Saturday, March 7, 2009

Subject: light switch


Name: kevin

Question:
Okay. I am adding a ceiling fan to my bathroom. I currently have a receptacle and two light switches, one for a vanity and one for a light over the shower. I want to replace the outlet with a GFCI and protect the new fan off of that outlet. The existing outlet was on it's own circuit and the two light switches were together. The one over the shower that I want to replace with fan/light had two black wires (one pigtail from the other switch) and the vanity light switch had a black and a red wire. Neutrals for both switches are wire nutted together. So here is what I did. I installed a GFCI. I pigtailed off the load and sent it to another receptacle (that is how the original outlet was) and also pigtailed it to the light switch that controls the current light over the shower that I want to replace. The second switch only has a red and a black, but the neutral from that wiring is just loose because it seems to trip CB's if it's pigtailed in with the other neutrals. The picture I am posting is of the current configuration, which works to include the GFCI test (the light over the shower goes out and the receptacle is dead). The vanity light functions, the light over the shower functions and the outlet works to include the second outlet in series in my other bathroom. My concern is that the neutral wire from the second switch (with the red, black, white, gnd wire) is just hanging into space.@@@@@IMAGE:18717:Electrical-Wiring-Home-1734/2009/03/masterbath.jpg


ANSWER:
Hi Kevin,
I think the best way to handle this situation would be to replace the outlet that was on a direct line to a GFCI on that direct line. For the light and fan that you are replacing, I would just install a GFCI circuit breaker. That way you would not have to reconfigure any of the wires. Looking at you picture makes me think that this box could use some professional attention. First of all, the grounds are spliced outside of the electric box. That is a big NO NO! Secondly, some of those wires seem really tightly pulled. A metal box like that heats up and cools down over the years, and wires that tight can have the insulation cut and short out. Now I can see it first hand but I would like to make sure you're safe.
----------FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION:
Thanks alot Bill. I will put the grounds inside the box and I have more wire. I determined that I cannot have a two switch setup to run the fan/light seperately because I only have a three wire setup for the original switch and the fan manufacturer says you can't configure it that way. So I'm going to wire the fan/light to operate at the same time. My main concern (once I bring the grounds inside and clean the box up and make it nice and tight) is the neutral wire from the center switch. I've looked at books and pictures and I don't see where you would leave the neutral just hanging in the box. Everything is working and no lights are out in the kitchen so I'm assuming the switch being wired with the red and black wires from that wire bundle don't need the neutral to complete the circuit. I just feel unnerved because the neutral is just going to sit in the box. All the other neutrals are wire nutted together. Thanks for the prompt response. If it weren't for unemployment I'd hire an electrician to run more wiring and make the fan operate seperately from the light.
Answer:
Without being there with a tester, I can't tell what the neutral is for. I can say that you may have an extra when you are changing the wiring around.

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