Splitting Switches

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  #1  
Old 12-08-06, 05:58 AM
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Splitting Switches

Hi everyone.

I have a question regarding switches. I currently have a one switch controlling a specific fixture and I wanted to see what the proper (if permitted) process is for turning it into a double switch box.

What's the best way to accomplish this...

Speaking about the black hot wire only - to me, it seems obvious that I can take the one hot lead, pigtail 2 short pieces to the switches and then have each switch run their own line from there....

Is that OK to do?

If not, please let me know...I've looked through several DIY books and I have never seen anything specific to this.

Thanks
 
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  #2  
Old 12-08-06, 06:03 AM
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What you propose is fine, as long as the switch box contains the proper wires. If the switch box has a switch loop then you need to run more wires. Your plan can only work when the neutral runs through the box, unless you replace the cable or are lucky enough to have an extra wire already present in the cable that can be used.
 
  #3  
Old 12-08-06, 06:13 AM
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Bob,

thanks for responding to me again...

What do you mean when you say - If the switch box has a switch loop then you need to run more wires...

I haven't opened the box yet, but lets assume that its just regular 14/2 MC. I know the black is cut and attached to the two poles on the switches. The white is just connected to itself.

I was envisioning that if I ran another line out, I would just take all three whites and tie them together. I would then take the two outbound lines and attach them to their respective switches, and lastly take two pigtails from the switches and tie them into the hot - essentially making a "Y"....

You also mention - "Your plan can only work when the neutral runs through the box" - I'm assuming that you referring to the white line... excuse my question, but is there ever a scenario that the actual white wires are not inside of the box? I've never seen it myself, albeit I'm not an expert by any means....

Perhaps I'm missing something?
 
  #4  
Old 12-08-06, 06:27 AM
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If the situation is as you describe it, a black and a white wire enter and a black and a white wire leave, with the white tied together and the blacks to the switch, then you can add a switch.

However, there is another common setup. A single white wire and a single black wire are the only wires at the switch. This is called a switch loop. The white wire brings the 120 volt line to the box and the black wire takes the 120 volts back to the device to be switched. This setup has no neutral and cannot be extended to a second switch by simply adding an extra cable for the new device to be controlled.
 
  #5  
Old 12-08-06, 06:45 AM
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Bob, that makes perfect sense... I've seen that described where the switch is at the end of the run..... now see what you mena... so I can do it provided I have a "normal" neutral to tie into... otherwise, I cannot jump into the middle of a loop and expect to run a secondary switch.....

So I'll know that by seeing two sets inside the box... I only see one, then I'll know its not going to work...

Bob, once again, thanks so much - you've been been a great help!!!!
 
  #6  
Old 12-08-06, 06:50 AM
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There are other concerns that cannot be overlooked.

What is this new switch to control? Can this circuit legally be tapped? What is presently on this circuit?
 
  #7  
Old 12-08-06, 07:16 AM
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Bob, the new switch was for an receptacle that would control cabinet lights. The switch that I'm considering powers a light over the sink.

What else would you need to know?
 
  #8  
Old 12-08-06, 07:19 AM
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That sounds okay. As long as you are tapping a lighting circuit for more lights you are fine. Unless this circuit is extremely close to being overloaded then your new lights won't cause a problem.
 
  #9  
Old 12-08-06, 07:26 AM
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Bob, a little while ago, I had an electrician do work on the major kitchen circuits.. so I'm 99% sure that there is nothing "major" on this line...

I recently purchased my home and still need to find out which outlets, lights, etc are on what lines.. that'll give me the best indicator of exactly how much is on each line...

Thanks
 
  #10  
Old 12-08-06, 07:44 AM
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Mark,

You need to find out what is on each and every circuit sooner rather than later. Ideally you should find it out BEFORE attempting to make any changes.

First and foremost, this information could save your life.

Second, this information can save you loads of time in the event that a receptacle stops working. Sometimes it is necessary to check every junction box on a circuit to find a problem. If you have no idea what else is on the same circuit as one particular receptacle, you will waste a large amount of time checking boxes that may not have any relation to the problem.

Further, you will have no idea what circuit breaker to turn off to open the box, so you will have no choice but to turn off your main breaker. Quite a nuisance.

Spend the time NOW to completely map out your system. You'll be glad you did, and it won't take all that long when you have someone help you.
 
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