Head Scratcher


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Old 01-01-15, 06:12 PM
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Head Scratcher

I've worked on a lot of old houses, but this is new to me.

I'm trying to figure out the circuit that runs to my garage.
This circuit also connects all the overhead lights in the house, but it's the way it runs to the garage that has me stumped.

There are two wires coming out of the house at a small service head. These are definitely part of this one garage and overhead light circuit, but there is only one wire connected to that 15 amp breaker back at the main service panel.

That cable has only a black and a white wire (no ground). The white runs to the neutral bus bar. Remember it's an old house.

Now coming out of the house at this small service head are two old fashioned cables like the one I see leaving the Main Service panel. They come out of the house in a small service head and then branch into four wires, two from each cable. They go overhead to the garage in the most unusual way. The ends of the wires coming out of the house are stripped at the end and wrapped around the end of wires that are stretched tight and wrapped around ceramic anchors at the house and the garage.

And this is the second mystery:
One of those cables has two hots: both wires are hot
The other cable has one hot wire and one neutral (or at least no juice in it)

If someone could explain this to me it might help me figure out what's going on in the garage itself.

(if you can bear to go on- here is the rest)

All these wires go into the garage.
The wire with one hot and one neutral goes to an overhead light.
I'll call this Overhead light #1
The line with the two hots runs to a three way switch.
Both of the wires go to the two wires on one side of the switch.
On the other side there is only one screw and attached to it is the black wire of a cable going to another overhead light ( the neutral wire is cut and loose in the box). This switch allows power to this other overhead light, Overhead light #2.
Coming out of this overhead light is a cable that goes back to overheat light #1.
My guess is that this is the return for the hot that comes from the wire with the two hots, but why does that cable have two hots to begin with?

If anyone has any thoughts on this I'd appreciate hearing them and sorry for such a complicated story.
 
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Old 01-01-15, 06:20 PM
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Welcome to the forums.

You sure made it difficult to understand.

You have a two wire circuit that leaves the panel goes up the side of the house to a service head. There you have two strands of wire going thru the air to the garage. At the garage you have two cables connected to these strands. One cable goes to a light and the other one goes to a switch. Correct ?

Is it not working and you are trying to figure it out or are you just trying to figure it out ?
Just so you are aware... none of your devices in the garage are grounded.
 
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Old 01-01-15, 06:30 PM
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Hey thanks for answering so fast. The first puzzle is that there are 4 wires leaving the house.
There are two cables, each with two wires (no grounds). One of these cables has 2 hot wires.
The other has a hot and a neutral. These cables come out of the attic space. I can't get up there so I can't see what's going on and how they are connected to that one cable that comes from the Service Panel.
 
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Old 01-01-15, 06:34 PM
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What I want to do is rewire the whole thing, but I don't understand what's going on with those two cables coming from the attic and why one has 2 hots.
 
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Old 01-01-15, 06:49 PM
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Can you post a picture of the overhead splices?
 
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Old 01-01-15, 06:53 PM
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Ahhhh..... you have four overhead lines. You have a three way circuit setup.
Always hot, neutral and two travelers.
 
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Old 01-01-15, 06:55 PM
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Maybe the one with two hots used to be from a 3-way switch? They got rid of the switch and just tied the three wires together in the box.
 
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Old 01-01-15, 06:59 PM
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Oh guys, I wish I could. I'm a little old school. I was able to do it with my other computer, take a picture and post it but haven't figure it out with this one yet. I'm going to try and describe it better.

The two cables are the old cloth wrapped type.
the service head is very simple: just a metal hood for the two cables.
they come out of it for about a foot and then the ends are stripped.
there are 4 other wires pulled tight between this service head and one on the garage.
These other wires have a small section stripped off and the wires from house wrapped around there and this wrapped with tape.
all 4 wires are arranged like this at both ends
and again three are hot and one neutral (or no juice I can detect)
 
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Old 01-01-15, 07:02 PM
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you know there IS a switch inside the house that turns the power off to the garage. It is still functioning.
 
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Old 01-01-15, 07:03 PM
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I agree with Astuff. There was once or there still is a 3 way switch somewhere.
 
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Old 01-01-15, 07:06 PM
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I'd forgotten about that switch
 
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Old 01-01-15, 07:15 PM
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I'm going to try and figure out the rest and not run you all ragged with little questions.
I think I've got a good start on this now. Thanks a lot guys.
 
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Old 01-02-15, 10:06 PM
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I think you have one of the old style neutral switching 3-ways. They're used on a lot of old barns and such around here. Name:  Carter(barn)3-way.gif
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