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Thread: Switch Wiring Nightmare Pictures

  1. #1

    Default Switch Wiring Nightmare Pictures

    The other night my girlfriend and I were trying to find a switched outlet in the bedroom of her new apartment, and upon being unsuccessful, I decided to take the cover off and have a looksee. I knew there was no point in having a switch if it wasn't going to control something. When I took the switch out, I was amazed to see this:

    I don't know how they ever thought this was the right way, but for obvious reasons I don't like it. I don't know where the neutral goes and on top of that, I tested the feed and know it has power.


    After that I moved onto the switch in the kitchen and found more of the same:

    This switch appears to have had a little arc blast damage (hard to see in picture) and has no ground. It however does control the ceiling fan.


    Disgusted I checked the living room switch and found this:

    It doesn't do anything as far as I can tell and I'm not sure what the two-way is doing in there with the red traveler.

    ****
    If there were wires coming in and going out, I could see an inept person just hooking up a new switch wrong. But this is just totally wrong. Short of rewiring the entire apartment and probably the entire building, I see no way to bring this up to code.

    I have not talked to the maintenance person, but I don't think they would be very receptive to that. My thing is that I think she and everybody else has the right not to die in a fire caused by their faulty wiring. They have the obligation to not let that happen. If it came down to it, how would one see that this gets fixed if the building owner doesn't see the need? Go to the city and inform them of the need to send an inspector out there?

  2. #2
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    What you are seeing is fairly common. It was easier to run power up to the controlled fixture (light, or whatever), then just run that hot down to the switch. Now, if they did it right, they'd mark the switched wire with a red band of tape to indicate it was switched. So, all the switch is doing is breaking the hot, it's just that it is feeding hot back to the switched thing on (probably) the white wire. red on a single pole switch just normally indicates it is switched, not that it is a 3-way, and is also normal.

    On a single pole switch, it doesn't matter which power lead goes where (just as long as you don't hook it to the ground lug!).
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  3. #3

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    Looks basically safe to me.

    I would have more firmly attached the ground wires to the metal boxs with a screw. Or these days use a pigtail because the switch would also have a ground connection (but mostly use plastic boxes, so pigtail is not necessary).

    The boxes could have been mounted a little further out and the drywall guys could have done a better job. I know I would have been yelled at if I did drywall work like that!

  4. #4

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    Dude. You know just enough to be dangerous.


    Quit trying to impress your GF and put that stuff back together and call the management to see why your switched outlet doesn't work.

    Test both halves of each outlet to see if it's switched. If not, someone replaced an outlet without breaking out the tab on the hot side. The electrician will look for wiring in a recep box the has a white tied to blacks, likely the closest one to the switch.

    1st sw. White is hot, black sw leg. Very common installation. Ground is not terminated properly but could be worse.

    2nd sw. Bottom terminal looks burned. Can't tell why

    3rd pic. No travelers here. It's a SP sw. Black wire hot, red wire sw leg.

    I think she and everybody else has the right not to die in a fire caused by their faulty wiring.
    So leave it alone because you are obviouly not qualified to be screwing with it.

  5. #5

    Default

    Looks ok to me. However you have a switched outlet somewhere. Probably someone forgot to break off the tab at the outlet, that's why the switch doesn't do anything. If this is the case both sides of the switch are hot all the time. (Turn the switch off and check voltage to ground on both sides) If this is so your best bet is to start by looking at the outlet closest to the switch and see if the switch wires terminate there. You are looking for 1 romex that is wired to both outlets on the duplex receptacle on the hot side. When you find it just break the tab between the two outlets on the duplex receptacle and you should be good to go.

    FYI working on electrical in an apartment is really a bad idea unless your licensed and insured. Its not your place, others live there and there is always the potential for fire as you pointed out. You DO NOT want to be the last person to touch it in the event something goes wrong.

  6. #6

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    I realized exactly what you all posted right after I started the thread and looked back at the pictures. I never wire switches that way and have never seen them that way. I always wire in a line and a load with separate romex cables.

    I'm not an electrician and I don't pretend to be one. If something is over my head I don't touch it and I'll have my electrician brother do it. As for this, I know better than to mess with commercial and apartment stuff. I was just looking for some insight into what I now realize is totally normal. Not every DIY'er thinks they have no limits.

  7. #7
    In the Trades brownizs's Avatar
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    Again, nothing wrong with the 3 pic's, and messing with a Rental property that you do not have interest or ownership in, can get you in trouble.

  8. #8

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    I know better than to mess with commercial and apartment stuff. I was just looking for some insight into what I now realize is totally normal
    You are a smart guy and I am impressed. A lot of people get really defensive in situations like this. Good job !

  9. #9
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default colors

    Initially you fell into the same mindset that the bomb defusers on TV do, namely that the red wire is always the critical one. But you got hung up on the white always being the neutral, when in fact it can be whatever the installer wanted it to be, neutral, switched hot, traveler, etc. You have to check its purpose before deciding whether it is wrong or not.

  10. #10
    DIY Hillbilly Southern Man's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 220/221 View Post
    Dude. You know just enough to be dangerous.


    Quit trying to impress your GF and put that stuff back together and call the management to see why your switched outlet doesn't work.

    Test both halves of each outlet to see if it's switched. If not, someone replaced an outlet without breaking out the tab on the hot side. The electrician will look for wiring in a recep box the has a white tied to blacks, likely the closest one to the switch.

    1st sw. White is hot, black sw leg. Very common installation. Ground is not terminated properly but could be worse.

    2nd sw. Bottom terminal looks burned. Can't tell why

    3rd pic. No travelers here. It's a SP sw. Black wire hot, red wire sw leg.



    So leave it alone because you are obviouly not qualified to be screwing with it.
    Not very helpful in a DIY forum. Stop trying to impress yourself.

  11. #11
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default impress?

    Not very helpful in a DIY forum.

    Why not? The poster's original premises were incorrect and he was casting aspersions on the person who had originally installed it even though the installation was correct. If he had done a proper analysis in the first place he would not have started taking other switches apart, willy nilly, and then assumed that they were also incorrect according to his faulty interpretation of what he found.

  12. #12

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    Not very helpful in a DIY forum.
    Did you read what I wrote?

    I told him to leave it alone. Good advice.

    I told him how to check for the switched outlet and how his apartments switches were wired.



    A lot of people get really defensive in situations like this.
    Congratulations. You are that guy

  13. #13
    Electrical Contractor jbfan74's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Southern Man View Post
    Not very helpful in a DIY forum. Stop trying to impress yourself.
    I don't ALWAYS agree with 220/221, but in this case he is dead on.
    Just my nickles worth!
    Yes I am A Pirate-Jimmy Buffett

  14. #14
    DIY Hillbilly Southern Man's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 220/221 View Post
    Did you read what I wrote?

    I told him to leave it alone. Good advice.

    I told him how to check for the switched outlet and how his apartments switches were wired.





    Congratulations. You are that guy
    Pot, meet kettle. My comment was directed at your insults to the guy: "Dude. You know just enough to be dangerous....Quit trying to impress your GF..." This totally distracts from any value that your advice would otherwise give.

  15. #15
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    quote; My comment was directed at your insults to the guy: "Dude. You know just enough to be dangerous....Quit trying to impress your GF..."

    I thought he was being very generous. Many would have stopped at the above quote and told him to call an electrician who knew what he was doing. Instead he tried to correct the bad diagnosis, and in so doing, he had to assume the poster would be able to follow his logic and directions, which does not always happen. Sometimes you need to use a 2x4 to get someone's attention.

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