Tool or trick anyone?

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  #1  
Old 09-29-13, 02:07 PM
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Tool or trick anyone?

Gentlemen am in a "new" house and trying to get the flood lights working. Having some difficulty finding the switches. Possibility may have been changed and a spa wired up. Is there an inexpensive tool or a trick to find out what goes to what switch and breaker? No power in fixtures and none in switches. Have multiple lights and switches. Am trying to avoid crawling in the attic and tracing the wires for the time being.
Many thanks.
 
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  #2  
Old 09-29-13, 02:58 PM
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Possibility may have been changed and a spa wired up.
Very unlikely; different voltage and amperage needs.

No power in fixtures and none in switches.
How was that done? If you used a non contact tester then the results are meaningless.

Tell us all the wires at the switches that you suspect control the lights. We need to determine if power comes in at the switch or the light. If there is a bundle of whites connected to each other at the switch power probably comes in at the switch. If the switch has one black wire and one white wire then power probably comes in at the light.
 
  #3  
Old 09-29-13, 03:24 PM
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I agree but they could have yanked the breakers and reused the spot. There was no sign of a 220 plug anywhere just a box with two switches so might assume they are for the lights.

No power at the fixtures. Fixtures are under the eaves or thereabouts. Tested with a contact light on tester. THANKS Ray. Someone said a "GFI in the garage" might have tripped the breaker but there are no GFI plugs anywhere in the house.
 
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Old 09-29-13, 03:58 PM
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If there are no GFI devices in the house that means that the house is "new" to you but not newly constructed.

There is no "trick" to locating missing wires. It will require test devices like tone generators and tracers to locate the missing wiring.
 
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Old 09-29-13, 04:28 PM
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I'd make sure the bulbs are actually working and not burned out. My parents moved into a house a while back and practically all the exterior flood lights were burned out, likely left on during the showings and such.

Are there any switches around that seemingly don't do anything? Switches are often added in the master bedroom for exterior floods too.

I find it hard to believe that they would have disconnected them to install a hot tub. Of course, anything's possible... but unlikely.
 
  #6  
Old 09-29-13, 05:30 PM
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Thank you gentlemen. Not a new house hence the "new" in quotes.
Checked with several different bulbs
Have mystery switches as described. Checked closets, cabinets for switches. Nope. So have dead switches and looking for tricks and tools. Dont know if my neighbor has a tone tool or meter but didnt want to spend more than I needed to.
Anything is possible. They previous owners, more than one may have disconnected the lights for the spa and then "connected" them or not. Have a 220 breaker and no 220 outlet or plug where a spa might be. Fixtures werent updated or in the best shape so money may have been an issue. Or it may have been wired for a spa in the box and never done. Got me.
 
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Old 09-29-13, 06:27 PM
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A cheap analog multimeter costs less than $20 and will give you a lot of value. If you can't find any hot wires using the multimeter then you can disconnect all the wires at the suspected switches, disconnect the black and wire wires at one of the lights, connect the black and white of one of the cables at the light together, and use the resistance setting on your multimeter to see if the cable goes to one of the switches.
 
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Old 09-29-13, 06:57 PM
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With you on the meter. So disconnect all the wires and join the b/w at the fixture. Check resistance. At the switch end or fixture? What should it be please? How can I identify the breaker other than inspection?
 
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Old 09-29-13, 08:01 PM
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At the switch end or fixture? What should it be please?
Yes, switch end. You should see continuity. Touch the two probes together to see what continuity is. On an analog meter you will need to adjust for 0.

How can I identify the breaker other than inspection
Not sure what you mean by inspection but or any turned off? Do any have no wires connected? Are there any unconnected wires in the breaker box.
 
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Old 09-29-13, 08:26 PM
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Thank you. Havent opened the panel yet. Was hoping to get the name of an inexpensive tone/trace and find the breaker that way. If theres no power to the switch I can assume its a bad breaker or not connected. Based on the distance to the one exterior light from the switch and the switch to the box Id guess they might have tapped the nearest outlet to save the expense but then the switch should be hot as the outlet is. When the house was built it was an expensive custom house so the spa circuit may have never been used. I dont know. For all I know at the moment there may be a pile of unconnected wires in the attic.
 
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Old 09-29-13, 08:57 PM
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Was hoping to get the name of an inexpensive tone/trace and find the breaker that way.
For wires without power (turn the breakers off!) you can use something like a Fluke Networks PRO3000 Tone and Probe Kit. For wiring with power and a receptacle to plug into - temporarily wired in if need be - use something like an Ideal 61-534 Breaker Finder.
 
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Old 09-29-13, 09:44 PM
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Many many thanks. Guess they wont be $ 2.99 though huh?
 
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Old 09-30-13, 06:33 AM
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No. I have seen a similar breaker finder from Klein for less than $30 at HD, and a couple of tone tracer sets, from Gardner-Bender and Sperry, for less than $40.
 
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Old 09-30-13, 06:49 AM
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Cost is why I told you how to do it with an $8 multimeter. My instructions may be a bit hard to understand. Please post back if you need any help understanding them. However toners as recommended by Nash will probably be easier.
 
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Old 09-30-13, 07:40 AM
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Thanks Ray I got your point and appreciate the tip really. Im not technically proficient so was looking for an inexpensive toner. I dont have any idea what Ill find when I get into it am puzzled why there are so many that arent hot and why. There are two outside switches that should be hot but arent if it was bulbs. So why wouldnt they be hot if you wanted to use the fixtures? Doesnt make much sense.
 
  #16  
Old 09-30-13, 09:27 AM
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Do the floodlights you're trying to get to come on have good bulbs in them? Have you taken the bulbs out and put them in a lamp or work light and tested them? Are they incandescent, halogen, CFL or LED bulbs? Do the floodlight fixtures have photocells?
 

Last edited by Nashkat1; 09-30-13 at 12:13 PM.
  #17  
Old 09-30-13, 10:11 AM
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Dont work. Checked with multiple bulbs first and checked dont have power in the fixture or what may be the switches. Off the top of my head some are motion sensors. 30w halogen.
 
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Old 09-30-13, 11:40 AM
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Off the top of my head some are motion sensors
Have you tried bypassing the motion sensor?

Power may come in at a light or a switch. The number of cables and connections may tell us where the power is supposed to come in. Lets start with the switches. Pick a switch. Call it Switch "A".
  • Is the switch 3-way (SPDT) or is it single location (SPST)?
  • At the switch how many 2-conductor cables (black, white, bare)?
  • At the switch are there any 3-conductor cables (white, black, red, bare)?
  • Is there a bundle of two or more whites connected only to each other?
  • If single location switch does it have two blacks or a black and white wire?
  • If 3-way what color wire on the common screw (odd colored-usually dark gray)?
 
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Old 09-30-13, 12:20 PM
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Checked with multiple bulbs first and checked dont have power in the fixture or what may be the switches.
You can check for power with a non-contact voltage detector. To check for a complete circuit use a multimeter.

Off the top of my head some are motion sensors.
You could have motion sensors going bad. Most motion sensors for outdoor floods are also photocells (I think they all are). Look for a slide button on the control that can be set to "TEST," and set it there.

30w halogen.
Some halogens don't play well with automated controls, especially with photocells.
 
  #20  
Old 09-30-13, 04:05 PM
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Good switch with a common (exterior light/works)
spare bathroom:
2 cables:
1 cable has black, white, red, copper
1 cable has black, white,copper
all whites are wire nut
all grounds are wire nut

masterbathroom: Dead switch to what?
2 cables:
1 cable has black, white,red, copper
1 cable has black, white copper
all whites are wire nut
all grounds are wire nut

Dead switches exterior wall
2 cables:
1 cable has black, white, red, copper
1 cable has black white, copper
all whites are wire nut
all grounds are wire nut
 
  #21  
Old 09-30-13, 04:09 PM
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Fixtures have no "test settings
 
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Old 09-30-13, 04:15 PM
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masterbathroom: Dead switch to what?
2 cables:
1 cable has black, white,red, copper
1 cable has black, white copper
all whites are wire nut
all grounds are wire nuti
Is this a three way switch. You need to record how the 2-conductor cable is connected then disconnect it and check for voltage between the black and white of the 2-conductor cable.

Dead switches exterior wall
2 cables:
1 cable has black, white, red, copper
1 cable has black white, copper
all whites are wire nut
all grounds are wire nut
Is this a three way switch. You need to record how the 2-conductor cable is connected then disconnect it and check for voltage between the black and white of the 2-conductor cable.

Nash and I are going at this from different directions. If I'm confusing the issue just ignore me for now and go with Nash.
 
  #23  
Old 09-30-13, 04:21 PM
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Whites on the dead switches are wired together.
 
  #24  
Old 09-30-13, 04:47 PM
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I dont know what a three way switch is. So am I metering the voltage? The B & W pair correct not any B & any W? Whats your guess Ray?
 
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Old 09-30-13, 05:27 PM
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I dont know what a three way switch is.
A three way switch will have three screws plus a ground screw. Two brass screws, one dark gray screw, and a ground screw. It is used for controlling a light from two locations.

The B & W pair correct
Yes, of the 2-conductor cable.

Terminology:
  • 2-conductor cable contains a black and white wire plus usually a ground wire.
  • 3-conductor cable contains a black. red, and white wire plus usually a ground wire.
 
  #26  
Old 09-30-13, 07:00 PM
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The master bath switch is a triple 2 brass and a gray. The red is on the brass and the others are bare. Blacks are plugged in the back of the switch. Two copper connected by wire nut as the whites the same way. Am at a loss where the red is connected because the other common works a light. Checked the working light on this switch. Does nothing.
 
  #27  
Old 09-30-13, 07:18 PM
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If the red in the bathroom and the red at the exterior are common there are three lights involved.

On a different working switch there are two blacks one plugged in one on brass. Two reds one plugged in the other on brass. Its a 3 way.

Now back to another dead switch next to that one. Two blacks plugged in. Two whites nutted. All grounds nutted. Also a 3. No red.
 
  #28  
Old 09-30-13, 07:39 PM
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Sorry, but I'm going to back off for now. Just too complicated for me without doing it hands on. Nothing your saying really adds up.
 
  #29  
Old 09-30-13, 07:52 PM
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Thanks Ray. Found the one common and they work one light. Have no idea about the other common. Tried it with the working light. Does nothing. The rest makes little sense to me either. Will have to get a toner and check the box and see whats connected if anything because all the fixtures are cold as are the switches.
 
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Old 09-30-13, 09:56 PM
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I dont know what a three way switch is.
A 3-way switch is a single-pole, double-throw switch. It has one common terminal, often colored black, and two traveler terminals, often brass colored. When paired with a second 3-way switch and wired correctly, the pair of 3-way switches will turn the same load off or on from either location.

See How Light Switches Work. Also, a copy of Wiring Simplified will help you gain an understanding of the work you're trying to do.

The master bath switch is a triple 2 brass and a gray.
That sounds like a 3-way switch.

The red is on the brass and the others are bare.
The red wire is terminated to one of the brass traveler screw terminals; the other two screw terminals do not have wires terminated to them. Correct?

Blacks are plugged in the back of the switch.
The two black wires are terminated by being pushed into backstab holes. Each of them is terminated to the same terminal as the unused screw closest to the hole it's pushed into. The black wire in the 2-conductor cable should be terminated to the common terminal. The black wire in the 3-conductor cable should be terminated to the second traveler terminal. Is that how they're connected?

The wires in the backstab holes may have a poor connection.

Two copper connected by wire nut
The ground wires should be spliced by twisting them together, clockwise. The splice should be protected with a wire nut. The grounds should also be bonded to the box, if it's metal, and to the device - the switch.

as the whites the same way.
The two white neutral conductors are spliced together. This is definitely a 3-way switch, and it sounds like it's wired properly. Where is the other 3-way switch in this pair?

Am at a loss where the red is connected because the other common works a light. Checked the working light on this switch.
I'm at a loss to understand this. What do you mean by "the other common?"
 
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Old 09-30-13, 10:07 PM
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If the red in the bathroom and the red at the exterior are common there are three lights involved.
In a properly wired 3-way switch system, the common terminal on one of the switches is connected to the incoming ungrounded potential ("hot power") from the breaker or fuse. The common terminal on the other, paired switch is connected to the wire that feeds the ungrounded ("hot") power to the load.

The two travelers are two of the three wires in the 3-conductor cable. Usually the red and black are chosen, but it could be the red and white or the black and white. Regardless, the red wire should not be connected to the common terminal on either switch, 99% of the time
 
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Old 10-01-13, 06:15 PM
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Been a long day. A quick reply to one question while I try and digest the rest. Many thanks.

Saw 3 reds. Two work on one light that is functional and the third red does not.

Hence the "other common"
 
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Old 10-01-13, 06:47 PM
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Saw 3 reds. Two work on one light that is functional and the third red does not.
Hence the "other common"
Only two commons per three way switch circuit. One common at each switch box.
Here is a graphic representation of the parts of a 3-way switch:


And here's an actual switch:
 

Last edited by ray2047; 10-01-13 at 07:03 PM.
  #34  
Old 10-01-13, 06:54 PM
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Have two reds on a working switch and working light.
The third red doesnt work that light and so far havent found the other red (pair)
 
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Old 10-01-13, 09:21 PM
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Have two reds on a working switch and working light.
The third red doesnt work that light and so far havent found the other red (pair)
Are all of these in the same switch box? Is your wiring conduit or cable?

In addition to Ray's excellent post with illustrations,
Originally Posted by Nashkat1
See How Light Switches Work. Also, a copy of Wiring Simplified will help you gain an understanding of the work you're trying to do.
Wiring Simplified is authoritative, inexpensive and written for the layman. It's the text for our little online seminar here.
 
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Old 10-02-13, 05:23 PM
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Many thanks to you and Ray especially for the suggested corrections.

Have two reds on a working switch and working light.
The third red doesnt work that light and so far havent found the other red (pair)

Are all of these in the same switch box? Is your wiring conduit or cable?
Two switches. One works one light. The other is the single red.
Sensing Rays frustrations I reached out to the seller who said there is a special switch (GFI) he says in the garage far off from the switches that controls them. (Money was tight and) He stopped using the lights. Maybe the switch went? Will find out.
 

Last edited by Nashkat1; 10-02-13 at 09:00 PM. Reason: Format quote
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Old 10-02-13, 05:32 PM
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I reached out to the seller who said there is a special switch (GFI) he says in the garage far off from the switches that controls them. (Money was tight and) He stopped using the lights. Maybe the switch went? Will find out.
Oh, the old hidden GFCI trick. We have run into that more then once. Of course the lights don't need to be on a GFCi so at least for me I wasn't considering it a GFCI problem. Let us know what you find.
 
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Old 10-02-13, 06:44 PM
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This was the old hidden GFI trick in the double garage WITH "the Ill have to show you were it is twist". Will let you know.
 
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Old 10-02-13, 09:12 PM
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Have two reds on a working switch and working light.
The third red doesnt work that light and so far havent found the other red (pair)

Originally Posted by Nashkat1
Are all of these in the same switch box? Is your wiring conduit or cable?
Two switches. One works one light. The other is the single red.
A switch requires at least two wires to work. What is the second wire on the switch that has one red wire on it?

Please answer the earlier questions. Also tell us what wires, by color and by conduit or cable, enter each box, and how those wires are connected inside each box.

Sensing Rays frustrations I reached out to the seller who said there is a special switch (GFI) he says in the garage far off from the switches that controls them.
Most GFCI devices are receptacles. None are switches.

The problem may be that that GFCI receptacle is tripped, and that resetting it will restore power to your light switches. If so, I would rewire it so that the lights do not have GFCI protection. As Ray said,
Originally Posted by ray2047
Of course the lights don't need to be on a GFCI
 
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