How do I correct this wiring issue?

Reply

  #1  
Old 10-07-13, 03:35 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Question How do I correct this wiring issue?

So, I set out to undertake my first electrical project in my new home - to add a wall receptacle next to the light switch. I didn't know anything about wiring at first, so I did some research and thought I had it all figured out until I tried to wire the switch back in and I realized that the switch had the hot wire going in and the neutral wire going out... at least that's how it appears.

I already wired in the receptacle, which works just fine, and when I tested the voltage on the line I'm seeing 120v on the hot and next to 0v on the white, which was originally plugged into the switch.

From what I've read, this is wrong, and I'd like to fix it. How do I go about it?

Is it safe to just put a 2nd receptacle in place of the switch for now? I'd like to resolve this today in one way or another (quick fix with an extra receptacle now, perm fix later).

Thoughts?
 
Sponsored Links
  #2  
Old 10-07-13, 03:47 PM
Nashkat1's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 8,470
Welcome to the forums!

No, a switch won't work with a neutral connected to one of the current-carrying terminals. That said, just because a wire has white insulation does not mean that it's being used as a grounded conductor - a neutral. See Electric Wire Color Code.

If you have a complete 120V circuit to your receptacle now - tested by plugging a lamp into it, then you don't have a switch loop. But if your switch was originally wired with a single cable and the black and white wires in that cable connected to the switch, then your switch was wired as a switch loop with power from the panel on the black wire and power going to the light on the white wire.

How many cables were in the switch box before you started? How many wires were in each cable and how were those wires connected?

when I tested the voltage on the line I'm seeing 120v on the hot and next to 0v on the white,
How did you test for voltage?

Does a lamp work when it's plugged into your new receptacle?
 

Last edited by ray2047; 10-07-13 at 04:27 PM. Reason: Change [an ungrounded] to [a grounded]
  #3  
Old 10-07-13, 04:30 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Ok, this is getting weird now lol.

I do have complete 120v circuit to my receptacle. I plugged in a surge protecter and had a tv plugged into that. It turned on just fine...

However, what you describe as a switch loop is the way it was wired. It had a single cable with the white and black (and ground) wires hooked up to the switch.

I tested for voltage at the end of the pigtails I had set up from the original cable. I put my meter in auto mode, putting the black lead on the ground, and then touching first the black cable with the red lead, which read 120v (approx) and then switching the red lead to the white cable which read close to zero volts.

Just got back from home depot with an extra receptacle... but I'll wait to hear back before I wire it up.
 
  #4  
Old 10-07-13, 04:52 PM
Nashkat1's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 8,470
Ok, this is getting weird now lol... what you describe as a switch loop is the way it was wired. It had a single cable with the white and black (and ground) wires hooked up to the switch.
Yeah, and not just weird. Any time line voltage is connected directly to a neutral a dead short is made. That may sometimes produce some interesting lights, sounds and smells, and it will always trip the breaker or blow the fuse.

What did this switch do before you took it out? Did you ever turn it on? Did you change any of the connections on the other end of the cable while you were doing this project?

OK, whatever, since you
tested for voltage by putting [your] meter in auto mode, putting the black lead on the ground, and then touching first the black cable with the red lead, which read 120v (approx) and then switching the red lead to the white cable which read close to zero volts.
those two wires appear to be one ungrounded (hot) conductor and one grounded (neutral) conductor now. And since you
plugged in a surge protecter and had a tv plugged into that. It turned on just fine... [you] do have complete 120v circuit to [your] receptacle.
I have no idea how, but there it is.

Just got back from home depot with an extra receptacle... but I'll wait to hear back before I wire it up.
Sure, go ahead. If one works two should.

 
  #5  
Old 10-07-13, 04:53 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Sorry, I just re-read your question and realize I didn't fully answer it:

There was only one cable in the switch box before I started.

Now I have two. This switch controls light in a closet, and the reason for doing this project is so that I can put my security camera DVR in the closet with a wall mounted display on the outside. All I had before was a switch, so I switched from a single-gang to a two-gang old work box, put a receptacle in there with pigtails from the original wire, and also pigtailed the second wire from the switch box to the receptacle in the closet.... that's when I realized that there was something weird about the switch, and here I am...

The original and new cables are 14/2, so one white, black, and ground in each. I'm thinking to do this right I'll need to re-run cable from the lights to the switch box with 14/3 cable to make a proper switch loop?
 
  #6  
Old 10-07-13, 04:58 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Okay, I'll stick with receptacles for now.. Sucks to lose the light in there, but it's not really my main closet anyway. I might re-visit this to wire the switch properly later.

The light did work before without any issues as far as I could tell, but yeah, apparently it wasn't set up right :S
 
  #7  
Old 10-07-13, 05:07 PM
Nashkat1's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 8,470
I switched from a single-gang to a two-gang old work box, put a receptacle in there with pigtails from the original wire, and also pigtailed the second wire from the switch box to the receptacle in the closet.... that's when I realized that there was something weird about the switch, and here I am...
Wait a minute. A pigtail is a piece of wire (not cable, just a single conductor) about 6" - 8" long that's added to a multiwire splice to connect to a device.

If you're saying you ran a piece of 2-conductor cable from an existing receptacle to the new 2-gang box, that's where you got the grounded conductor and the complete circuit.

I'm thinking to do this right I'll need to re-run cable from the lights to the switch box with 14/3 cable to make a proper switch loop?
If you now have a complete circuit in the 2-gang box, brought in from an existing receptacle, you don't need to change the cable between the wall box and the light. You just need to change the connections at the light.

Is this what you have?
 
  #8  
Old 10-07-13, 05:12 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Not exactly.

The new 2-conductor cable I ran was from the wire the switch was originally on, NOT from another receptacle.
 
  #9  
Old 10-07-13, 05:19 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Photos might help. See attached.
 
Attached Images   
  #10  
Old 10-07-13, 06:28 PM
Nashkat1's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 8,470
Thanks for the photos. I was going to suggest those.

There appear to be two cables entering the new box - or am I just seeing one cable and its reflection? No, I don't think so, because there appear to be four white wires spliced together.

The new 2-conductor cable I ran was from the wire the switch was originally on,
OK. Where did you make those splices?

And now I'm back to having no idea where you picked up a grounded conductor.
 
  #11  
Old 10-07-13, 08:43 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: USA
Posts: 24
I'm sorry I think I was unclear.

The first photo is of the original switch box. It was a single gang with the one cable going into it. Simple.

The second is what I replaced the original switch box with: a double gang box. I intended to just add an outlet, but as you can see, I put two in there since I don't know how to address the switch yet.

The new box is also a single gang, and is actually located behind the wall closer to the floor. There was nothing special going on there so I didn't bother posting a picture. The wire that appears to be a reflection is the wire that is going out to that new box.
 
  #12  
Old 10-07-13, 09:04 PM
Nashkat1's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 8,470
The new box is also a single gang, and is actually located behind the wall closer to the floor.
Behind the wall?

I intended to just add an outlet, but as you can see, I put two in there since I don't know how to address the switch yet.
Nor do I. If you have a 2-conductor switch loop then you need to run xx-3/G cable to replace the xx-2/G and have a neutral. But you have a neutral.
 
  #13  
Old 10-07-13, 09:15 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Sorry, poor word choice on my part. When I said behind the wall I meant on the other side of the wall, i.e. inside the closet. The pictures I uploaded are outside the closet.
 
  #14  
Old 10-07-13, 09:30 PM
dougm's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: The Colony, Texas
Posts: 917
So... just a shot in the dark here (no pun intended)... With your TV plugged into one of the new plugs and turned on, open the closet door and take a good look at the closet light. Is it perhaps glowing dimly? If not, try plugging a standard lamp into one of the new plugs and repeat the test.

Doug M.
 
  #15  
Old 10-07-13, 09:33 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: USA
Posts: 24
I didn't notice before, but yes the lights are glowing dimly... Seems to be a bad sign. What does that mean?
 
  #16  
Old 10-07-13, 09:40 PM
dougm's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: The Colony, Texas
Posts: 917
It means you wired into a switch loop and the new plugs are now in series with the closet light. You'll need to get power for the plugs from another source and put the switch back the way it was.

Doug M.
 
  #17  
Old 10-07-13, 09:58 PM
Nashkat1's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 8,470
yes the lights are glowing dimly... Seems to be a bad sign. What does that mean?
That you're "pulling neutral" through the light. This explains it.

I'd been assuming you were doing all of this inside the closet. Your clarification was the tip-off that led Doug to suggest looking at the light fixture.

Thanks Doug.

I see you're using 14 AWG wiring. Is this a 15A circuit? If not, you need to be using 12 AWG wiring.

Replace the cable between the light and the upper wall box with xx-3/G cable.

At the light, splice the new black wire to the house black. Splice all whites, including the lead on the fixture, together. Splice the red wire to the fixture's black lead. Make up the grounds.

At the 2-gang box, make up the grounds. Bond a switch and a receptacle to the ground wires. Splice the two white cable wires together with a pigtail. Terminate that pigtail to one of the silver screws on the receptacle. Splice the two black cable wires together with two pigtails. Terminate one pigtail to one of the brass screws on the receptacle and the other one to one of the switch terminals. Terminate the red wire to the other switch terminal.

At the lower box, make up the receptacle.

Done.
 
  #18  
Old 10-07-13, 10:01 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Thanks guys. I'll try to clean this up ASAP so I can put this project behind me.
 
  #19  
Old 10-08-13, 07:28 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Ugh, so I knew fishing the new cable through was going to be the challenge here, but man... This seems next to impossible.

I tried twisting together a few strands of the new cable to the old cable and intended to pull the new one through, but either this thing is stapled somewhere I can't see or the hole is like crazy small.

I used my camera phone to take pics inside the wall to get some insight but I'm kinda clueless.

From the top, the hole seems big enough (see attached pic). I can't really get a good shot of the bottom though:



I weigh next to nothing but I put all my weight into trying to pull it through and it won't budge.

The cable is stuck, just before where the new cable enters the hole and I'm not sure what to do!

Any advice?
 
Attached Images  
  #20  
Old 10-08-13, 07:34 PM
Nashkat1's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 8,470
The old cable should be stapled, more than once - especially near the top plate.

Try dropping a weighted string or fine chain into the hole and using that to pull the new cable in. The old cable can be just cut short and left in the wall.

Did you take your new box out of the wall to make room to work?
 
  #21  
Old 10-08-13, 07:39 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Yes, I did take the new box out and the box for the light out.

I was able to pull the cable about a foot or so before it got snagged.

I originally tried sticking fish tape through the hole with the wire still there and it wouldn't go through, which made me think the hole was just too small and led me to try to pull the old wire out...

I don't have any weighted string or chain, and if I did it'd be really hard to put it through the hole. It may look somewhat spacious from the pic, but that's me sticking just my camera phone up into the hole to see what's going on. I can fit my forearm through and that's about it.
 
  #22  
Old 10-08-13, 07:46 PM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 14,365
Drill a new hole about an inch or two to the side of the existing cable.
 
  #23  
Old 10-08-13, 08:27 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: USA
Posts: 24
I was trying to avoid poking yet another hole into the drywall, but that might be the simplest thing to do... It's late, and I'm tired, so I'll give this another shot tomorrow after I pick up a long spade bit from harbor freight to make the hole.
 
  #24  
Old 10-09-13, 04:17 AM
Nashkat1's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 8,470
I was suggesting that you feed the string or chain down from the attic. You can also just try pushing the new cable in and sown.

If cutting the old cable and pushing on it doesn't give you enough room in the existing hole, pcbpss is suggesting a second hole from the attic through the top plate. Neither of us is suggesting any more holes in the drywall.
 
  #25  
Old 10-09-13, 05:45 AM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: USA
Posts: 24
A second hole seems like the only solution here. I have no attic access because my attic is finished. I've tried pulling on the existing cable from either end but it won't budge.

I'll drill a hole through the drywall from inside the closet and thread it through a fresh hole when I get home from work today.
 
  #26  
Old 10-09-13, 07:26 PM
Nashkat1's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 8,470
It sounds like you'll need to cut out a section of drywall so you can put your drill in the wall to make the new hole.
 
  #27  
Old 10-09-13, 07:37 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Smile

I actually saw the section that was previously used to run the wire, and I figured out why the wire got snagged.... whoever ran the old wire ran it between the two-by and the sheetrock.

I drilled a hole straight through the sheetrock into the two-by in the same spot that was previously patched. It was an ugly patch job to begin with, but it's in a spot in the closet no one will ever see unless they stand in it and look up...

Anyhow, it's working! I finally got it all wired up and now I've got my receptacle in the closet for my security camera DVR, one on the outside wall of the closet for the tv, and I can still turn the lights on and off.

I have some cleanup and small drywall patchwork to do, but I can finally cross this little project off my to-do list. Thanks for all the help everyone. I couldn't have done it without you!
 
Attached Images  
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
'