Attic wiring hook-up problem

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  #1  
Old 04-25-07, 05:31 PM
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Attic wiring hook-up problem

My neighbor asked me to do what seemed simple: install a simple closet light with pulldown switch.
I immediately went to their attic to search for a "hot pair".
On my first attempt, I got this instead:
1) after cutting a promising-looking lead, an old 2-wire pair, I then tested the pair and it showed NO voltage across the black and white on either side of the cut.
2) however, further testing with my voltmeter showed this:
115 volts across the WHITE wire on either side of the cut !!

Can someone explain this to me ?

Can I now tap into this pair or should I just reconnect it via a junction box and look for another pair ?
 
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Old 04-25-07, 05:56 PM
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What is this random wire you cut into serve?
 
  #3  
Old 04-25-07, 05:58 PM
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You should not have cut this wire until and unless you knew exactly what it was. You made a mistake, actually several of them.

Reconnect it. This probably means you need two junction boxes and a short piece of wire between them. You have cut a switch loop. Even if you had found a hot wire you could not legally extend it, as it is not grounded.

More bad news. You cannot install a simple light with pull switch in a closet. Closets have very specific requirements for lights. They are complicated to understand, and I won't do justice to them by trying to explain them.

Even more bad news. Do not do work in someone else's house. This may be illegal and even if legal, it sets you up for liability if you do something wrong.

Do the right thing. Fix your cut wire (properly). Then tell him he needs to hire an electrician.
 
  #4  
Old 04-25-07, 08:09 PM
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Rarely have we seen somebody embark on a project so utterly unprepared. Be careful.
 
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Old 04-25-07, 11:14 PM
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i will agree with John Nelson that plan was right out of the " bleu " and it was very poor planned to do this.

for the closet lumiaire the code is very strict with this setup.

NO bare bulbs that including screw in CFL lamps as well

it must be enclosed lumairie typically majorty of them used straght floursecent lumiaire for this.

and the clearance is very strict reguardless what type of lumiaire you use in the closet.

see the NEC code or read the " simplefed wiring book " [ sp ] they will explain the details and the other thing that if you are working on someone else house it can raise the issuse with safety and libilty as well.

Merci , Marc
 
  #6  
Old 04-26-07, 06:05 AM
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Well guys, uh thanks...

Hard to believe one cut caused so many problems....and yes, I have "fixed" the cut with a junction box. Concerning the code for closets: our own house is using a pull-down switch, so are we in violation too ? (it was there when we bought the house).
Regarding "unprepared"...I'm not sure what this is referring to....everyone knows that older houses are a hassle...nothing is marked....I even ended-up marking the breaker (it was not marked) to the attic line that I cut. Also, I knew going in that finding a hot pair vs. a switch leg was going to be a problem. I only the original electricians could have "tagged" the wires in the attic....as "switched" or "115v", etc.
 
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Old 04-26-07, 06:22 AM
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I have never seen wires that run through walls or in attics or basement marked. It just isn't done. As for the panel, unfortunately very few electricians properly identify the circuits when they install a panel. Oh they try, and they may mark some specific circuits, but they rarely do the job to the extent that it needs to be.

Years ago it was legal to have open bulbs hung in closets. Code allows existing installations to remain, even if they would be against code now. If you renovate the closet it must be brought up to code, but not until. However, I would, at the very least, use fluorescent light bulbs in those closets to avoid the heat from the bulb.
 
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Old 04-26-07, 06:48 AM
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It is my understanding that the NEC codes apply to new or remodeling installations. Existing wiring (although often unsafe) is not required to be changed in residental installations. The minute you start mucking with it you have to abide by the codes.

The issue with closet lights is that an open bulb next to clothes = fire hazzard. The codes state minimum clearances depending on the type of bulb used.
 
  #9  
Old 04-26-07, 06:51 AM
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Originally Posted by racraft
I have never seen wires that run through walls or in attics or basement marked. It just isn't done. As for the panel, unfortunately very few electricians properly identify the circuits when they install a panel. Oh they try, and they may mark some specific circuits, but they rarely do the job to the extent that it needs to be.
I wonder if this will change one day. It is really good practice to label wires and circuits so you know what is what. Wires can run all over the place and have no rhyme or reason to their layout. I think I may start labeling my wires for my kitchen remodel to buck the trend.
 
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Old 04-26-07, 08:23 AM
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I have to admit: I find it amazing that with the hundreds of pages of safety regulations in the NEC that dictate what wires must be placed x millimeters apart from others, cross sectional allowances, exceptions and FPN’s to the exceptions, and all the other minutia, that there are no rules stating “tag accessible cables so the next poor fellow knows what it’s for.” I know I'm speaking as a DIY'er, but it seems an easy way to add a bit of safety.
 
  #11  
Old 04-26-07, 08:40 AM
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ddr,

No competent electrician would have attempted to use a cable in an attic without identifying where it came from, or where it was going. This cable in particular would not even have been considered anyway as it has no ground.

What are you suggesting? That every cable that is visible be marked? That's a lot of extra work, and unnecessary. How often should the cables be marked? Do they need to be marked every two to three feet? If not, how often? Do they need to be marked inside walls?

It is assumed that someone without at least the basic knowledge of wiring will not attempt to make modifications. Unfortunately in this case someone who has no business trying to do this work did something he should not have done.
 
  #12  
Old 04-26-07, 09:18 AM
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I think writing on the wire with a felt tip pen saying "Kitchen Light" or "Garage Outlet" before it enters the box would be great.

Granted, it is more work but when the walls are open it is not such a big deal.
 
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Old 04-26-07, 09:20 AM
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There are plenty of ways to identify cables without having them marked. It's done every day, not only by electricians but by ordinary homeowners. Yes, older houses are a hassle. But the problems encountered in this project are not due to the fact that the house was old. These problems would have been just as likely to occur when working on a house built yesterday.
 
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Old 04-26-07, 01:39 PM
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racraft,

Perhaps you should reread my post previous post. I agree fully the original poster should have done a better job of cable tracing before cutting anything; nothing in my post defended his actions.

My post was, as I stated, simply a do-it-yourselfer’s observation that, given the NEC’s attention to detail and vast requirements that are intended to promote safety, I was surprised it doesn’t require a tag or such to identify certain cables, such as a switch loop or long runs in crawl spaces/ attics, as a heads up to people who perform work later. As you yourself stated: “No competent electrician would have attempted to use a cable in an attic without identifying where it came from, or where it was going.” I agree. I also feel a tag of some sort would assist in that.

Finally, I find your remark: ”What are you suggesting? That every cable that is visible be marked? That's a lot of extra work, and unnecessary. How often should the cables be marked? Do they need to be marked every two to three feet? If not, how often? Do they need to be marked inside walls?” to be a bit much. I’m not submitting a proposal to amend the NEC, nor was I saying something drastic like every cable in the entire house be marked as to its purpose and while you are, of course, perfectly within your rights to disagree with me, I would appreciate it if you did so in a less sarcastic and bombastic manner, especially as you singled me out even though another poster before me made a comment about marking cables.

All that said, I respect your electrical knowledge and appreciate the help you have given me in the past and hope that I will receive such help again in the future.

ddr
 
  #15  
Old 04-26-07, 01:51 PM
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"No competent electrician would have attempted to use a cable in an attic without identifying where it came from, or where it was going. This cable in particular would not even have been considered anyway as it has no ground"

Unfortunately, not all electricians are competent. I have pleanty of cables in my attic that are not labeled and not even secured. This is why I learned to do the electric myself. The last electrician I hired was sloppy to say the least. It was a very expensive lesson.
 
  #16  
Old 04-26-07, 02:27 PM
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Focus everybody. Let's not allow this thread to wander too far off into the weeds.
 
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Old 04-26-07, 02:49 PM
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Just a quick blurb to say that in the Canadian Electrical Code, all overcurrent must be visibly adequately and permanently labeled in order to indentified as to what the breaker serves.

Panel not labeled (all circuits) = no final inspection.

How many of the USA electricians would like to see this code in the NEC???
 
  #18  
Old 04-26-07, 07:42 PM
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Too late. That code is already in the NEC. But panel labeling is very different than labeling cables running through an attic.
 
  #19  
Old 04-27-07, 03:43 AM
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About labeling (and closet lights) ...

You see Sharpie ink on junction and recep boxes all the time in commercial installations. Usually they ID the panel and circuit. Or in the case of low-voltage runs in conduit, they'll write "PA," "Fire," "Nurse Call," etc. on the covers.

I guess you could do this with residential wiring on the backside of the switchplates or recep covers, but it won't be long before a homeowner swaps them while they're off for painting or replaces them altogether.

Maybe there's a market for a Romex labeler. Based on the same contraption that counts footage? An inked roller that numbers the romex every foot or so as it's pulled through?

On second thought, it's easier to just switch off the breakers one by one until your wife screams, "THAT'S THE ONE!!!"

To bring this back on topic: Battery-powered stick-on LED closet lights work great. LEDs don't draw much current and they run cool. Because the lights are only on for a short time, the batteries will last for years.

-- RJ
 
  #20  
Old 04-27-07, 05:26 AM
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Job finished !

Well, I got a bit lucky and found a line coming from all the way from the basement to the attic...took my old, but trusty linesmen pliers, cut the line, and popped the breaker. Went down and found yet ANOTHER unmarked breaker was tripped (now there are only 2 unmarked breakers remaining). Quick research showed the upstairs hallway and one bedroom were on that circuit and thankfully, they were outlets...no switch legs. After the cut, I had to restring the line thru the rafters to provide some slack to make the function box splice. Since it was old wire with an asphalt-like coating, I wrapped it in electrical tape before stapling it to the rafters (hey, aren't lines supposed to be run "loose" ?)
After the connection, I discussed the code requirements with the owner (my neighbor) and she did not want to "pay-up" for the work to install a wall switch in the laff and plaster walls, nor for a better fixture.
So the old pulldown was installed, and now we have one bright closet and one happy lady.
 
  #21  
Old 04-27-07, 05:39 AM
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"took my old, but trusty linesmen pliers, cut the line, and popped the breaker. "

ouch , not a good practice at all

"After the connection, I discussed the code requirements with the owner (my neighbor) and she did not want to "pay-up" for the work to install a wall switch i"

she didnt want to pay so lets ignore the code !!!!
 
  #22  
Old 04-27-07, 05:52 AM
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So you didn't learn anything from everyone of us who told you not do this. You went ahead and did something against code and dangerous. Talk about unethical and brainless.
 
  #23  
Old 04-27-07, 05:59 AM
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"So the old pulldown was installed, and now we have one bright closet and one happy lady."

Until her house burns down....

Hey why not, just slap a piece of gum on it and you'll be fine right?

It's people like you who give all of us non-licensed guys who do the right thing a bad name. No wonder the electricians have such a bad opinion of us.
 
  #24  
Old 04-27-07, 10:48 AM
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""Well, I got a bit lucky and found a line coming from all the way from the basement to the attic...took my old, but trusty linesmen pliers, cut the line, and popped the breaker""

that is very dangerous to do that and you broke the golden rules there.


""After the cut, I had to restring the line thru the rafters to provide some slack to make the function box splice. Since it was old wire with an asphalt-like coating, I wrapped it in electrical tape before stapling it to the rafters ""

again you make a stupid mistake there


""the connection, I discussed the code requirements with the owner (my neighbor) and she did not want to "pay-up" for the work to install a wall switch in the laff and plaster walls, nor for a better fixture.
So the old pulldown was installed, and now we have one bright closet and one happy lady.""

again you really ingore our advise here and go ahead and make a boneheaded move I just cant belive you decided to do that after all most good people gave you a very wise advise here

most of the guys here here have very well versed with electrical system including myself .

i could come up with very strong words angist you but i have to refrained to keep my cool here.

Merci , Marc


MOD please lock this {BEEP} this section NOW !!!
 
  #25  
Old 04-27-07, 11:00 AM
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Marc, I agree and am locking this thread now.
 
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