GFCI wired to two-pole light switch?

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Old 07-02-13, 05:27 PM
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GFCI wired to two-pole light switch?

I had a nonfunctioning outlet in my bathroom. I decided to replace it with a GFCI outlet. Since I couldn't find out where in the walls that the wiring was bad, I capped off all of the old wires and ran new b/w/g wires to the closest junction box, which was to a dual-pole light switch in the hallway. A friend with some experience helped me wire everything, but the GFCI outlet only has a green light when the light switch is off. I would like the GFCI outlet to work no matter what the light switch position is.

The junction box currently is set up like this: b/w/g (from GFCI junction box) and b/w/r/g to light switch. The ground wires are pigtailed together and one runs to the light switch. The black wires are pigtailed together and one runs to the bottom of the side of the light switch shared by the ground wire. The whites are pigtailed together and one white runs to the bottom of the light switch, and the red wire is connected to the top of the light switch on the white wire side.

The lights work perfectly with the dual switches as currently wired. However, the GFCI outlet only has a green light when the switch is off, and the tester says that the hot and neutral are reversed. When the switch is on, there is no green light and the tester says that the hot and ground are reversed (and the green light comes on when the tester is inserted). The circuit never trips, though.

All of the wires (b/w/r) going to the light switch read hot according to my tester. Where is the neutral? Am I really supposed to hook up the bare grounding wire to the hot side of the GFCI? I'm so confused...I've uploaded two pictures of the light switch wiring, if that helps.

Thanks in advance for helping out a poor lost soul
 
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Old 07-02-13, 05:45 PM
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Welcome to the forums! First, remove it all. You can't have a bathroom GFCi running off any other circuit. Secondly, the white wire on the switch is not a neutral, so it's gotta go. It is part of a switch loop and is hot when the switch is turned on.

Now you are back where you started. Unless you pull a new circuit, you will need to repair the one you have in the bathroom at present. What have you done to see what is wrong with it?
 
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Old 07-02-13, 06:05 PM
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You are trying to feed a receptacle from a three way switch. Follow Larry's advice a remove what you did.
 
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Old 07-02-13, 07:04 PM
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Okay, thanks for the help! At least I know I'm not crazy...

The old wires for the outlet have no power. At all. All of the circuits in the breaker box are fine, and everything else in the house works fine. I have no idea where the old wiring is going to in the breaker box (several of the rooms in my house are on multiple breakers - one breaker turns off 2 outlets, another breaker controls one more, etc. and there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to any of it), so I'm not really sure what to do to fix it.

If I wire the GFCI outlet to a light, the GFCI will be dependent on the light switch that controls that light, right?
 
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Old 07-02-13, 07:23 PM
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It depends on whether or not the power feed goes to the light first or to the switch. In the situation you showed us earlier, the power possibly went to the light first and then to the switches. You can tell by opening up the other switch box and pulling out the switch to see if there are any neutrals capped and stuffed back in the box.

HOWEVER, you still can't wire the bathroom from any other circuit in the house. You will need to run a new circuit to that bathroom receptacle only, and it must be of 12-2 and on a 20 amp breaker.
 
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Old 07-02-13, 07:44 PM
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New installations need to follow the currently adopted codes. This means a 20 amp circuit for the bathroom receptacles with GFI protection.
 
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Old 07-02-13, 09:53 PM
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If I wire the GFCI outlet to a light, the GFCI will be dependent on the light switch that controls that light, right?
If you connected the wires feeding the GFCI to the wires that control that light, yes. If that light was wired so that it had unswitched power there, and you connected to that, then no.

There is one possibility that you could properly wire a new GFCI receptacle in this bathroom without having to run a new circuit from your panel. It depends on the way the power in the bathroom is being supplied now.

What size is the circuit feeding the lights, the fan, and any other loads in the bathroom? When you turn that circuit off, does that kill the power to anything outside that bathroom?

Buying and reading a copy of Wiring Simplified will answer a lot of your questions.
 

Last edited by Nashkat1; 07-02-13 at 10:17 PM.
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Old 07-03-13, 09:00 AM
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The old wires for the outlet have no power.
I believe the easiest way to fix this situation is to determine what happened to the power to the existing outlet.

I had a nonfunctioning outlet in my bathroom. I decided to replace it with a GFCI outlet.
It's quite possible the outlet that quit working was already GFCI protected by a GFCI outlet in another bathroom or even in the garage or outside. I'd first find all of those GFCI outlets and see if any have tripped. It isn't likely that the problem is inside a wall, but at another device. Judging from your pictures, your home doesn't appear to be terribly old. It would be very unusual if the bathroom outlet was not already GFCI protected. I think you are making more out of this than necessary.
 
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Old 07-03-13, 04:40 PM
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I had a nonfunctioning outlet in my bathroom. I decided to replace it with a GFCI outlet. Since I couldn't find out where in the walls that the wiring was bad,...
I think Joe has identified the problem. If you had a standard duplex receptacle in a bathroom that was wired within the last 30 years, that outlet was required to be GFCI protected. I would install a standard receptacle there again and go reset the GFCI receptacle that's supplying and protecting it. The most likely location is a different bathroom, but it could be anywhere.
 
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Old 07-03-13, 06:07 PM
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I actually don't have any GFCI outlets anywhere in my house - not in any of the bathrooms, kitchen, outside, etc. That's why I am trying to bring it up to code by replacing key outlets with GFCI outlets. There is quite a bit of odd wiring in this house; in renovating it I've found more than one light switch that wasn't attached to any wires, and a few wiring redundancies.

But I think I've figured out how to feed new wire up through the floor and attach to a new circuit breaker. Thanks for all of your help!
 
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Old 07-03-13, 07:29 PM
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How old is your house? Judging from the pictures I'd guess it to be no more than 15 years old. Are you sure you have no GFCI outlets? What about GFCI circuit breakers in the panel?
 
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Old 07-03-13, 07:31 PM
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The house is about 34 years old. An electrician checked the electrical panel right after I moved in and verified that there are no GFCI outlets anywhere...
 
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Old 07-03-13, 07:38 PM
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OK, 34 years old makes it about a 1979 build. I can't say for sure, but think GFCI protection was first required on bathrooms receptacles in the 1974 NEC. I still think it would be easier to find the problem with the original wiring than to run a new circuit.
 
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Old 07-05-13, 09:51 PM
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The house is about 34 years old.
When I rewired the old house we bought in 1982, I had to provide a dedicated 20A GFCI-protected circuit in each bathroom. It wasn't a new requirement then, either. I suspect Joe id right about the 1974 cycle.

An electrician checked the electrical panel right after I moved in and verified that there are no GFCI outlets anywhere...
I can stare at an electrical panel all day and never learn whether any of the circuits supplied from it are feeding GFCI-protected receptacles - unless an entire circuit is supplied from a GFCI breaker. Then they wouldn't be "GFCI outlets," if by that that you mean "GFCI receptacles." They'd be standard duplex receptacles with GFCI protection.

The electrician who checked your panel wouldn't have been able to determine that either.
 
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Old 07-06-13, 09:14 AM
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GFCI receptacles first hit the market around 1980 or 1981 and initially cost around $25 to $30 each. The price dropped rapidly as they gained acceptance by the public and the trade. Till that time, the standard was GFCI circuit breakers which cost $45 to $50 each. It's quite possible that a GFCI breaker has been changed out to a GFCI receptacle in one of the bathrooms or outside outlets. GFCI protection was not required when your house was built in kitchens, garages or basements. If you have no GFCI receptacles in the bathrooms or outside and have no GFCI circuit breakers, it is quite possible that your municipality didn't require them when your house was built. That being said, it still would be easier, in my opinion, to find and fix your problem than to run a new circuit.
 
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