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post #1 of 25 Old August 22nd, 2014, 03:16 PM Thread Starter
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Electrical question

Im at my fathers house trying to help him out with the house, it originally was an old farm house but over the years hes rebuilt, added on, and renovated half the house. So much of the old house was rigged together that the more you replace the more of a nightmare it becomes. To change one thing you have to change 3 others just to make it work. Hes working on relocating the bathroom now and we ran into a problem with the electrical. The basement door came up where hes moving the bathroom to, so he moved the basement door and had to rewire the light at the top of the stairs.

The issue he ran into is after wiring up the upper light and the switch for the basement lights is now when he flips the switch the upper light turns off and the lower lights turn on. The upper light has a pull string so he wants them both to function independently. Ive never worked with electricity really other than basic circuits in physics in high school 5 years ago and hes a mailman and has only learned what he knows from construction from the tinkering hes done around the house.

Heres how its wired up currently. The way its wired from my understanding I would think it that if the upstairs light were on, it would ignore the switch entirely and power both, but if the upstairs light were off then the switch would function normally. It boggles me that flipping the switch makes them alternate.



How would we wire the upstairs and lower basement lights up to function independently?
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post #2 of 25 Old August 22nd, 2014, 03:28 PM
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Take the switch leg out of the top light and hook it directly to the hot so only the pull chain would work it.

You should have 3 wires going to it. Black is usually hot, white is neutral and usually a red for your switch leg. You can take the red (switch leg) and hook it directly to the hot in the switch box so it has power all the time. It would not make contact with the switch at all.

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post #3 of 25 Old August 22nd, 2014, 03:36 PM
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Just to make sure, is this how you have the switch wired? The neutral should just pass through the switch box.



If you have this, take a constant hot from the line side of the switch to the pullstring light along with a neutral. Then take the switched hot to the lower light along with a neutral.

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post #4 of 25 Old August 22nd, 2014, 03:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GreenShift View Post
Im at my fathers house trying to help him out with the house, it originally was an old farm house but over the years hes rebuilt, added on, and renovated half the house. So much of the old house was rigged together that the more you replace the more of a nightmare it becomes. To change one thing you have to change 3 others just to make it work. Hes working on relocating the bathroom now and we ran into a problem with the electrical. The basement door came up where hes moving the bathroom to, so he moved the basement door and had to rewire the light at the top of the stairs.

The issue he ran into is after wiring up the upper light and the switch for the basement lights is now when he flips the switch the upper light turns off and the lower lights turn on. The upper light has a pull string so he wants them both to function independently. Ive never worked with electricity really other than basic circuits in physics in high school 5 years ago and hes a mailman and has only learned what he knows from construction from the tinkering hes done around the house.

Heres how its wired up currently. The way its wired from my understanding I would think it that if the upstairs light were on, it would ignore the switch entirely and power both, but if the upstairs light were off then the switch would function normally. It boggles me that flipping the switch makes them alternate.



How would we wire the upstairs and lower basement lights up to function independently?
To simplify, you have two lights that you want to control. One of them has a pull switch and the other will be controlled by a regular switch. Is that correct?

Your new junction box is incorrect and likely so is the old one. Depending on switch and light layout, you can have a white and black wire connected to a switch. But that would mean that your white wire is no longer a neutral wire, it's hot (usually happens when you have source->light->switch). But in your drawing you have that white wire (which should be colored black to clarify) connecting to what should be neutral wires. If those wires were actually neutral white wires, you would blow the breaker/fuse because you now have a short.

Assuming my initial paragraph is correct, here's how I would wire everything. I put red dots where you should have wire nuts.


*EDIT*
I didn't draw in the grounds. If the house has them, make sure you connect them.

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post #5 of 25 Old August 22nd, 2014, 03:43 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by TCStang View Post
Take the switch leg out of the top light and hook it directly to the hot so only the pull chain would work it.

You should have 3 wires going to it. Black is usually hot, white is neutral and usually a red for your switch leg. You can take the red (switch leg) and hook it directly to the hot in the switch box so it has power all the time. It would not make contact with the switch at all.
Ill give it a whirl. Electricity is simple in theory but this thing was boggling me how it was alternating.

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Just to make sure, is this how you have the switch wired? The neutral should just pass through the switch box.

Uh...no its not so Ill have to fix that..
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post #6 of 25 Old August 22nd, 2014, 03:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Silver GT View Post
Just to make sure, is this how you have the switch wired? The neutral should just pass through the switch box.



If you have this, take a constant hot from the line side of the switch to the pullstring light along with a neutral. Then take the switched hot to the lower light along with a neutral.
Since the OP is a beginner here (no offense) I think it should be clarified that the switch should only be wired like that if the switch is located between the source and the light. If the switch is at the end of the circuit, you will most likely have a white and black hooked to the switch.

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post #7 of 25 Old August 22nd, 2014, 03:50 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by 03SonicBoom View Post
To simplify, you have two lights that you want to control. One of them has a pull switch and the other will be controlled by a regular switch. Is that correct?

Your new junction box is incorrect and likely so is the old one. Depending on switch and light layout, you can have a white and black wire connected to a switch. But that would mean that your white wire is no longer a neutral wire, it's hot (usually happens when you have source->light->switch). But in your drawing you have that white wire (which should be colored black to clarify) connecting to what should be neutral wires. If those wires were actually neutral white wires, you would blow the breaker/fuse because you now have a short.

Assuming my initial paragraph is correct, here's how I would wire everything. I put red dots where you should have wire nuts.


*EDIT*
I didn't draw in the grounds. If the house has them, make sure you connect them.
Your first statement is correct. But the more I think about it, the more I think its not going to be possible without re-doing all the wiring down through that old junction box. The way its described in your diagram is the way I would do it but Id have to wade through the mass tangle of old wiring to do so, all while trying not to zap myself because none of the breakers are labeled so we dont know which one to turn off. My redwings are *supposto* block voltage but I still managed to get zapped twice so far. Not the most intelligent way to work I know but I dont want to turn off the whole house.
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post #8 of 25 Old August 22nd, 2014, 04:01 PM
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Originally Posted by GreenShift View Post
But the more I think about it, the more I think its not going to be possible without re-doing all the wiring down through that old junction box.
That's exactly what I would do. If you're already in there doing electric work, straighten up that old box while it's open.

First, I would draw out a diagram of how everything in the box is connected right now. That way if you cannot figure it out, you can always hook it back up the way it was. Then I would turn off all the breakers so there's no power anywhere. Then I would remove the wire nuts and separate the pairs of incoming/outgoing wires in the box. Then I would start to turn on breakers to find which pairs of wires are getting power from which breakers. After you flip a breaker, use a DMM to measure the voltage of each wire pair and see if it gave power to any of them. Once you find which wire set(s) are incoming power, you need to find where the outgoing wires are headed. So connect the power wires to each outgoing pair and start flipping switches to see what starts to work. They have tools that would simplify this, but all I have is a DMM so I make do with what I have.

Once you figure out where all the wires are headed, wire everything up in a clean and organized fashion.

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post #9 of 25 Old August 22nd, 2014, 04:05 PM
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The simplest fix is to figure out what wire in the light with the pull string is your switch leg. Find the other end of it in the switch box and tie it directly in to your constant hot before it even makes it to the switch. that light will then always be hot unless you use the pull string.

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post #10 of 25 Old August 22nd, 2014, 04:06 PM
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Why not flip breakers until you find the right one? Safer than what you are doing right now.
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post #11 of 25 Old August 22nd, 2014, 04:24 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 03SonicBoom View Post
That's exactly what I would do. If you're already in there doing electric work, straighten up that old box while it's open.

First, I would draw out a diagram of how everything in the box is connected right now. That way if you cannot figure it out, you can always hook it back up the way it was. Then I would turn off all the breakers so there's no power anywhere. Then I would remove the wire nuts and separate the pairs of incoming/outgoing wires in the box. Then I would start to turn on breakers to find which pairs of wires are getting power from which breakers. After you flip a breaker, use a DMM to measure the voltage of each wire pair and see if it gave power to any of them. Once you find which wire set(s) are incoming power, you need to find where the outgoing wires are headed. So connect the power wires to each outgoing pair and start flipping switches to see what starts to work. They have tools that would simplify this, but all I have is a DMM so I make do with what I have.

Once you figure out where all the wires are headed, wire everything up in a clean and organized fashion.
After looking at doing that uhh yeah... Im not sure about that. Figured out where everythings going it just looks like a mess. Ive been telling him just to have someone come and rewire the whole damn basement and get a bigger breaker box but its like talking to a wall. This is the mess of a junction.



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Originally Posted by TCStang View Post
The simplest fix is to figure out what wire in the light with the pull string is your switch leg. Find the other end of it in the switch box and tie it directly in to your constant hot before it even makes it to the switch. that light will then always be hot unless you use the pull string.
You lost me on that one..

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Why not flip breakers until you find the right one? Safer than what you are doing right now.
Their water softener is ancient and freaks out if it loses power. Nobody even knows how to program the thing, its old with dials and shit. Been trying to convince him to get a new one.
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post #12 of 25 Old August 22nd, 2014, 04:29 PM
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I'm an electrician. Call an electrician to fix it for you. No offense but if you don't know what you're doing when it comes to electricity then don't fuck with it. As for the flip the breakers till you find the right one? Thats fine if you're using a meter, but to just visually waiting for the light to turn off, is a horrible idea. I will not offer any advice, because I'm afraid of the worst. Thats just my opinion though.
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post #13 of 25 Old August 22nd, 2014, 04:34 PM
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Originally Posted by 1996 GT View Post
I'm an electrician. Call an electrician to fix it for you. No offense but if you don't know what you're doing when it comes to electricity then don't fuck with it. As for the flip the breakers till you find the right one? Thats fine if you're using a meter, but to just visually waiting for the light to turn off, is a horrible idea. I will not offer any advice, because I'm afraid of the worst. Thats just my opinion though.
I think this is a bit of over dramatization of it but do agree looking at the picture above it needs to all be cleaned up and done right which for you means call an electrician.

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post #14 of 25 Old August 22nd, 2014, 04:45 PM
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but to just visually waiting for the light to turn off, is a horrible idea.
How so? I will agree that using a meter is a better idea, but I would hardly say it's horrible. The only thing I see as horrible is that there's a possibility the bulb could burn out at the exact same time you flip the breaker. Baring that unlikely scenario, I don't see why it's any worse.

Here's what I've found about certified electricians, they like to be dramatic if you don't follow the by the book way of doing things. I've wired 2 houses (doing a 3rd once my parents break ground), they all pass inspection, and both got compliment from the inspectors on how good and clean of a job it was. I'm not going to say I'm an electrician because once you get past home wiring, I won't touch it. But home wiring is pretty basic and straight forward. This will make you flip out. You know how I test to make sure there's no power at the receptacle I'm working at after I flip the breaker? I take the neutral and quickly touch it to the hot. If there's no power it doesn't matter. If there is power, it trips whatever breaker it's on. Heaven forbid the ever so slight chance the breaker doesn't work right, that 1/4 second might be enough to make the wire start to get warm. Take it for what you want. I've yet to electrocute myself or burn anything down.

---------- Post added at 04:45 PM ---------- Previous post was at 04:39 PM ----------

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After looking at doing that uhh yeah... Im not sure about that. Figured out where everythings going it just looks like a mess. Ive been telling him just to have someone come and rewire the whole damn basement and get a bigger breaker box but its like talking to a wall. This is the mess of a junction.

Bottom line is that if you're dealing with the basement lights that are connected through that junction box, you're going to have to understand what's happening in the box. If you don't, it's just a crap shoot and you'll never get it right.

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post #15 of 25 Old August 22nd, 2014, 04:45 PM Thread Starter
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OK seeing as rewiring everything is obviously above me. What is the simplest way to get both lights to function? Screw working independently. When he gets frustrated enough to get an electrician in then we can hook it up the way he wants it.

Just nixing the switch entirely and running the black through the pull string light and white back through to neutral should run both properly correct? The pull string should turn both sets on and off simultaneously.
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post #16 of 25 Old August 22nd, 2014, 04:48 PM
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I'm an electrician. Call an electrician to fix it for you. No offense but if you don't know what you're doing when it comes to electricity then don't fuck with it. As for the flip the breakers till you find the right one? Thats fine if you're using a meter, but to just visually waiting for the light to turn off, is a horrible idea. I will not offer any advice, because I'm afraid of the worst. Thats just my opinion though.
I am an electrician also, but I don't think it's necessary for him to pay $80/hour to have a light hooked up. The biggest danger is working it hot, other than that, there's not much to it.

I always suggest getting an electrician on bigger projects though. It scares me when people tell me what they are doing at their house and have questions. A guy the other day was trying to wire his hot tub and he just wired it straight from the panel to the hot tub, on a 20A circuit.

03sonicboom, "certified electricians" do it by the book because they are liable for any damage caused by their work.

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post #17 of 25 Old August 22nd, 2014, 05:16 PM
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Whatever you say guys. Not my house, not my problem.

As for touching the neutral and hot together, WTF... I don't even know what to say to that. We are cautious about our jobs because we like going home at the end of the day alive. We get paid a lot of money to take large risks. Maybe not as much in low voltage residential, but I'm industrial.

Just an FYI though, half an amp of current can kill you. The neutral alone can easily carry that let alone the hot.

OP that junction box looks like a mess. I'd clean it up.
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post #18 of 25 Old August 22nd, 2014, 05:24 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the help all, got it figured out. I cheated and hooked up the pull string light to a nearby outlet instead. Out of the box thinking or Gerry-rigging, think what you will. It was a simple fix at least. The wire already ran right down past the outlet anyway. Ill keep harping on him about getting someone out here to rewire everything so theres not a massive clusterfuck down there. The breaker box is still way too small. He needs a box about double the size honestly so theres not so much stuff all on the same circuits.
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post #19 of 25 Old August 22nd, 2014, 06:04 PM
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Whatever you say guys. Not my house, not my problem.

As for touching the neutral and hot together, WTF... I don't even know what to say to that. We are cautious about our jobs because we like going home at the end of the day alive. We get paid a lot of money to take large risks. Maybe not as much in low voltage residential, but I'm industrial.

Just an FYI though, half an amp of current can kill you. The neutral alone can easily carry that let alone the hot.

OP that junction box looks like a mess. I'd clean it up.
Yes, touching the neutral and hot is stupid. I've seen bad breakers not trip when they should. I work industrial also and I don't put my hands on anything until I've tested it with at least a tic tester. Even then, that's not the best way to check for voltage.

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post #20 of 25 Old August 22nd, 2014, 10:53 PM
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When I was re-doing a room in my parents house, my idiot father told me it was safe to work on it "hot" as long as I never touched both wires at the same time (in theory... could be true)....

...Well accidents happen and one happened that day. If you want me to describe it, it felt like the vibration feeling of a power drill stripping a screw, the unbearable feeling of your legs waking back up after sitting on them falling asleep, and Mark McGuire post steroids with a baseball bat hitting his 70th homerun right into my shoulder... all of that at the same time.

Ever since then, I will NEVER ever, even do sheetrocking in a room unless the fuse is flipped at the breaker box.

When I bought my first house (one month ago) I mapped out every outlet, light, fire alarm, anything with power, to the corresponding fuse and even then, I still check with one of those voltage meter things.



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