Need some help on a double switch

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  #1  
Old 12-29-20, 03:25 PM
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Need some help on a double switch

Before consulting a pro I figured I'd look online, I'm no way a professional but I have done a lot of wiring myself and feel confident when doing so until I came across this today.

I'll do my best to explain it since a can't post a pic at this time.
We bought a house that was built in the 70s, all the rooms had these double switches installed where the top toggle would control light and bottom would control an outlet.

We decided we wanted to replace these with single toggles, I've done a lot of them as I said without issues and decided to work on one today and upon opening the box I find I have two romex cables in box instead of three. Looking at how things are connected I became concerned and confused.

Please bare with me on my terminology I may not be correct but the line in hot black is connected to a terminal, the other black wire is connected to same side terminal as hot, line in neutral is connected to opposite side terminal and the other white wire they have screwed to metal box. Grounds were to grounds.

what's confusing is that white wire, I've never seen this done before and I recon it's not correct and possibly very bad. However, how and the hell does this all work on a double switch?!?
Besides that, I'm confused as to how the one toggle works for the light when there isn't a third romex cable and the other toggle works for the outlets?!? Or what's going on here?!?
Sorry so long but to explain it like this is hard to do I just hope someone is able to help and explain it to me.
 
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Old 12-29-20, 03:48 PM
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Bad yes. A neutral should not be tied to a box. Since you mention metal box, is there conduit?

There are two kinds of duplex switches, one has a common side, usually with black screws, and these are tied together. The other type has independent switches, with the screws on opposite sides being switched with the respective switch. Normally they have 4 screws in total (5 counting ground). Sample pic...



I'm going to assume at this point you have the first option with a common side, as the pic above shows.

Have you verified that your "in" romex black is really hot? It sounds like the power is actually going to a light or outlet first and they used a romex to the switch to complete the circuit, with the "in" neutral actually being hot (and not marked with tape) back to the device. You'll need to go pull the outlet in question and/or the light and see if they tied hot to another romex (that you see as "in" in your switch box.)

What you didn't mention is that if the grounds are tied to the metal box too. Are they?

If this was really a bad day... maybe an apprentice was doing some work unsupervised....

 
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Old 12-29-20, 04:21 PM
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If this was really a bad day... maybe an apprentice was doing some work unsupervised....
Not likely an apprentice. More like a homeowner or handyman.

You had a switch loop there from the start. That would be just black and white on the switch.
Someone decided to add a switched device from there. They discovered there was no usable neutral so they used the ground as a neutral.

What ever is using the ground as neutral needs to go.
 
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Old 12-30-20, 12:52 AM
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I appreciate the replies, ill have to dig deeper and see what I can find out. When I said metal box I meant the switch is inside an old metal gang box. And yes the grounds are connected to the box also.
there is no metal conduit. Hey, I consider myself a homeowner/handyman and even I wouldn't have wired it up like this. I don't know who was in it and what they were trying to accomplish but it through me for a loopl!

 
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Old 12-30-20, 05:28 AM
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Hi, first take pics of all the splices and connections in the fixture and the receptacle , then at the switch determine if you have a constant feed there 120 volts between a black and white in the same cable, one cable should go to either the light fixture or receptacle , identify that ,report back what you find.
Geo🇺🇸
 
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Old 12-30-20, 10:46 AM
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Forum won't let me upload a pic from my phone for some reason. Gets to 50% then says something about security token was missing....
 
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Old 12-30-20, 12:07 PM
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Here's what i was talking about, there's two romex cables coming in from top, the right side i've determined is the source which i believe is from an outlet, the left side i am pretty sure runs to my ceiling fan. How you see it hooked up right there is how it was when i opened it up, if you look close you can see the left side white wire hooked to the metal box in the back. I don't know how it works but it does with this double switch. I wanted to change the double switch out for a single toggle b
But when I do that the ceiling fan does not light or run. So something is not right.
 

Last edited by PJmax; 12-30-20 at 12:32 PM. Reason: labeled picture
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Old 12-30-20, 12:37 PM
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I labeled your picture. Only the cable on the right was installed originally. It is a switchloop. The white wire carries always live IN to the switch. The black wire is switched back to the light. This is a perfectly acceptable situation BUT there is no neutral present.

No neutral means you cannot just tap in and add on.

Someone added the cable on the left. They needed a neutral so they connected white to the box... or ground. That is not only incorrect..... it's dangerous. What ever is connected on the left should be disconnected.

Also.... I see purple wire nuts and am fairly certain I see a bare aluminum wire.
Aluminum wiring needs to be handled differently from copper.
 
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Old 12-30-20, 01:33 PM
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Awesome how you labeled that, didn't know that could be done. Yea the source line is aluminum wiring.
so what's my options here ?
And for the alum too?


Oh and as far as the pic problem, I ended up shrinking the pic down to like 2-3mb. It was 18mb, as soon as I did that it accepted it.
 
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Old 12-30-20, 01:41 PM
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Not much as far as options.
Ground cannot be used as a neutral and with aluminum you have a double whammy.

That box should contain the original cable with a single pole switch in rated for aluminum wiring.
 
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Old 12-30-20, 03:13 PM
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Appreciate all the help guys, I was totally confused looking at that menagerie.

I don't even want to deal with the aluminum after reading up on it. Gonna need a whole house rewire, whats the average cost for that?!
 
 

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