together and attaches to the box itself. All the white wires from all three lines are connected and capped off together. The left switch which controls the outside light has a third black wire from the third line in attached to its brass screw. Now as for the black wire coming from the right green screw, it was attached to the green screw on the left switch. I don't know about you but this definately seems screwy to me! When I switched out these wires I did them one at a time hoping that I wouldn't make a mistake. My guess is that somehow this is not right. The outside light has the typical one black one white and one copper ground. Does that help. God I hope so.
 
  #13  
Old 08-30-06, 04:14 PM
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The screw you are calling green on the original switches is NOT green. It may LOOK green, but it is NOT. I assure you that it is not. I suspect from your post that the switches do not have a true ground terminal, and are old.

The wire you are stating that connects to both switches (to one screw and continues on to the other switch) was not connected to a green screw and it should NOT be connected to any green screw on the new switches.

If you connected that wire to the green screws on the new switches then your problem is right in front of you. You created a dead short from the hot wire to ground. Not a very smart thing to do, and not very good for the circuit breaker. But it happens.

Look carefully at the new switches. Ignore (for now) the green screws that are at the bottom of the switch or at the top of the switch. These green screws (if you look closely) will connect to the metal body of the switch. The only wires that ever get connected to these switches are ground wires, which are either bare or green insulated.

There will be two other screw terminals on each switch. These screw terminals are where the insulated black wires get connected. Since these are simple ON/OFF switches, it makes no difference which is which.

Connect the wire that connects to both switches to one of the terminals on each switch. It makes no difference which terminal, as long as it is NOT the green ground screws.

Connect the remaining two black wires to the other terminals of the switches, one per switch. The one for the porch light to the switch you want to control that light, and the other to the switch you want to control the receptacle.

Finally, the wires you are calling aluminum are NOT aluminum, at least I hope they are not. If they are aluminum then STOP right now and call an electrician. Aluminum wiring for a branch circuit is not something for a beginner to mess with under any circumstances. I suspect that the ground wires are smaller copper wires that may be tinned.
 
  #14  
Old 08-30-06, 04:39 PM
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You are theee man!

It worked. One last question. What do you mean by copper wire that it tinned? I have noticed with this place is that some of the outlets have newer wires that are definately copper and other are thicker and look silver. I assumed they were aluminum. I read that you should not mix these but was also told that it is ok. It looks to me like when they remodeled these units that they only updated some of the wiring to suit the codes for kitchens and baths and left the rest the same. Anyways I can't thank you enough for your help. I have to say as frustrating as this gets I find it very interesting and always like it when I am able to obtain usable knowledge.

Thanks again!!!
 
  #15  
Old 08-30-06, 05:24 PM
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Older type cables had copper wires that were coated with a thin layer of tin. This prevented reactions from the copper and rubber insulation that was used. They will look silver or aluminum in color. They are in fact copper wires and should be treated as such. If you scrape the surface or look at the cut end you will see the copper color.
 

Last edited by joed; 08-31-06 at 07:35 AM.
  #16  
Old 08-30-06, 06:46 PM
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It is NOT okay to mix copper and aluminum wire. Doing so requires a special connector and special "grease" that helps maintain the connection. Simply putting them together with a wire nut will lead to a failed connection, and possibly a fire.

Please, and I mean this sincerely, go and buy at least the book Wiring Simplified. Then read it cover to cover. Okay, maybe omit the section on farm wiring, but read the rest. This book is inexpensive, and is available at your local big box store.

This book, or any other good book, will give you the basics on wiring. IT would have told you that the green screw on a switch or receptacle is a ground screw, and would have mentioned that a hot wire or a neutral wire never gets connected to this screw.
 
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