Light switch to nowhere?


Old 08-04-07, 09:58 AM
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Light switch to nowhere?

We have found a couple of switches in our house that we have just bought that seem to power nothing. We have tried all the plug ins/ lights to see if this switch powers them (nothing). We have even went outside to see if this switch powered any plugs or lights on the outside (nothing). The two switches are on inside walls and both are in a box with 2 other switches.

How can I track the wiring without tearing down walls/ceilings.

Thanks F-7
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Old 08-04-07, 10:56 AM
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Are the switches connected to any wires inside the box? It's possible these switches once controlled receptacles that a previous owner rewired to be always-on.
Old 08-04-07, 11:33 AM
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Most likely there was one or more receptacles that at one time were half switched. Someone replaced them and didn't break off the tab between the gold screws.
Old 08-04-07, 01:13 PM
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Because you said 2 switches -

Are the toggles on both of these switches smooth without having the words on and off on them?

Is one switch at your front door to your living room and the other switch at the other end of the living room where you either go down the hall or into a dining room or kitchen?

Have you tried to plug something into both the top half and the bottom half of the outlets in the living room (if that is the room in question)?

It is possible whoever did the 3 way/top half switching may never have tested their work and it never worked right to begin with due to wrong wiring job, or something with a switch. If you have the 3-way switching per my first sentence, have you tried to flip one switch, then test (plug in lamp or whatever to each half of the outlet for every test). And then go to the other switch and then flip and test? And do every combination of either switch being up or down?)[Like left switch up, right switch up; left switch up, right switch down; left switch down, right switch down: left switch down, right switch up.]

As far as 'tracking' wires go, they sell for cheap, contactless wire tracers. They are like the size of a magic marker. A must have for anyone for any reason, as these can prevent you from nailing through hidden wires in the walls, even. You just set the sensitivity on them by scrolling a wheel like an a 'mouse' and they will find/help trace wires buried in the walls. Big box stores have them.
Old 08-04-07, 02:30 PM
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Could have been wired for fan/light combo without fan ever having been installed.
Old 08-04-07, 11:45 PM
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Like others have said check the wiring first to see if they're even connected or have been bypassed. Maybe it was for a manual outdoor light fixture that was replaced with a motion detector, an air conditioning duct damper with a hardwired transformer, an auxillary fan, etc? Since they are on an interior wall have you tried to see if there was any wiring added which may be accesible/visible from the attic?

Just as an interesting note, in our old house the alarm company installed a single standard light switch next to an existing switch array that bypassed a sliding glass door. With the alarm armed you could flip the switch, open the door (to let the dog out, etc.) then flip the switch to once again protect that door without disarming/rearming the system. The panel's built in .5 second delay prevented the switching from setting off the system as long as you flipped it normally. (I assume they added a clip on low voltage box to the standard box).

A friend who was tired of his teenagers talking on the phone late at night wired a wall switch in the master bedroom to disable the phone line feeding the jacks in his kids rooms.
Old 08-04-07, 11:56 PM
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Location: New Orleans, LA
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It might be like that commercial where the guy continually flip the switch up and down while asking his wife " honey, what's this switch for?" and it operating the neighbors garage door 2 doors
See if its flushing a toilet maybe. lol just kidding. Give yourself some time since you're new and get familiar with the surroundings and give it a shot again. I've done some work at an electrical egineer's house and what a mess. 40 switches downstairs alone and not knowing what half of them operate. Big house 600 amp service entrance, with 4 200 amp sub panels inside the house cables so big they have to use current transformers for the meter.
Old 08-05-07, 04:33 PM
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Still Looking. The one switch in question that appears to be attached to the other 2 in the box and is on a kitchen/ livingroom wall. The house is a bungalow. There is 3 light switches by the front door.
Old 08-05-07, 04:47 PM
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What color are the wires attached to the inactive switches?
Old 08-05-07, 10:00 PM
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The wires are red and black
Old 08-05-07, 10:04 PM
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How old is the house?

If it's fairly recent construction, check the outside eaves for outlets. They're used for plugging in holiday lights and the switches let you turn them on and off

If it's an older house, does it have an attic fan? My house has a single switch high in the hallway to turn it on and off. The fan is supposed to be turned off in the winter.

I hope this helped!
Old 08-06-07, 08:04 AM
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I vote with Joe in post #3. Somebody replaced the receptacles with absolutely no idea what a receptacle tab was or why it was there. These switches probably used to turn on and off half of a receptacle before the previous owner screwed it up. This is especially likely in rooms with no overhead light.

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