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#1
08-24-19, 01:39 PM
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I guess my understanding of electrical circuits is quite deficient. I installed two pendant lights, from the attic, and have them wired to a new switch, The new switch has the cable from the light closest to it connected to it (the switch), and a another cable connected to it which will supply the power once I get that cable connected, i.e. spliced to, a line in the attic that is a live line.

I have a line sensor (Commercial Electric brand, model MS8907H). In the attic, I see 3 lines going down into a column (about 18" x 20" dimensions) next to the kitchen. This column has 3 switches on it. One - the left of 3 switches - is a 2-way/3-way switch turns on/off a chandelier light in a foyer; that light can also be turned on/off with two other switches. The cable I see connected to that switch (in the column) is a round and black. The middle switch is a standard single-function switch which is connected to an outlet [this allows turning a lamp, or other device, plugged into the outlet on/off]. The right switch turns a ceiling light on/off.

Let's ignore the left switch mentioned above since it is obviously a special case. My confusion then, regarding the middle and right switch on the column, is that I only see one cable per switch going down into the column. My electrician-deficient brain thinks those switches would require two cables each, one cable supplying power to the switch and one cable supplying power from the switch to the outlet/fixture. So, how the heck can a switch control an outlet or fixture if it only has one cable connected to it?

The other part of my confusion is that my electrical sensor (Commercial Electric brand, model MS8907H) detects power present in the lines leading to the outlet and the light fixture when I know the switches are turned off.

I have attached a photo of the lines I see going into the column from the attic and a photo of the 3-switch panel on the column.

#2
08-24-19, 03:50 PM
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Images don't work. 404 error.

Sounds like you might have switch loops. The power is at the light. Unswitched power goes to the switch on the white. Switched power goes back to the light on the black wire.
You can confirm this by opening the switch box to see if a black and white wire are connected to the switches.

Or it could be that the power feed comes in from the bottom and these are only the switch power and neutral to the lights.

#3
08-24-19, 05:29 PM
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OK, I removed the cover plate on the 3-switch panel shown in one of the photos and I see that a black and white wire is connected to the middle switch (controls an outlet) and the right switch (controls an existing ceiling light).

Edit: Oh, regarding the images, I'll take the other approach to post them here.

Last edited by dderolph; 08-24-19 at 05:48 PM. Reason: to insert images
#4
08-24-19, 05:55 PM
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I'm trying to post the images.

Attached Images
#5
08-24-19, 08:06 PM
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Black and white wire on the switch indicates a switch loop. Power is at the fixture.

#6
08-25-19, 10:08 AM
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As I continue thinking about this, I have been thinking I need to tap into a line coming from the main circuit box before the line has reached any other device (outlet, light, switch,etc.). While this might not be technically necessary, it should help alleviate confusion about potential connections. Does that make sense?

I just located 7 lines coming up into the attic; since I know they are directly above the main circuit box, which is in the garage (this home has no basement), I know I have 7 potential lines to tap into before they reach any device. I do not yet know where all these lines go since they are covered with loose insulation and I have to poke down into the insulation to follow the path of these electric lines. I have identified one line as supporting an outlet for the refrigerator. Apparently, the refrigerator is the only thing on this line; the notation on the door of the main circuit box simply says "Refrig" for one of the breakers. That breaker is 20 Amps. How does this sound?

#7
08-25-19, 10:46 AM
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If it is refrigerator only it could be used.
The problem is that since it's on a 20A breaker.... all your wiring needs to be #12.

Isn't there a pull chain light in the attic ?

#8
08-25-19, 11:46 AM
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I already have #14 wiring (what I bought for the new lights). So, to use my #`14 wiring - can't be returned since I've already cut it - and comply with the usual code, I'll need to identify a wire in the attic that is on a 15 AMP circuit, right?

I know, based on "mapping" marked on the main circuit box door, that at least one line going into the attic is 15 AMP; it's marked as supporting certain lights. So, I need to identify it.

#9
08-25-19, 12:50 PM
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I'll need to identify a wire in the attic that is on a 15 AMP circuit, right?
Yes......................... that is correct.

#10
08-25-19, 02:09 PM
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Well, trying to identify 15 amp wires and 20 amp wires becomes confusing again due to the situation in my attic. In other words, once the 7 wires enter the attic, tracing them is a bit of a nightmare. I was hopeful that the breaker and wire supporting refrigerator could be used, since that wire is fairly easy to identify.

But, since the existing configuration consists of a 20 amp circuit breaker and, apparently, a 12 gauge wire, I'm thinking about an alternative solution, which is replace the 20 amp breaker with a 15 amp breaker. I found a reference regarding my GE refrigerator; it indicates a 15 amp circuity is adequate (see reference ). Then, I could connect to that line with the 14 gauge wire that I have already connected to the new light fixtures.

Edit: Square-D-Homeline looks like a compatible breaker.

Last edited by dderolph; 08-25-19 at 02:22 PM. Reason: Added note about circuit breaker replacement model
#11
08-25-19, 02:20 PM
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Do you have somebody to work with you ?
Have them turn off one breaker at a time until you identify each cable.

#12
08-26-19, 02:09 PM
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You should not have lighting on the small appliance circuit .

#13
08-27-19, 12:15 PM
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You should not have lighting on the small appliance circuit
What would be the reasoning behind that?

#14
08-27-19, 01:04 PM
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Small appliance circuit is the kitchen counter receptacles. Code requires only receptacles. I did not see where this is a SA circuit.

#15
08-27-19, 01:20 PM
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I think that is correct, joed. This circuit has only one outlet, which is for the refrigerator. The kitchen has other outlets that can be used for small appliances; all those outlets are on a different circuit.

#16
08-27-19, 03:33 PM
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In Canada the refrigerator is required to be dedicated to fridge. I believe in the USA that receptacle being in the kitchen makes it an SA circuit and lighting is prohibited.

#17
08-27-19, 03:50 PM
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Well, I decided to go ahead and put the two pendant lights on the same circuit as the refrigerator after reading some comments on the web about the amperage needed for refrigerators and for lights (keep in mind I put LED lights only requiring 9.5 Watts each in the two light fixtures). The comments I were sensible comments about total amperage requirements and the very small impact of adding LED lights to the circuit.

Since I have already connected the two new lights to the refrigerator circuit (finished this yesterday), and due to the difficulty of working in the attic, alluded to in previous posts, I will closely monitor the lights and refrigerator for awhile. If I detect no issues, I will leave things as they are.

#18
08-27-19, 04:04 PM
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You will have no circuit overload problems with this. It is only a code violation problem.

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