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Replaced 2 receptacles, now other switched receptacles are constantly hot

Replaced 2 receptacles, now other switched receptacles are constantly hot

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  #1  
Old 12-06-18, 04:14 PM
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Replaced 2 receptacles, now other switched receptacles are constantly hot

Hi All, I知 new to the forum so thanks for your time and patience in advance! I値l try to keep this as simple and concise as possible. House was built in 1983 in Santa Cruz, Ca.

Long story short, I changed two receptacles and now a different receptacle that I didn稚 even touch and that was half controlled by a switch is always hot (the switch does nothing).

I thought I was dealing with a 的 forgot to break off the tab problem but turns out it痴 not as simple as that.

Here痴 what I did: (I知 going to be as candid as possible so just know I致e already learned from my mistakes!)

-changed two receptacles in an upstairs bedroom but I didnt break the tab on the hot sides for two reasons:
1- I was stupid
2- I was under the impression these receptacles were not connected to the light switch. This is the part where my mind is spinning, more on that to follow.
- so then I flipped the breaker back on to check my work, went back up to the bedroom and none of the receptacles worked (the 2 new ones I put in plus two old ones I hadn稚 touched yet)
- thought maybe a wire was loose so I pulled everything out to check, everything looked good so I went back to the breaker.
-the breaker was off so I figured that was my first red flag. In hindsight, I should have stopped right there but I didn稚. Lesson learned. Moving on.
-flipped the breaker back on for a second try and there was a big spark that came out of the breaker box with an equally scary audible POOF/POP. So...I knew I screwed up at that point.
-I naively concluded that I had accidentally switched a wire so I went back up, switched a black wire with a red wire, and gave it another go.
- grabbed a fire extinguisher, flipped the breaker again and everything seemed normal, receptacles were working so I thought the problem was solved!
-Then I discovered that a different receptacle in the room that was half controlled by a switch was constantly hot. The confusing part is that I didn稚 touch that receptacle, ever. (At this point I知 hoping one of you angels out there is reading this, laughing at my stupidity and has a theory, if not a solution to fix my problem!)
- So then I went to University of Google and realized I forgot to break off the hot side tab. So I went back and broke the two off the new ones I put in, but that other receptacle I didn稚 touch is still constantly hot.
-and this, my friends, is where I知 lost.

You池e probably wondering about wires:
one receptacle has 2 white, a red, a black and a ground (this is the one I switched red/black after the spark/poof)
the receptacle that should be controlled by the switch has the same wiring as above.
the other receptacle had one white, one red and one black
the switch has a white going in and a black going out, plus a loose ground hanging out it the back.

Let let me know what info I知 leaving out and I値l answer questions or post pics tonight. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time, truly appreciate it.
 
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  #2  
Old 12-06-18, 05:15 PM
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When you install a new receptacle where one half of the receptacle is switched, you have to remove the bridge between the two brass (black wire red wire screws)

It is just a little piece of sheet metal that connects the two outlets together and if you grab it with a plier (needle nose may be required) but I think a linesman or a side cutter and bend it back and forth... it should release. Or cut it and bend the halves apart. (It has been a while)

Let us know it that helps.

Cheers!
 
  #3  
Old 12-06-18, 05:15 PM
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Welcome to the forums.

It's not always easy to follow text in diagnosing a problem.
IF either receptacle that had red and black wires on it was NOT switched originally...... then it could be a MWBC which is wiring where two circuits share a neutral. The two circuits would be red and white and black and white. Not removing the bridging clip on the brass side would be a direct short.

Do you have conduit there ?
If you have two whites, a red and a black.... then either you have conduit or that is not all the wires in the box. A cable would be red, black and white. To have two whites..... there would have to be two cables.

Switching red and black on the brass side of the receptacle will do nothing.... not even a short.
It sounds like you opened up slices inside the box.
 
  #4  
Old 12-06-18, 05:19 PM
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYinqtVDNcA

At about 2:00

Cheers,

Tell your friends, you learned something new today.... Time for a beer and a cigar!
 
  #5  
Old 12-06-18, 05:44 PM
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It's more than "breaking a tab" off. The tab left on won't cause a short. The OP has a red and black wire on the receptacle but no red wire at the switch. There is more going on than the tab.
 
  #6  
Old 12-06-18, 05:56 PM
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I fired from the hip... and missed.

Perhaps, I should have just left this one to the experts.

I shot from the hip before reading all the details and by the time I replied Pjmax did a much better job than I.

Alright, So you know about the connector tab. BTW, you only want to remove that when you want to split the two receptacles (one receptacle for always on and the other for switched receptacle [like for a light])

It is common for the receptacles in a room to daisy chain from one to another so that is why you will see two blacks and two white wires at a receptacle box. One black white set brings the power and ground into the box and the other b/w set goes off to the next box. The power and neutral for the next box flows through that tab, get it? The last box in that circuit usually only has the single pair of wires b/w going in to electrify that last outlet.

If you are going to switch a receptacle, you will run a third conductor (usually RED) [or use three wire romex that has a black, red, white, and a bare conductor for ground (green).

Sometimes due to the layout of the room, the rough in schematic has the red wire (the switch leg) pass through a box or a few, without being connected in that particular box, until it gets where something needs to be switched. Think of it like being on the freeway and you pass exits that are not where you need to go. Keep in mind that red is not a requirement for a switch leg and many times a switch leg is just a black with a white and a bare (or green, for ground). Other times red and black conductors are used for three way/four way switch wiring... but I am getting off on a tangent.

What Pjmax was saying is that if you connected everything the way it was (and likely you did) and now you are having a breaker tripping, that perhaps you skinned a wire's insulation and now it is shorted to ground or neutral.

When wiring is in conduit pipe, sometimes there is a sharp edge where the pipe was cut, and tugging around can work a cut into the insulation, creating a short circuit. The short circuit to ground is what causes the breaker to trip (or a fuse to blow in antique homes)
The other probably scenario is when pushing everything back in the box, you inadvertently either skinned some insulation or even have the hot terminals up against a grounded metal box. It could happen to the best of us...

Continued.
 
  #7  
Old 12-06-18, 06:26 PM
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Thanks so much for the quick replies.

To clarify, I do now have power in all receptacles. The problem is that the switch no longer works. One of the receptacles is supposed to be switched but it痴 all hot.

I don稚 have conduit but there are two cables running into the box (14/3 maybe??). I believe the reds and blacks are pigtailed together but I値l have to confirm that later when I get home.
 
  #8  
Old 12-06-18, 09:06 PM
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So, to proceed from here, I would shut off the breaker and test to make sure the power is off. Safety first.

Then, un-mount all the receptacles where you were working but do not disconnect them. Just gently pull them out and free of the boxes.

Try the breaker, see if it pops.'

NOTE: you mentioned having the fire extinguisher handy. Good and reasonable thought BUT, an electrical fire will likely extinguish itself once the electricity is turned off as none of the components should continue to burn once a source of heat is removed.

The concern is getting a severe shock at that is greatly reduced by not touching things.

If your breaker sustains without tripping, try a switch,... or shut off the breaker and plug a few lamps into the outlets, see how that works. shut off the breaker and try the remaining outlets,,
 
  #9  
Old 12-06-18, 09:12 PM
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Sorry, I got a phone call and then dinner.

So now we understand that at this time all the outlets are hot all the time and the breaker does not trip.

How many switches and how many outlets are to be switched?

Is it one switch in a bedroom and a 1/2 outlet or two are supposed to be operated by the switch?
 
  #10  
Old 12-06-18, 11:06 PM
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Thanks again. There is one switch in the bedroom. 4 receptacles total. I was under the impression only 1/2 of one receptacle was controlled by the switch but I honestly can稚 be sure now.
 
  #11  
Old 12-07-18, 07:16 AM
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That is typical of the *original wiring....

Now we need to find out what you have now.
So just do a quick test of all the outlets and see it they all work.
You can use a lamp or better a multimeter set to AC voltage and check to AC voltage.
Test by either plug in a lamp or with a meter by measurement from the RH pole (the power or Black wire) to the LH pole that is the neutral, should read about 115 volts. The RH pole and the bottom center should also read about 115volts. And last test, the LH pole (the white neutral) and the bottom center that is the ground (bare or green) that one should read very near zero or a few milivolts.

No need to record or post anything unless you either have an abnormally dim or flickering bulb (lamp test) or if using a meter, just check that the RH to LH (power to neuetral) are all about the save 109 to 121 volts AC AND that the Power to Ground test is about the same.

This is a little more testing than I or someone might do if they were there, but as Pjmax said, troubleshooting this in words gets a little complicated.
 
  #12  
Old 12-07-18, 10:20 AM
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Ok so I did the lamp test and all outlets seem to be working fine. No difference found in brightness on any of the receptacles. My neighbor has a multimeter so I値l try to use that tonight to get some numbers.

If all the tabs are broken and all the receptacles work, what could be the cause for the switch not working anymore?
 
  #13  
Old 12-07-18, 12:12 PM
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One of the new tabs is not completely broken. Have you tried putting the old receptacles back?
 
  #14  
Old 12-07-18, 01:24 PM
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No I haven稚 tried that yet but I did keep them so I値l give that a try tonight
 
  #15  
Old 12-07-18, 03:56 PM
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Quote:
If all the tabs are broken and all the receptacles work, what could be the cause for the switch not working anymore?


What I find odd, is that with all of the tabs removed, that all of the outlets are still working. You should have only removed the one tab on the RH side as you look at it from the face, of only one outlet, the one that was supposed to be switched.

And, when you turn off the one breaker, all of those same outlets are de-energized? Meaning they are all being fed off the same circuit?
I would think that the one outlet feed the next outlet, and with multiple tabs removed, that should not be happening as you have opened the circuit.....

I'm stumped.

Look in that location that is supposed to be switched. De mount the outlet and take a picture so we can see the wiring in there/

Doubtful you need to borrow a meter and test voltages if the lamp worked ok in all eight receptacles.
(top and bottom of all 4x outlets)
 
  #16  
Old 12-07-18, 04:17 PM
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You should have only removed the one tab on the RH side
Correct nomenclature is brass side. Receptacles can be installed in multiple orientations so no left or right side.
 
  #17  
Old 12-07-18, 04:58 PM
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Let's make this simple for the non-electrician. It might help if you sketch this on scratch paper so you understand how the circuits work. You've got two circuit legs here on your outlets. One is fed by the black wire and it goes straight to the breaker. The outlets connected to that black wire and the white neutral are hot all the time the breaker is ON. The black wire also goes to one terminal of the wall switch. The other terminal of that switch has the red wire on it (or should have) and goes to one terminal on any outlet that you want to switch on and off from that switch. If you have "split" outlets (one of the duplex openings always hot and one switched), there would be a red wire on the brass terminal of the switched side and a black on the "always hot" brass side -- but the tab between MUST be removed or you are just bypassing the switch control for the entire red wire run,

Both the red switch leg and the black un-switched circuit share the neutral at any point so the white wire is common to both and only needs to be connected to one of the silver terminals. BUT (and this is important) all of the white wires at any of the outlets CAN NOT be daisy-chained through the outlet terminals. In other words, there should NOT be a white wire on both the silver terminals. The white wires coming into the back boxes that the outlets are in have to be wire-nutted together with a 6" white short pigtail that goes to one of the silver (neutral) terminals on the outlet. This is per the National Electrical Code -- maintaining continuity of the neutral at any device cannot go through the device itself, it has to bypass it so if the outlet fails the downstream neutrals are intact. If you daisy-chained the neutral on any of the outlets you need to removed them and add the pigtail connection.

If at any point in the installation you wire-nutted the black and red together OR if any of the outlets have a red AND a black attached to the brass terminals without the tab between them broken off, you have connected the switch leg and main circuit back together and bypassed the switch.

It is situations like this that make us electricians upset when homeowners try to mess with their own wiring. You're creating problems that could lead to electrocution or fire. This is particularly concerning because switched outlets are most often found in bedrooms (where code allows them to replace overhead lighting.) And that is the LAST room where you want an electrical hazard or fire. Considering your confusion about how something as simple as switched outlet works, I humbly suggest that you refrain from doing electrical work on your house and consult a professional.

While we are at it, you are supposed to have AFCI (arc fault circuit interrupter) outlets in bedrooms per current code.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arc-fa...it_interrupter
 
  #18  
Old 12-07-18, 06:49 PM
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Yes, of course they can be installed in any orientation.... The brass side
 
  #19  
Old 12-07-18, 07:19 PM
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The other terminal of that switch has the red wire on it (or should have)
The OP has told us that he has a white and black wire on the switch. That tells us that he has a switch loop.

A lot of static would have been eliminated if pictures were posted.

OP:
one receptacle has 2 white, a red, a black and a ground (this is the one I switched red/black after the spark/poof)
There is another black here that you failed to mention.
Ok..... since we are working with a switch loop....... one of those white wires IS the switch loop white.
So..... the white from the three wire cable goes on the silver/neutral side.
The black wire from the two wire cable goes on a brass screw along with the hot wire* from the three wire cable.
The white from the two wire cable goes to the other brass screw along with the non hot wire* from the three wire cable.

* measure the red and black wires from the three wire cable to ground. ONE will be hot. The other will not.

In my diagram..... I assume black is hot in and red is switched out. You need to confirm.
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Bridge clip removed from brass side.
 

Last edited by PJmax; 12-07-18 at 07:36 PM.
  #20  
Old Today, 09:08 AM
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Ladies and gentlemen, I知 pleased to announce that the problem has been solved! I replaced the old receptacles back and everything was working so I figured something was wrong with the new ones and the way I cut the tabs. Grabbed two new receptacles and cut those tabs on the hot side, put them in a presto, we池e in business.

Lookin at the 吐aulty new receptacles, those tabs look awfully cut and separated to me but I guess I did something to screw that up. Anyways, looks like we池e all good here.

I truly appreciate everyone痴 time and expertise here. Much appreciated. If/when you find yourself in Santa Cruz, Ca, the next round is on me!

cheers
 
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