Receptical Questions

Reply

  #1  
Old 04-23-13, 11:42 AM
markag's Avatar
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: United States
Posts: 77
Receptical Questions

We just moved into our new house. I am going through and swapping out the old recepticals with new ones. The old ones are tan and we want white. Also, some of them are loose (don't grip the prongs tightly) and we have trouble keeping things plugged into those. Thridly, we have a 7 month old daugther and we wanted to upgrade to tamper proof recepticals so that she would be a little safer.

Currently, the receptials throughout the majority of the house are not grounded. I purchased a GFCI receptical to place in each room on the main floor that is not already protected by GFCI breakers. Our living room is a bit tricky though. The recepticals in that room are switch controled on the bottom outlet, and always powered on top. How would I go about installing the GFCI so that the top and bottom are protected?

I pulled one receptical out of the wall to look at what was coming into it. It had 2 black wires coming into the top right post (if you were looking the front of the receptical). Two red wires coming into the bottom right post. The tab between the top and bottom was broken off. There was a single white wire coming to each post on the left side of the receptical. I plan on creating a pig tale for the black and red pairs of wires. I know it is a big :NO NO NO: to put two wires on a single screw terminal. They have that right now at least on the switch that I looked at, so I have to assume they have that on all the switches in the room.

I know that I would need to find the first receptical of the series in order to install the GFCI. My question comes with the fact that the recepticals are switch controlled in the room. Does that change how I would wire the receptical. Also, the switches controllign the room are 3 way switches. One is located at the front door, the other is located at the hallway.

This is the only room in the house that has switch controlled recepticals like this. Eventually we are going to install recessed lights in the ceiling and get rid of the switch controlled recepticals all together, but that is a project for another day.
 
Sponsored Links
  #2  
Old 04-23-13, 11:46 AM
markag's Avatar
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: United States
Posts: 77
I should also add that the switch portion of the recepticals is on a different circuit from the top half of the recepticals. The top half is one circuit, and is always on. The bottom half is a 2nd circuit and is switch controlled. I am assuming one is a lighting circuit, and the other is a general receptical type circuit. they just happen to run through the same recepticals.
 
  #3  
Old 04-23-13, 01:13 PM
ray2047's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 33,064
Simplest if you have an overhead light is abandon the switched receptacle circuit.
 
  #4  
Old 04-23-13, 01:35 PM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 14,594
A GFI cannot be split wired like a standard duplex receptacle. You would need to proved the GFI protection ahead of the wall switch.

Unless 2 single pole or one double pole breaker feeds the circuit, it is most likely just one circuit that is split into a switch controlled and a constant hot.
 
  #5  
Old 04-23-13, 02:45 PM
markag's Avatar
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: United States
Posts: 77
The more I think about it, the more I am thinking it won't be possible to use a GFCI receptical to give me the protection I am looking for. In the main panel, there are two 15 amp single pole breakers for the living room. One controls the lighting, the other is for the top halves of the recepticals.
 
  #6  
Old 04-23-13, 04:22 PM
Nashkat1's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 8,470
In the main panel, there are two 15 amp single pole breakers for the living room. One controls the lighting, the other is for the top halves of the recepticals.
By "the lighting," do you mean the switched halves of the receptacles? If so, you may be able to add GFCI protection at the panel.

How are those two breakers wired? Does one have the black wire and the other have the red wire from a 3-conductor cable connected to it, or does each of them have the black wire from a 2-conductor cable attached?

How are they positioned? Are they next to each other in the panel?

The problem with replacing those two breakers with two GFCI breakers - if that's possible, depending on the wiring - is that will be in the place where you should be installing the AFCI protection for your circuits. It's hard to say which would be more critical to have. They're both very important safeguards.

Here's an idea: You can replace the two standard breakers with two AFCI breakers. Then, at a convenient location adjacent to the panel, you can install two GFCI receptacles or deadfront devices. If you feed the power from the two AFCI breakers to the two GFCI devices, and then connect the wiring going to your receptacles to the LOAD terminals on the GFCIs, you will have both forms of protection on those two circuits.

Note: You will need to add AFCI protection to several more circuits - not just these two - to protect all of the wiring that needs it.
 
  #7  
Old 04-25-13, 06:47 AM
markag's Avatar
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: United States
Posts: 77
Yes, by "lighting" I mean the switched half of the recepticals, as well as the light switches that control them. The top halves of the recepticals are always on, and are on a seperate breaker from the switched halves of the recepticals.

I opened up my panel last night. I noticed that the two breakers controlling the living room both have black wires coming off of them.

Also, I replaced some recepticals yesterday. For each receptical, the neutrals are connected, top to bottom (the tab is not broken on the neutral side). The tab is broken on the hot side of the recepticals. Each receptical had 2 black wires, and 2 red wires. The two blacks were on top, and the two reds were on bottom.

When making the swap on one of them, I broke the tab on the neutral side of the receptical (not realizing it was different from what was already in there). when I turned everything back on, the 2 recepticals after the one I had swapped no longer had power. And the power on the receptical I had swapped was only on the switched half (bottom half). The top that was normally always hot had no power. I swapped the receptical for one without a broken tab on the neutral side, and everything worked correctly again.

It seems like they used 14/3 cable to connect from receptical to receptical, and the power is carried through to the next receptical in sequence by the neutrals being connected. Both of the electrical boxes for the recepticals in the room had 2 cables coming into them.
 
  #8  
Old 04-25-13, 07:33 AM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 14,594
Once the tab was broken on the neutral side the circuit was no longer complete. The path back to the panel was broken.

The screws should only have one wire under each head. If you need to add additional wires the pigtailing method should be used.
 
  #9  
Old 04-25-13, 08:35 AM
Member
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: USA
Posts: 4,941
What about this? At the first receptacle in the circuit, change the single gang box to a double gang box. Install two GFCI receptacles in the box, one for the switched circuit and one for the unswitched circuit. You could even do this by the panel.
 
  #10  
Old 04-25-13, 09:41 AM
Justin Smith's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Cressona, Pa, USA
Posts: 2,546
How about a 2-pole GFCI breaker?
 
  #11  
Old 04-25-13, 10:32 AM
markag's Avatar
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: United States
Posts: 77
I like the idea of a double gang box. I already have the GFCI recepticals, and a GFCI double breaker would be expensive.

I've been pigtailing when I switch out the outlets. I don't know who originally did the work, but each screw on the hot side had 2 wires under it. I used wire nuts and a 6" pigtail to run a single wire to each screw as I have made my changes.
 
  #12  
Old 04-25-13, 11:53 AM
Member
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: USA
Posts: 4,941
By the way, will a GFCI work with a shared neutral?
 
  #13  
Old 04-25-13, 01:15 PM
markag's Avatar
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: United States
Posts: 77
I don't know... It is interesting that they have two circuits sharing runing through one series of 14/3 cables with shared neutrals. I don't know how common that is.
 
  #14  
Old 04-25-13, 01:54 PM
ray2047's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 33,064
By the way, will a GFCI work with a shared neutral?
If it is a 240v GFCI breaker or if the individual GFCI receptacles are after the circuit is split into two circuits.
 
  #15  
Old 04-25-13, 03:09 PM
Member
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: USA
Posts: 4,941
I don't know... It is interesting that they have two circuits sharing runing through one series of 14/3 cables with shared neutrals. I don't know how common that is.
This is called a multiwire branch circuit. You can share the neutral between two circuits as long as they are on different phases. Most service panels will alternate phases going from breaker to breaker. Two breakers right next to each other would be on a different phase. You couldn't do this using a single split breaker.
 
  #16  
Old 04-25-13, 04:54 PM
Nashkat1's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 8,470
It is interesting that they have two circuits sharing runing through one series of 14/3 cables with shared neutrals.
They may, since you say that
Each receptical had 2 black wires, and 2 red wires.
Is so, the 3-conductor is spliced in somewhere down the line, since you also said that
I noticed that the two breakers controlling the living room both have black wires coming off of them.
Can you follow those black wires to where they leave the panel and see if they are in two separate cables, with a neutral in each? For that matter, do you have cables or conduit?
 
  #17  
Old 04-25-13, 05:45 PM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 14,594
Since this is a MWBC, the neutrals need to be spliced. The connection to the screws does not meet the wording of the code to be continuous whether the device is installed or not.
 
  #18  
Old 04-26-13, 05:13 AM
markag's Avatar
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: United States
Posts: 77
I found one receptical last night that had an extra cable coming into the box (Im assuming from either the light switch or the panel). It was a 14/2 cable (black and white only). Of course, the situation was the same with no pigtails. Whoever wired in the recepticals shoved 3 black wires under the top screw. Two red wires on the bottom screw. Then there were two white neutrals on the top neutral screw, and a single neutral on the lower neutral screw.

I'm thinking this might be where the wire run from the breaker is coming in at. I'm wondering if the other breaker is feeding into one of the 3 way switches in the room, and that would be where the splice from 14/2 to 14/3 cable is happening. I won't be able to check my switches until later though. I ran out of time last night (having a 7 month old means you only have so long to work on projects at any given time).
 
  #19  
Old 04-26-13, 12:29 PM
Nashkat1's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 8,470
I'm thinking this might be where the wire run from the breaker is coming in at. I'm wondering if the other breaker is feeding into one of the 3 way switches in the room, and that would be where the splice from 14/2 to 14/3 cable is happening.
That is more likely a tap to carry power to another load. If I'm understanding you correctly, having power from only one of the circuits come into the switch would not allow for both to be fed from there.

How are the wires run in the panel? Especially the neutral(s) for these two circuits?
 
  #20  
Old 04-26-13, 01:11 PM
markag's Avatar
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: United States
Posts: 77
I haven't been able to chase the wires in the panel yet.

The switch that had the extra 14/2 cable running to it was basically directly below one of the 3 way switches for the lights in the room. I also haven't removed the switches yet to see how they are wired.
 
  #21  
Old 04-28-13, 08:57 PM
Nashkat1's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 8,470
The switch that had the extra 14/2 cable running to it was basically directly below one of the 3 way switches for the lights in the room.
Do you mean the receptacle?

I haven't been able to chase the wires in the panel yet.

I also haven't removed the switches yet to see how they are wired.
Let us know what you find out.
 
  #22  
Old 04-29-13, 07:14 AM
markag's Avatar
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: United States
Posts: 77
Do you mean the receptacle?
Sorry. Yes, there is a receptical (the one with 3 cables in the box) that is approx 12"-14" above the floor level. Then directly above that receptical, and over to the right what looks like one stud width is a 2 gang box with a 3 way switch for the living room lights, and another switch to control the exterior porch light.

I will let you guys know what I find out regarding the wires between the breakers and the room. I did some searching in the basement. I have about 1/4 of the celiling tiles out of the drop ceiling trying to chase wires. I have uncovered a couple of junction boxes where the splice could be taking place, but I haven't followed up to verify if either one is connected to the living room circuits.
 
  #23  
Old 04-29-13, 09:28 AM
Nashkat1's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 8,470
I will let you guys know what I find out regarding the wires between the breakers and the room. I did some searching in the basement. I have about 1/4 of the celiling tiles out of the drop ceiling trying to chase wires.
I'll bet you're glad you have a suspended ceiling that you can remove tiles from to let you work in wiring and pipes!

Assuming that you're chasing cables and not wires, I'll jest mention a couple of visual aids that might help. One is that 3-conductor, 4-wire cables are round and 2-conductor, 3-wire cables are flat. The other is that Type NM (Romex) cables that contain #14 AWG conductors have a white jacket, those with #12 are yellow and those with #10 are orange. At least those installed since about 1980 will be.

That means that if you're chasing a 12-3/G cable, for example, it's the round yellow one.

It might be better to focus first on determining how the two breakers and the switches are wired.
 
  #24  
Old 04-29-13, 09:40 AM
markag's Avatar
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: United States
Posts: 77
Yes. A drop ceiling is very nice for this. I am very thankful for that.

Unfortunatly, a lot of the wiring in this house is pre-color coding. I have a ton of #14 awg wire that has black sheathing on the cables. I also see some #12 awg wire that is in white sheathing. I don't know at what point in time that would have happened, but the printing on the sheathing says 12 awg, even though it is white in color.
 
Reply

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Display Modes