I come in shame... help with unusual circuit

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Old 12-12-17, 05:49 PM
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I come in shame... help with unusual circuit

I know when I am beaten and I am completely Stumped by this box. Iím no electrician but not completely useless either. I am upgrading switches to z-wave, most of which has been straightforward. I have one 3-gang box at my front door that I deleted the pic I took of it before I took it apart. The three circuits are a 3way foyer lights (no problem here), 3 way porch lights and a 3 way exterior lights with in wall timer. The foyer is fine but the other two I canít put back together. Iíve diagrammed this out as best I can:

I'm new to this asking for help thing so hopefully I'm in the right place and everything is correct- and one of you all can help. I did my best to make post clear and diagram everything out.


Middle switch:

The porch switch is center position. Black and red from 14/3 to the traveler terminals, common was pigtailed but I donít recall to what. The other switch (the next pic, 2-gang) has 2 black/1 red 14/3, the traveler terminals are continuous with the travelers from this box. I donít know where the common in the 2-gang box is from but its in the same romex with the travelers from the box below. The main box has 14/2 that I am pretty sure is the load to the lights as I get single wire continuity to the fixtures.

One of the neutrals in this box was pigtailed with Ė I think Ė two black wires and hot. I think it might have been the neutral on the 14/3 to the center 3 way switch.

Left switch:

Another 3 way, other switch is an in-wall timer in the closer. This used to be a standard timer but I switched it to a digital pls750c a few years back to tie the lights to sunset. Iíve been replacing a lot of switches, so its possible I mixed things up, but I think this was a 2-way switch/single pole switch. If thatís the case, I donít know how that would work because the 14/2 coming into the timer (3rd pic) is not hot.

In factÖ I canít figure out where the line is for the exteriors. I shut everything down ran and continuity tested the 3 unknown 14/2s. I originally got continuity on the with the black box over it, but that was with a remote tester. Thinking this was the 2nd line (thereís two 15A breakers for the foyer) it didnít work. I retested running a wire and do not have continuity, so I think the original was false from the neutral (lots of motors, fans in the house and some weird wiring with neutrals so makes sense). Either that or its on a different breaker thatís bad that I canít seem to find.

The problem 3 gang:





The 2-gang at other door (porch). This wasn't touched so its correct. Common is a mystery, if it looks white its just overspray




Timer - unless i've got a bad breaker and its on a different breaker than I thought then the 14/2 is not line in:



Manual for pls750

http://www.houseneeds.com/upload/pdf...50c-manual.pdf

Appreciate the help. holliday lights can't go up until I get this one solved and kids/SO are not amused. THanks!
 
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Old 12-13-17, 06:48 AM
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I think the first step to diagnosing this will be to conclusively identify the hot(s) and the loads. To identify the hots, separate out all of the unknown black wire so they aren't touching anything. Turn the breaker back on, then use your multimeter or neon bulb tester to test between each of the unknown blacks and ground. Hopefully only one of them will be hot, mark that one as incoming line power and turn the breaker back off.

Next you need to work your way through the remaining unidentified 14/2 cables to identify each of the loads. If you can measure a positive resistance between the black and white there's a good chance that cable feeds light bulbs. To figure out which ones, you can wirenut the black-to-black and white-to-white from the known line power cable to the unknown lighting circuit. Flip the breaker on and see what lights up. You may also have to repeat this procedure with a lamp plugged into a receptacle if this box also feeds downstream receptacles.

Once these are known, connecting the travelers in the 14/3 cables is much easier.
 
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Old 12-13-17, 04:34 PM
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Did some more investigation, at this point its a wiring question but still a number of questions. Sorry if the original pictures were wrong, I saw the sticky and uploaded them correctly this time. Here is updated diagram of the box:

Updated diagram:
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Recall there are three unknown 14/2 cables coming in, three known 14/3, and a 14/2 line. Three circuits, 1) foyer light, 2) porch light, 3) exterior lights on a timer. The foyer lights are working fine.

A lot of toning and continuity testing later and I have some additional info that will hopefully be enough for one of you to recognize the wiring.

First, there is a 4th circuit - another timer that I didn't think was in this box. One of the 14/2 runs to another in wall timer that controls receptacles under the soffetts for xmas lights and such. There is no switch for that circuit just the timer, which explains i assume why that is 2 conductor vs 3 conductor going to the timer I originally mentioned.

The second 2 conductor cable is porch load. Black conductor is zero resistance to the fixtures. So on this one, all data is know but I still don't know how to wire the switch. The common was pigtailed with something, travelers are connected to the 14/3 and continuous with the 3-way at another location. The common at that location is unknown but not hot. So this one must be line but I don't know how to connect the 2 conductor cable.

The third 2 conductor cable is continuous with some resistance (5.1 ohms). This has something to do with the exterior lights circuit, i get faint tones but nothing direct.

So, what we know about porch circuit:
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And the exterior lights with timer and 2-way switch...

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This making sense to anyone? My hunch, at least for the exterior lights, is that the line is at the lights. There are two 1/2 15A breakers. One of which traces to the three gang box, outlets in the foyer and another set of switches not relevant here. I can't figure out where the other goes. I can trace it through the walls for a while but I lose it. Faint tones everywhere so probably just coming through neutral?

Anyway, still totally lost, any help appreciated
 
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Old 12-13-17, 04:43 PM
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re: ipbooks

Sorry my post probably wasn't clear. There is one 14/2 line in in the box. There are three 14/2 out. One is load to the porch lights circuit, one goes to a second timer I didn't mention because I didnt' realize it was connected here. The third is a bit of a mystery, contuity between the black and neutral conductors with some (5.1 ohms) resistance. Toner lights up at exterior lights (not porch) so its on that circuit but not sure in what capacity.

HOWEVER - that line is on a 15A 1/2 breaker, which also feeds another box and receptacles. The other 1/2 breaker (both labeled "entry"), I cannot find where it terminates. I can trace it for a bit, lose it in the walls then I get faint tones everywhere. As a result, I think the line for the exterior stuff is not at the box but somewhere out at the lights or receptacles. The porch might be on the first one, its just 3 BR 40 bulbs. But the exterior stuff is several receptacles and an additional 5 lights, which when added to the 2 ceiling lights, 2 sconces, and 4 receptacles in the foyer is too much.
 
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Old 12-13-17, 10:09 PM
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You've got a mess, too many wires in that box and two separate circuits compounds the problem. Unknown cables are a problem. We can't guess what they are. I'm trying to follow what you're saying but it is confusing. I can usually visualize the wiring and know how it's wired but I can't see it clearly in my mind. I've made service calls like yours and it can tricky.

You can't tone into a 5 ohm load. If you think it goes to lights/bulbs.... take them out.

14/3 (2 black- 1 red) What is that ? A three wire cable can't be two blacks.

One of the neutrals in this box was pigtailed with – I think – two black wires and hot. I think it might have been the neutral on the 14/3 to the center 3 way switch. Can't be a neutral if connected to hot.

I'll try going thru it again.

 
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Old 12-15-17, 12:47 PM
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ya, I do have a mess. I am trying to figure out how to communicate it better. So we are really just talking about three switches. Far right is fine, middle is porch lights, left is exterior.

The porch should be easy but I can't figure it out. You're correct, its not 2 black 1 red. The black conductor at the second switch is actually white but its got something black on it, which was then coated with overspray. Honestly I can't tell if it was white or black but its zero resistance to the neutral coming at the box in question, as are the travelers, so it seems to be an uninterupted 14/3.

Problem solved right? Line and load at one switch, weird because the common connection is black at that box and neutral at the main box but whatever, I mentioned in the first post a white being pigtailed with two blacks. So I wired it as such:

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Turn on power, common is hot, 120v at one traveler and 80v at the other. Obviously wrong, flip the switch with predictable results,. So I don't get it. If i understood wiring better I suspect the voltage drop at the 2nd traveler would clue me into what's wrong but I don't.

If I could figure out the porch, which should be easy, then the timer circuits would be easier. Pretty sure line for those is outside somewhere, so perhaps porch is too?

All loads are identified - exterior lights 14/2 at timer, porch is 14/2 #2 at 3-game box. Travelers are identified, 14/3 to timer and the 14/3 to the 2nd 3 way porch switch.

The 14/2 (#1) is identified (goes to the other timer for exterior outlets), but we don't know why its there.

14/2 (#3) is a total mystery. 5.1 ohms between the two conductors but no idea whats on it. Also, where is the second 15A breaker go? If power is at the lights/outlets, then this cable has to carry it right? If so, perhaps it powers the porch? Would explain why the above didn't work.

I guess this is where we are at now:

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Perhaps I need to admit defeat and call in a pro... merry xmas, guess I shouldn't have deleted that pic
 
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Old 12-15-17, 03:54 PM
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I'm looking over the info again. See if I can come up with a plan.
 
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Old 12-15-17, 05:29 PM
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Thanks, i appreciate it

If it helps, the timer has examples of wiring for that circuit. Keep in mind that we are pretty sure that the line is not at the switch, that the far left switch is two-way. One of those two was backstabbed with a second conductor, I think it was the two-way on circuit with the timer.

The 14/2 from the second timer is a clue as well. Wtf are those doing there?

And the 5 ohm 14/2... where does it go?

*edit - timer instructions


lol sorry man, I do appreciate the help. This box is absurd and I am beyond frustrated with it. Once I figure out the wiring I still need to figure out how to put it on z-wave control, if I could figure out how I would just bypass it all anyway.
 

Last edited by sk000tch; 12-15-17 at 05:30 PM. Reason: forgot link to timer instructions
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Old 12-18-17, 12:27 PM
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alight well guess nobody has any idea either, makes me feel better. If there is someway I can diagram this out to help make more sense let me know, otherwise seems like its time for a pro
 
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