Rant

On a totally different note, I HATE

trying to figure out how someone has wired a house from just the light junction boxes and switch boxes.

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Comments
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Draw a diagram......then it may be clearer to you?
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Problem is figuring out what

this guy has done, and deciding if I have to redo it.

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IF I understand your description

There is probably a white wire in the second switch box that is not connected. Black and White in to the second 3 way switch and a black out to the light? (white in that box not hooked up?)

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(NT) ps....SECOND white in that box not hooked up
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True, but I have one hooked to the source neutral

that I'm not sure yet where it goes.

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power wires

<i>I've looked in reference books and online, and there is a bit of
discrepancy about the wrongness of having a current carrying wire
running alone.</i>

Have you ever noticed those high power lines on the big towers? Those are current carrying lines running alone. Flux or resistance between opposing electromagnetic fields is what creates heat. Having wires carrying current in opposite directions being next to each other is what would create heat. Loose connections create heat.

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you found it.

<i>Also, one neutral leaves the box and seems to do nothing? where is it
ended at? It is a white wire, and was connected to the other neutrals,
including the source one, so it's not a permitted switch leg use of the
white wire.</i>

I believe you found the power input box. Was this at a switch or ceiling box?

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2 switches, ceiling box

The object to be switched on and off is whatever's at the ceiling box, so check there first, especially since it's the junction of wires from both switches and may also be a pass through box for yet some other circuit. Turn off circuit at breaker box. Mark which wires are connected together and then undo the wires so each is separate, turn on breaker and see which if any are hot using a meter. Easiest way to mark is wife's different colored nail polishes, lol, fast drying too. Flip one and then the other switch, testing in between and see if any hot wire in the ceiling box goes cold and another goes hot. If so, then see which switch box has the hot wire. Undoing and separating the twisted wires and then testing for which are hot and which are grounded is the only way to be sure.

Since the hot wire should start in one of the switch boxes, an alternate approach is to find which one has wires from two sources. That should be where the hot and ground wire begin for the double switch setup. Usually one switch box has the hot wire and ground coming in and the other switch box is just a slave, having only wires coming to it from one source, the ceiling box. It would be unusual for the slave switch to also be serving as a pass through junction for another circuit too.

I think you're wasting time worrying about whether current flows in one wire only or two wires in opposing directions as regards heat value. The place to worry about heat is at connections. Also, nobody would be using phased wiring on a ceiling fixture, that's for things like 220 motorized appliances.

What I hate are switched wall plugs. My house had them in 4 rooms. Shortly after moving in I swapped wires in the switch box to keep the wall plugs permanently hot, then took a feed from the hot wire in each switch box and used the switch instead for ceiling lights I installed by running 14G 3 wire (hot, ground, neutral) from the switch box to the new overhead light box.

http://www.ehow.com/how_4840365_wire-dual-light-switches.html
(traveler wires are those running between the switch boxes, although passing through the ceiling box too)

http://www.homeimprovementweb.com/information/how-to/three-way-switch.htm
This is excellent link showing the many ways the wiring might be done. Main importance is when the power comes to the system through a switch box, the other when it comes through the ceiling box.

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Switched receptacles are one of those things

that some love and some hate. I never liked them that much, you better not turn out the lamp at the fixture or there would be no light entering the room.

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Exactly how I did our lighted ceiling fans

Each bedroom had a switched outlet with the hot wire running first to the work box for the outlet itself. It was simple enough to rewire the outlets to be hot but pass current to the work box for the switch. The switches were all replaced with those needed for variable speed lighted ceiling fans. Figuring out the wiring was a piece of cake but those old work boxes were a bit tight to fit the larger switches in. I've found the same to be true with adding GFI outlets near sinks and such...not much room if extra wire nuts are needed.

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So,

Because you don't agree with it, you don't like it?

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What are you talking about?

It's not just a question of if I prefer the method used, it's a question of is it an acceptable, legal, safe method.

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Extra neutral proved to be

neutral to the porch light. The power leg going to the first three-way is jumped over to the porch light switch in the same gang box. The neutral is tied together there also.

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James and JP, thanks for the suggestions

I've verified the wiring at least conductivity wise, can't say if there is another junction in the attic of course until I crawl up there. Which I guess I'm going to be doing in about a half hour or so.

Everything worked before I started anyway.

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Farm house, old Tampa house

My grandparents farm house was tube and knob. Every turn had a knob, every through wood/stud had a tube, all made of porcelain. Nobody ever went into the attic unless all power was cut off. It had been built before electric power as a split rail type walls, later with clapboard siding and drywall added inside and sheet linoleum put over wide pine floor boards that had gaps in them to let wash water run through. Tube and knob is like wiring your house with electric fence wire. Idea at the time was that bare wire let heat off quicker than insulated wire, therefore safer. Considering the insulation used in those days, probably made sense.

My mother's house in Tampa, (sold in 2004) originally had gas lights in it, built around 1910. When FDR era had incentives to replace gas light with electric in homes, TECO installed into the house in 1930's. The old gas pipes were used in many instances as conduit is today to move the wires through, since that's where the lights already were for gas. The fuse box was those old glass screw in types. In the 70's I put a breaker box beside and it and took a feed off the mains to add a few lines, especially replacing the old hot water heater lines which previously had burned out under the house. I ran them upward into ceiling and then down to the water heater. Another new line was to put in an electric stove to get away from buying a more expensive gas stove to replace the old original one. Finally put in some lines to front and back outside sockets so I could have outdoor power without worrying about over heating those old cloth insulated wiring TECO installed in the 30's. Oh yeah, a couple new lines to front and rear window AC units. That left most of the original electric lines for lower power use only.

The ground wire in the house actually ran to the ground. A post driven deep in the earth, just under the "skirt" area outside the kitchen area is where all the electrical was grounded out. One time I hit that pole while mowing the yard and got quite the tingle! Almost turned the mower off too. Of course that was residual electricity going to ground, so not too bad a tingle. Until then I thought that was a only a working water pipe, thinking the ground was somewhere under the house for safety reason. I couldn' t figure why I got tingle from the ground pipe since it shouldn't have allowed that, supposedly better grounded than I was. After awhile I realized that might be part of the problem of flickering lights in house at time, because the pipe had probably corroded, rusted over the years and not well grounded anymore. I and friend drove in a new water type pipe and moved the ground cable over to it, problems solved. New electrical have the ground return to the pole.

That house is now gone. It was on prime real estate along Bayshore Blvd in Tampa, so being old was torn down and replaced by some new pink colored thing. Previously the house beside it had been "The Magnolia" design of Sears catalogue in the 20's, but that also was removed, part of the land subdivided and 3 new places built there on Bayshore where previously one had stood.

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Re ground rods

Until fairly recently, the standard, at least around here, for homes was an 8 foot ground rod driven into the ground. That is, or was anyway, perfectly legal. However, there was a catch the inspector could require you to drive another rod so many feet away and measure the resistance between them to see if the first rod had good enough ground conductance. When one inspector started insisting on such a test over half the time because of soil types, many started driving the second ground rod, and after the test, connecting the two and leaving it.

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Calibration Tools Needed

The best thing to do in a situation like this one is to go out and buy a brand new calibration tool at the local hardware store. It will be labeled sledge hammer and the preferred weight is 16 pounds or more. Works for me every time.

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(NT) LOL
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I don't know if it's done yet but I'd think

it could be good for a home's original wiring, plumbing, etc. diagrams and schematics to be provided to the original and subsequent owners as well as being archived along with any deeds/titles. Changes to such could be attached as amendments if done by licensed professionals. I believe that, in most places, homeowners seem to be allowed to do as they will and wish. It doesn't become a problem until they try to sell and the house is inspected and even then, it's only government loan programs that one tends to run afoul of. I've done plenty of wiring and rewiring in my own home. I'm fairly competent but cannot say with certainty that everything I did would pass for current NEC compliance.

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You're allowed here as far as I know

to do anything to your own property yourself.

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About the only thing I did that might be iffy

was when our electric range and oven failed shortly after we bought the place. The oven and range were in separate locations in the kitchen and each fed by a different 220 circuit. I wanted a gas oven and range and the piping was already there with T fitting capped off in the basement. It was easy enough to connect black pipe to the T fitting and just add a shutoff for the gas to the range. Now I had two 220v circuits to play with. Both came from the breaker box in the garage. One was on a 60 amp and the other a 40 amp breaker. I figured this meant I could make 4 15 amp and 2 20 amp 110 v lines. So, I put smaller breaker boxes in the basement where this wiring came through. I partially finished the basement and use the 20 amp lines for such as the washer and freezer. Two of the 15 amp circuits are used in the finished area for lighting and outlets...one of which is where my computers are. With the other two 15 amp circuits I added a whole house ceiling fan and lighting fixtures to a couple of upstairs closets. The last 15 amp circuit is used for a dishwasher. The house didn't have one when we moved in and there really wasn't a handy circuit nearby so this worked out perfectly as far as I was concerned. I really don't know if adding breaker boxes this way was legal but I can't see it doing harm. I've labeled everything which was something the previous owner didn't do.

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Without knowing exactly what kind of wire was used

I can't say.

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There was a neutral and a ground

In fact, the house came without 3 prong receptacles but the boxes were grounded. It was older Romex with a bare copper ground. The first thing I did was replace the receptacles and tie the ground connector to the boxes. As for the added breaker boxes, I wired these separately. The white (neutral) can carry both hot wire returns as they aren't on the same phase. There was also a bare ground wire so that goes to the box chassis and I grounded that to the nearby copper cold water supply. I think I'm ok.

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Technically
The white (neutral) can carry both hot wire returns as they aren't on the same phase.

Common practice in the past, with both home 240/120 systems and with 480/277 systems in office and industry.
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I believe adding breaker boxes is always a good idea

Why must there be only one? My central AC/heat system has it's own breaker box. Why not other appliances or areas having sub-boxes? In some instances it only makes sense to run a main power line to an area and branch off from it instead of wasting wire time and effort running all individual lines back to the main breaker box.

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Many newer larger homes have two large ones

Many larger two story homes have separate HVAC along with other energy intensive features.

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Re you HVAC on it's own panel

It was added for extra electrical capacity when you put the system in? How many breakers do you have going to one HVAC unit?

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It has a breaker at the main box

And wire runs from it to a 60A breaker box supporting an oil burner unit and AC with A frame evaporator in plenum above heater, both share same fan system. There's also a separate safety shutoff for heater alone, on other side of room from it.

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Reminds me of a hot water heater I had to replace

My son turned off the water and removed the hot water heater. He turned the water back on and turned the water off going into the heater. Water poured out of the pipe that was supposed to go to the rest of the house. He turned it on and the water came out of the actual intake pipe. The water had to be turned off at the main valve until he got it straightened out.

Diana

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I sure hope he had the heater electric off.

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