Christmas Lights switch and outlets not working

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Old 11-07-11, 05:54 PM
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Christmas Lights switch and outlets not working

I have a triple switch plate at my front entrance door. One switch works the porch light, one the inside entryway and the third the outside outlets for xmas lights, or at least it's supposed to.
Last year I had an electrician (friend) over and he tinkered with it. He came to the conclusion that one of the outlets on that circuit was mis-behaving. I went through, tripped each one of them on the circuit, took the wires out of the slots and screwed them down to the screws on the outlets.
Result, still no luck switch did not work. I get some odd reading from a tester when I turn the switch on and check the outlets, like reverse polarity or something, but it's been awhile for me to remember. I will test them tonight and post more accurate information here tomorrow. I have to get these working by thanksgiving this year and keep the extension cords in the closet. Any ideas where to start, and if you say hire an electrician I'll consider it. Just trying DIY for now.
 
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Old 11-07-11, 06:20 PM
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Start at the switch, and measure with your meter, to make sure your getting 120 volts from hot to neutral and from switch leg to neutral when the switch is on. Then move to the closest receptacle to the switch and measure there.
 
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Old 11-08-11, 03:42 PM
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Measured it. Got 2.5v when switch in off position and 0v when on
 
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Old 11-08-11, 07:23 PM
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Sounds like you are not getting any power to the switch. You will need to trace back were the power comes from that feeds the switch. Keep back tracking and checking for voltage until you find were you have a live wire.
 
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Old 11-09-11, 11:32 AM
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Ok this may sound dumb, remember this is a diy forum, however how do I trace a switch back when I can't see or follow the wires. They being in the wall and all. Where would I go from the switch? From what I can tell this switch is supposed to operate two (2) outside outlets. How do I find where the power that feeds this switch is the culprit?

And what is the 2.5v that is coming in?
 
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Old 11-09-11, 12:06 PM
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Can you tell us what wires are connected to the switch? Are they two black wires each coming from a separate cable or a black and white each from the same cable?

There are two ways to wire a switch, one is where the power comes from another cable and the switch controls the hot and then continues on to the device controlled by the switch and the second is called a switch loop. A switch loop is where the hot source is located at the device being controlled, in this case the receptacle and the hot is feed down one of the two wires in the cable and then passed back up the other wire and to the device when the switch is in the on position.

We can help more once we know how the switch is wired.

What type of meter did you use? If it was a digital meter then more the likely it was ghost voltage.

What type of meter did you use? If it was a digiat meter then more the likely it was ghost voltage.
 
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Old 11-14-11, 09:46 AM
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belgarid and others thanks for the replies. Unfortunately I broke down and called out an electrician. Even though the one I had help me last year took 4 hours and failed to find the problem, this one fixed it within a matter of minutes. He said (and forgive me if I use the wrong terms) that a hot was never connected to this switch. He said there was a wire that was running from this switch to the bottom of the box indicating that most likely a receptacle was supposed to be in the outside entryway. He said it was wired for one but never put in when the house was built. The wires going out the top of the box were for the two high outside outlets under the eaves of the house. I wish I could have waited for an explanation in here but since I had a home warranty I choose to just use it. I always prefer to do these thing myself.

Anyways thanks again for the timely replies and I hope you are still around when I come in here again looking for help.
cheers
 
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Old 11-14-11, 11:37 AM
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Thanks for letting us know how it worked out.
 
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Old 11-14-11, 08:06 PM
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Originally Posted by ray2047 View Post
Thanks for letting us know how it worked out.
I 2nd that!
____________________________________
 
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Old 11-14-11, 08:17 PM
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I wish I could have waited for an explanation in here but since I had a home warranty I choose to just use it.
Just curious, what did hiring the electrician cost and how much did your home warranty cover?
 
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Old 11-23-11, 10:45 AM
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My home warranty was adding in by the bank when purchasing the home. Unfortunately it has a $100 deductible and as it may that is what the electrician charged for the work. Home warranties are a huge waste of $$. Most of all the issues I have encountered have been in the $100 range. If your home is 15 years or older then I might consider it. Basically my warranty company pocketed a full two years of premiums and paid out not one red cent.
Oh and one more thing. If anything is a pre-existng condition. Forget about getting it covered under your warranty.
 
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Old 11-23-11, 12:22 PM
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Home Warranties

My sister bought a five-year old house back in January. The original "warranty" had so many exceptions, exclusions and conditions that it was totally worthless.
 
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Old 11-23-11, 06:31 PM
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Home warranties are a huge waste of $$.
Not for the seller of an older home. They are a great sales tool. That's where my opinion stops.
 
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Old 12-05-11, 09:43 AM
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UPDATE and new problem

After the electrician came and connected the hot and a new neutral now I have power to both outside outlets. HOWEVER one outlet is giving me fits. Here's the story:

I have stands of xmas lights. They are about 8' long and plug into each other as the run around the eaves. The very first strand is plugged into one of the outside outlets. After the lights are on for a bit of time the first strand of lights will fail, which in turn cause the rest in the train to fail. I bypass the first failed section and re-connect the second 8' section with an extension cord and plug it into the same outlet. The lights from the second 8' section and all the rest in the train now come back on. I check a bit later and notice they are all off again. This time I bypass the second failed 8' section and plug the extension into the thrid 8' section however this time I plug the extension cord into a GFI in my garage. The reaming lights from the 3rd 8' section and all the rest connected come on and stay on until I unplug the cord later in the evening.
Hope this makes sense. What could be causing this some sort of spike from this outlet that fry each section of lights? I'm losing my mind with these xmas lights
 
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Old 12-05-11, 09:48 AM
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Replace the GFCI and test again.
 
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Old 12-05-11, 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by ray2047 View Post
Replace the GFCI and test again.
Ok now be gentle here. Are you talking the offending outlet itself? I'm not sure it's a GFI as it does not have the red and black reset buttons. However since it's an outside outlet I assume it is automatically a GFI?
 
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Old 12-05-11, 10:22 AM
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It should be GFCI or a regular receptacle fed from the load side of a GFCI receptacle or fed from a GFCI breaker. Are you saying it is not tripping a GFCI, just goes out and then comes back on with out resetting anything?
 
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Old 12-05-11, 10:49 AM
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Man Ray have to apologize here but I have to assume at this point it's either connected to a GFI in the garage or that the breaker in the panel is GFI. I have one of these
I can trip it and see what other outlets it affected? Should I try this?
 
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Old 12-05-11, 11:54 AM
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Mainly you just need to find if the lights stopped working because a GFCI device tripped. If they start working again without you resetting a GFCI then it is unlikely it is a GFCI
 
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Old 12-05-11, 03:17 PM
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How many sections of lights to you have plugged together end-to-end? You may have too many and this may be blowing the fuse in the first string. I think the limit is 3 strings connected end-to-end.
 
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Old 12-06-11, 09:23 AM
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Numbers connected

Well way more than three. But that is not the problem. I can take an extension cord and plug it into the first strand then plug the other end into another outlet inside the garage and they will run 24/7. I'm pretty sure it's the outside outlet, I'm going to swap it out and see what happens. Could it actually be a loose connection in the outlet that would cause some sort of spike and blow the tiny fuse in the first connected strand?
 
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Old 12-08-11, 09:55 AM
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NEW old problem

Well it appears that even this set plugged into a garage outlet failed last night. Blew the fuse in the first strand connected. I have at least 12 or more 8' strands plugged into each other running off one plug. Is it possible that this is what is causing the blown fuses? I change the fuse, plug them in and they stay on for a while. I go back out and check later and they are off again. I see homes around me with thousands of lights all over their house, yard and trees.
What now?
 
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Old 12-21-11, 05:16 PM
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Problem finally solved. Too many light strands plugged into one outlet. Lights on all the time switch is on now.
 
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