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Wiring 3 switches in a 4x box. Rule out if power coming from fixture?

Wiring 3 switches in a 4x box. Rule out if power coming from fixture?

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  #1  
Old 03-31-17, 05:44 AM
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Wiring 3 switches in a 4x box. Rule out if power coming from fixture?

Greetings,

I have a 4-switch box in the wall. 2 of the switches control outside lights independently. These outside lights are mounted very high. The 3rd switch is for the kitchen table chandelier. The 4th space in the box is being used for a dedicated in-box night light as a filler. (all on single 15 amp circuit... all are LED lights). All are single pole.

Problem:
Switches have been removed and I have no idea where everything goes. Wires are a mixture of cloth covered and newer (1984) wiring (house will built in 1918)


So far:
I found one hot wire in the bunch, so I am thinking (based on my brief you-tube education) that I would need to pigtail to each switch to the hot source and then tie in the black from each fixture to the appropriate switch. I think all the neutrals would then be bundled, and then the grounds too.

Catch 22: What if the hot wire is coming from one of the fixtures?

Question: Is there a practical way to figure out whether or not my hot wire might be actually coming in from one of the fixtures. I am presuming it is not but I could be totally wrong. I also noticed that this same breaker controls my TV (in another room) as well as my computer (in yet another room).

Many Thanks for your suggestions!!!!
 

Last edited by dsydvf; 03-31-17 at 05:45 AM. Reason: type-o
  #2  
Old 03-31-17, 05:51 AM
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I found one hot wire in the bunch, so I am thinking (based on my brief you-tube education) that I would need to pigtail to each switch to the hot source
Correct.
then tie in the black from each fixture to the appropriate switch.
Correct.
I think all the neutrals would then be bundled, and then the grounds too.
Correct.
Is there a practical way to figure out whether or not my hot wire might be actually coming in from one of the fixtures
On circuits that old you wouldn't have a neutral at the box for the other circuits if that was true. To verify find the 2-conductor cable that when disconnected and measured with a multimeter reads ~120v from black to white. (A non contact tester can not be used.)
 
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Old 03-31-17, 10:46 AM
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I see. That makes sense. For example, if I can identify the pair coming from the kitchen chandelier, if I carefully measured with a multimeter I'd see120v coming from that source, etc. if a hot source were coming from that fixture too.


The part I am a bit confused on is when you say "On circuits that old you wouldn't have a neutral at the box ". I never thought of that so thank you for that insight. So, if there is no hot source coming from any of my fixtures and my single hot line is truly the source to that box, since there is no neutral to bundle too I would still just bundle all of the neutrals together? Many Thanks!
 

Last edited by dsydvf; 03-31-17 at 10:47 AM. Reason: type-o
  #4  
Old 03-31-17, 11:49 AM
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With a meter...... check each cables pair of wires (white and black) for 120vac.
When you find a pair that has power on it.... mark it.
Let us know how many cables show power on them.

Since you had a dedicated night light there we know there should be at least one hot cable.

Question.... why were the switches removed ?
 
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Old 03-31-17, 06:29 PM
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OK... a long story.. but I updated all of the switches. A wire broke while I was screwing the last switch in (and the last 2 switches didn't work). I called a retired electrician who ended up pulling everything and spent about 5 hours on it before giving up (he is very old and I think it was too hard for him). I can now see why he was confused because there is little space, and a newer wire bundle was bridging connections behind the box (what I mean by that is the short newer wire bundle was acting as a pigtail from one side of the box to the other while coming in from behind (I think this really threw him off as he kept thinking the newer wires were to the chandelier when it was really just some sort of make-shift jumper). I will ignore this "jumper" for now and just explain what I have coming into the box.

I picked up a multi-meter and this is what I have right now and what I found. There are 6 incoming cloth covered wires altogether.

X = the Hot Wire (the rest I will label A through F)

If I bridge X (hot) with each wire using my multi-meter, here is what the meter shows

X-A :110
X-B: 110
X-C: 110
X-D: a little less than 25
X-E: a little less than 25
X-F: a little less than 25

Also if I bridge A through F to each other (keeping X out of the mix) trying every combination I get nothing on the meter (0)

Interpretation: I think this shows that the only power coming in is X and that there is no power coming from my fixtures (unless it turns out that X is actually a fixture... HA!).

I am not sure I understand what the differences in voltage means above but I will take a stab at it. Could it be that the 110 readings identify the neutral lines (completing a circuit?)? and that the lower readings (<25) indicate the black lines going to my fixtures?

So, what do you think I should try next?

Thanks!
 
  #6  
Old 03-31-17, 07:37 PM
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I'm not sure what your measurements are referring to.

You have six cables. That's six black wires and 6 white wires.
Each cable has one white and one black. That's what you check for power.

Of the six cables.....
1 should be power
3 go to the lights that are switched
2 may supply power out to elsewhere
 
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Old 03-31-17, 07:52 PM
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To clarify, I have 7 cables.

1 is hot (I labeled the hot one X).

The other 6 (labeled A through F) are cloth covered wires (no black and white wires at all).

Thanks again!!!
 
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Old 03-31-17, 08:01 PM
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Are you are confusing wires and cables? A cable is two or more wires in a metallic or nonmetallic sheath. Or do you have Knob and Tube? If knob and tube it is a whole new ball game.

Please post a clear picture of your box and wires. http://www.doityourself.com/forum/li...rt-images.html
 
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Old 03-31-17, 08:52 PM
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Sorry... I am using the terms Cables/wires. There are 6 wires (my mistake) and all are cloth covered wires from the 1920s I presume. The more modern plastic covered wires (traditional white/black/ground) is just some kind of jumper and is not connected to anything (a sort of "U" shaped configuration that comes in from behind... just ignore the more modern plastic coted wires as they go nowhere).

I started color coding the cloth wires. The red one is the hot one. The blue one is part of the kitchen chandelier.

Welcome to my hell

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Last edited by dsydvf; 03-31-17 at 08:56 PM. Reason: clarify
  #10  
Old 03-31-17, 09:58 PM
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How hard would it be for you to wire this from scratch? Do you have an unfinished attic above? It appears to be Knob & Tube which means lights may grab a neutral from any circuit or the neutral may even be switched. Trying to sort this could defy logic. I can think of things to try but I may be wasting your time. First I'd want to find out the wiring at all the lights.
 
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Old 04-01-17, 05:14 AM
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Thanks for the input. Much appreciated. Now understand the old electrician's comment while he was trying to figure it out, "I've never seen anything like this in 40 years". He also made a comment that it might be best to pull wires (and then added, "it would be hell to do that though in this house"). This switch is on the 1st floor of a 2-story farm house. One of the fixtures is mounted over the driveway at the top of the second floor. He said that when he returns (I don't think he will ever return) we should pull the box and try to figure out where the wires are going if we can. When he said that we might have to pull wires, that is when I decided to try and teach myself so that I could figure this out. After all, it worked before with the current wires.

Now that you are echoing some of the things he was saying, it is clear that I may be on a path here ultimately to replace the wires in this area (expensive for sure, but maybe in the end it is a blessing in disguise given the age of the wires here).

Thanks for all your help with this!
 
  #12  
Old 04-01-17, 05:51 AM
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Knob and tube sometimes had the neutral switched.

I think we might need to see behind the box.
 
  #13  
Old 04-01-17, 07:14 AM
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Thanks again for your input! One last thought since I noticed a pattern. Maybe this will help?


Here is one Last try to understand this. I am wondering if the following information may give some good clues since there is definitely a pattern here.
Here is the situation (all cloth covered wires… knob and tube). The red is the only hot wire (X)
There used to be 3 working single pole switches here (2 independent outside lights and a kitchen chandelier…all LED lights)

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In this example I used the probe to check X against B and got this:
Here is the pattern: I get this voltage when I check them all against X with my probes
X-to-A
X-to-B
X-to-E

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I get this voltage if I check:
X-to-C
X-to-D

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So, does this pattern give any clues as to how I might attempt to connect these?

i.e.
X-A, X-B, & X-E give me 120v
X-C, & X-D gives my not quite 25V

THANKS!
 

Last edited by dsydvf; 04-01-17 at 09:15 AM. Reason: clarify
  #14  
Old 04-01-17, 01:57 PM
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I would want to look at the wiring at each light before proceeding then determine the next step.

Some of your readings may be due to voltage traveling through a load such as a light bulb.
 
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Old 04-01-17, 02:40 PM
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Very good. Thank You.

Hmmm.. your comment gave me an idea.

If I turn off the power, remove the chandelier so that I can get to the wires in the ceiling, is there a device that would allow me to "ping" a signal through that wire so that I can identify the wire at the switch box?

If so, that would be awesome and would help me Identify the wires again. I can reach the chandelier easily and I can also reach one of the porch lights easily (the second story light would then be the only one left by default).

Thanks again for your input.
 
  #16  
Old 04-03-17, 06:24 AM
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Yes you can use something like this with the power disconnected to trace out the wires

https://www.amazon.com/Cable-Tracer-.../dp/B001MB759U
 
  #17  
Old 04-03-17, 01:57 PM
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I was going to just suggest using your multimeter set to ohms and a long wire with alligator clips on both ends as the next step. May be more reliable than a pinger in some cases.
 
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Old 04-09-17, 07:28 PM
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Thanks everyone

I bought a nifty little continuity tester from Amazon (didn't understand the ohms portion of the meter could achieve this too). Still... nice device for an someone with limited experience and it made it easy to identify which fixtures these wires were going to (and even helped me get the polarity figured out). After spending a ridiculous amount of time on this I finally have it all working again.

I really appreciate you guys helping me work through this process!!

I also learned enough through this process to know that I've got to replace these wires. About half the house was re-wired when we were married, but that leaves the other half with old 1920ish wiring (built in 1918). I am having someone come out and give me an estimate on updating the box and re-wiring the rest of the house (peace of mind knowing everything is properly grounded). I suspect this is gonna hurt ($$$), but it seems too dangerous not to address this.
 
 

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