weird switch problem

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  #1  
Old 03-25-02, 07:59 AM
Mosey
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Unhappy weird switch problem

Iím no expert at house wiring, but I thought I understood the basics. Iím replacing a bathroom light with a light that has an exhaust fan. Thereís only one switch there now, so I needed to add a second switch to have one control the light and one control the fan. So, I started by adding another wire (I got lucky here and didnít have too much trouble running a new wire down from the attic to the box).

Before I even hooked up the new wire or installed the new light, I removed the existing switch and replaced it with a new switch that has 2 single pole switches that I found at Lowes. It fits in a single wide switch box and the switches flip sideways instead of up and down. So, I connected the wires that went to the old switch to one of the switches on the new switch. I connected the black (hot) wire to the hot side of the switch and the white wire (which will become a hot wire when the switch is turned on) to one of the switch terminals on the other side. I didnít connect the ground wire to anything yet. Simple right? When I turned the breaker back on, the light came on even though the switch was turned off! Flipping the switch back and forth made no difference. The light just stayed on all the time. I tried the other switch and the same thing. So, I took it off and put the old switch back on and it worked like it should.

So, I took the old switch back off and turned the breaker on. I used a volt meter to measure from the black wire to the box (metal) and it read 125V, like it should. I measured from the white wire to the box and it measured 0V, like it should. I put the new switch back in and the light stayed on all the time again. I called Lowes and they said theyíve never had anyone return a switch because it was bad and asked me to double check my wiring, so I did. But, I got the same results. I tried switching the wires so the white wire went to the hot side of the switch and that made no difference, so I switched it back and did some more measuring. From the ground on the switch to the box, it read 125V! That did not seem right to me. So, I took the switch off and did some measuring with and ohm-meter. I connected one lead of the ohm-meter to the hot side of the switch and the other to one of the switch terminals on the other side. When I turn the switch on, it goes to 0 ohms, like it should. When I turn the switch off, it goes to infinity, but not right away, it gradually goes up and takes 12 seconds to get to infinity. Also, there are no shorts between the ground and any of the terminals.

At this point, I determined that the new switch as acting strange and must be defective, so I put the old switch back in and forgot about it for a while and went and worked in the garage. But, it kept bugging me, so I took my garage light switch out and put the new switch in place of it. It worked perfectly!

I have a BSEE, but my expertise is with digital electronics, not house wiring and Iím stumped on this one!
 
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  #2  
Old 03-25-02, 08:54 AM
P
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You'll have to submit a more detailed description of the over-all wiring arrangement. Do you have two 2-wire cables between the fan/lite "combo" and the switch outlet-box? Where is the 2-wire "feed" located-in the switch-box or the ceiling? You mention a White wire that is "hot" when the switch is On.This describes a "dead-end" switch connection with the Black of the 2-wire switch lead connected in the ceiling to the Black of the 2-wire "feed" and the White of the 2-wire switch lead connected to either the fan or lite. Please reply-thanks!
 
  #3  
Old 03-25-02, 09:50 AM
Mosey
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Thanks. Iíll try to describe it better. Right now I still have the original light and am not doing anything with the new wire I ran to the box. All Iím trying to do right now is get the new switch to work in place of the original one. So, Iím only using 1 of the 2 single pole switches in the new switch (Eagle Electric 271W-BOX, ďCombination 2 Single Pole SwitchesĒ). I removed the original switch. I took the existing black wire and connected it to the side of the new switch where there is a breakout tab (which I did not break). Itís labeled ď+ LINE +Ē and the screw has a black coating on it. I connected the existing white wire to the other side of the switch on the bottom screw. It has no label and itís a bright brass colored screw. I did not connect anything to the other bright brass colored screw on the top of the same side or to the green colored screw in the middle of that side (which is connected to the metal part of the switch that attaches the switch to the box). I also tried connecting the white wire to the top screw on that side when it didnít work, but it made no difference.

The switch is breaking the hot side of the circuit. The ďwireĒ has 3 individual wires, 1 black, 1 white, and 1 bare, with another layer of black insulation going around all 3. The black one is hot all the time, so Iím assuming it goes back to the breaker box via a junction box. Iím also assuming the white one goes to the hot side of the light via the junction box. So, itís actually a hot wire once the switch is turned on, but itís white. Thatís what I meant by a white wire that is hot. The way I understand it, itís supposed to have been painted black on the ends but whoever wired the house didnít do that. The bare wire is connected to the metal switch box. The house was built in 1978, so all the boxes are metal. Iím also assuming the other side of the light has a white wire going back to the breaker box via the junction box. There is a ground fault protected outlet plug in this bathroom, but itís on a separate circuit. The original light switch is just a normal switch. Maybe the new switch I have is only supposed to be used in a ground fault protected circuit? Although, if thatís the case, it shouldnít have worked in the garage.

I went to Lowes today and bought another new switch just like this one, plus 2 others that are slightly different (they fit into a different type of switch plate and have rocker type switches). So, when I get home tonight Iíll see how these act.
 
  #4  
Old 03-25-02, 09:50 AM
FREDDYG_001
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Mosey, Email me at this address and i'll walk you through it. [email protected]




Fred
 
  #5  
Old 03-25-02, 11:37 AM
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Please don't take this discussion offline. I'd like to see how it turns out.

Taking discussions offline (unless they are way OT) is contrary to the spirit of a forum like this.
 
  #6  
Old 03-25-02, 12:57 PM
Mosey
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That's true. I'll post how this turns out so others can benefit.
 
  #7  
Old 03-25-02, 05:59 PM
FREDDYG_001
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mikewu99, My apologies for taking it offline. I work with so many individuals one on one with electrical problems that I assumed to early with this person. I've already contacted the poster to bring problem back to the forum.





Fred
 
  #8  
Old 03-25-02, 09:32 PM
FREDDYG_001
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Mosey, If your feed enters into the switch box the black(hot)wire connects to the screw terminal with the brass jumper tab. The second and third black (switch legs) wires will connect to the two brass screws, you determine which switch will control the fan and light. Take one of the white(neutral)wires in the switch box and connect it to the white(neutral) wire from your feed. Connect the other end to the two white(neutral)wires at the light/fan fixture. The other white wire you won't need so install wire nuts on both ends and push it back in the box. You said the switch box was metal, if so there should be a green ground screw inside the box, if not you'll need to install one. Their should be a tap in the back of box for this screw, (if not use a green ground clip). Take a section of the ground wire and wrap it around ground screw in the box. Use a greenie(green wire nut with hole in the top) to connect all three ground wires together. Have at least six inches of one of the ground wires protruding through the hole of greenie. Connect the other end around the green ground screw on the switch. Use a greenie at the light/fan fixture and connect ground wire to ground to screw. If your feed enters at the light/fan fixture, then connect one of the white wires(Re-dedicated with a small piece of black electrical tape on both ends of the wire)to the black(hot)wire at the light/fan fixture. Connect the other end of the wire to the screw terminal with the brass jumper tab. The two black(switch legs)wires connect to the same two brass screws, the second white wire you won't need so just install wires nuts at both ends of the wire and push it back in the box. The two white(neutral) wires for the light and fan connect to the white(neutral)wire from your feed. Connect all grounds as I mentioned early. Post back if you have any other qusetions.




Fred
 
  #9  
Old 03-26-02, 05:52 AM
Mosey
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Thanks. I'll have to read through your description carefully and draw a picture as I go. I've attached a picture of what I have now.
 
  #10  
Old 03-26-02, 05:54 AM
Mosey
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Let me try the attachment again!

It didn't work again. How do I attach a file? I tried the "Browse" button next to "Attach file", but it didn't show up. I'm trying to attach a .jpg file.

I just noticed is says "Maximum size: 1 bytes", so maybe I don't have the right type of account to post attachments? It does say "You may post attachments" under "Forum Rules" on my screen.
 

Last edited by Mosey; 03-26-02 at 07:32 AM.
  #11  
Old 03-27-02, 05:17 AM
Mosey
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On the way home yesterday I went to the nearest Ace Hardware and was going to buy one of their switches so I could try a different brand. They had one that looked just like the first one I bought at Lowes, except it was in an ďAce HardwareĒ package. It was priced at $8. I was standing in the checkout lane and looked at it closer. It looked real familiar. Sure enough, it has the name ďEagleĒ on it. So, I looked at it even closer and itís the same exact switch I bought at Lowes for $6! Itís just in an Ace package and priced higher. No wonder Lowes is putting these places out of business! I didnít buy it.

So, when I got home I took one of the new switches I bought at Lowes on Monday, the ďDecoratorĒ one with rocker switches instead of toggle switches, and hooked it up. Itís all plastic and has no ground connection. It worked! So, I thought, ah-hah, I canít use the type with the ground connection. But, I took the other new switches I bought at Lowes on Monday and hooked each one up, and they worked too. I left the last one in, which was the same type as the first one I bought at Lowes, and thatís the one Iíll keep (it was cheaper than the rocker type and I liked it better anyway). I measured from the ground on the switch to the box and there is 0V, not 125V like the other one had. So, the first new switch I bought is bad. The guy at Lowes says heís never had anyone return a switch because it was bad before. Just my luck, I got the only bad switch Lowes ever had!

Thanks for your help. Itís still a mystery why the bad switch worked in the garage. It must be some intermittent short or something.
 
  #12  
Old 03-27-02, 07:52 AM
FREDDYG_001
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Moser, As long as everything is wired properly you should not have any problems. If you do, post back.



GoodLuck!
Fred
 
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