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Thread: Oh where, oh where does that circuit go?

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    DIY Junior Member bmaker's Avatar
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    Default Oh where, oh where does that circuit go?

    Doing a bit of remodeling on my daughter's kitchen. They have a switch on the wall that doesn't seem to control anything, although I can tell it is wired up to a hot circuit. I've checked all the outlets and lights in the immediate vicinity, even the garage and outdoors. Is there an electrician's trick to chasing down a circuit short of tearing out the wall and physically following the wire?

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    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    Look for an outlet in the room where ONE of the plugs is controlled by the switch. This is a code requirement if there is not a ceiling light in the room. POSSIBLE PROBLEM: l over the years, if that particular outlet was replaced, someone may have failed to wire it back so it is controlled by the switch.

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    DIYer, not in the trades LLigetfa's Avatar
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    I have a circuit tracer that can follow wires inside walls, even inside EMT but it is not something the average DIYer would have.

    You might be able to generate a noise that an AM radio can pick up and use the radio to follow the wire.

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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    In a kitchen, that switch could control something like a garbage disposal. It might go to an outlet under the sink, but it could go lots of places.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    DIYer, not in the trades LLigetfa's Avatar
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    Is it in a ganged box with other switches? If so, what are the other switches for? A ceiling fan may have been wired with an extra conductor for a light but the light never broken out to its own switch. See if the wire in the box is 3 conductor and if so where the other conductor goes. I wire my ceiling fans with 3 conductor JIC I decide to have a lamp as well. I hate when they are wired common with the fan and need to use the pull chain.

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    Electrician ActionDave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bmaker View Post
    Is there an electrician's trick to chasing down a circuit short of tearing out the wall and physically following the wire?
    Kill the power to it and go home....wait for the call, "My xxxx is not working."

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    DIY Junior Member bmaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimbo View Post
    Look for an outlet in the room where ONE of the plugs is controlled by the switch. This is a code requirement if there is not a ceiling light in the room. POSSIBLE PROBLEM: l over the years, if that particular outlet was replaced, someone may have failed to wire it back so it is controlled by the switch.
    I checked some of the duplex outlets but maybe not all. Will try that.

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    DIY Junior Member bmaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LLigetfa View Post
    Is it in a ganged box with other switches? If so, what are the other switches for? A ceiling fan may have been wired with an extra conductor for a light but the light never broken out to its own switch. See if the wire in the box is 3 conductor and if so where the other conductor goes. I wire my ceiling fans with 3 conductor JIC I decide to have a lamp as well. I hate when they are wired common with the fan and need to use the pull chain.
    There is a ceiling light but not a fan. Perhaps there used to be. Will check out this option.

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    DIY Junior Member bmaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jadnashua View Post
    In a kitchen, that switch could control something like a garbage disposal. It might go to an outlet under the sink, but it could go lots of places.
    No garbage disposal but there was an in-counter blender thingy that we got rid of. I checked that circuit but alas it was fed from a different breaker.

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    DIY Junior Member bmaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ActionDave View Post
    Kill the power to it and go home....wait for the call, "My xxxx is not working."
    Hah! Best suggestion yet. I'll do that after trying the other ones above!

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    DIY Member teamo's Avatar
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    Dishwasher disconnect?

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    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    quote; No garbage disposal

    BUT, could there have been a circuit for one when the house was built? Unless it was in the 40s, it would have be de rigueur to install one.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

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    DIY Junior Member bmaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post

    BUT, could there have been a circuit for one when the house was built? Unless it was in the 40s, it would have be de rigueur to install one.
    Probably not, since the switch is over by the back door, several feet from the sink. The more I think about this, the more I'm thinking it must be either a switched outlet or a circuit in the garage. Will check next time I'm over there.

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    DIYer, not in the trades LLigetfa's Avatar
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    When I wired my home, I put two switches in the mud room for future consideration. The wires simply terminate down in the crawlspace for now. Eventually they will control outdoor lights.

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    IBEW Electrician big2bird's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bmaker View Post
    Probably not, since the switch is over by the back door, several feet from the sink. The more I think about this, the more I'm thinking it must be either a switched outlet or a circuit in the garage. Will check next time I'm over there.
    I used to install a switch by the back door for the garage door opener. "Vacation switch."

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