Finding Hot disconnect

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by colbymom, Jul 2, 2008.

  1. colbymom

    colbymom New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Hi,

    I need some suggestions on what to do next to locate this electrical problem. (Besides hire an electrician.) We started a bathroom reno and took out some outlets and switches. When I took out switches, no problem. I took out the outlet, reconnected wires in a junction box making doubly certain to connect all the correct wires to each other, but now I have three outlets in other rooms that do not work. The other three outlets are or should be in circuit with a GFI. The outlets that don't work are in two other bathrooms and one is outside. If I look on the breaker box, there are only two GFI's in the house and I can find both of them. Both of them work. Outlets connected to the other GFIs work. These non-working outlets are not tripping any breakers. My tester just says "open hot." HELP???!!!
    Thanks,
    Maria
  2. Jeff1

    Jeff1 New Member

    Messages:
    102
    Location:
    So Cal
    Were any of the outlets connected to the switches? I'd start looking at the outlets that work and see if there are any loose wires (turning off the breakers first of course). I'd also trace from the junction box to make sure the outlets are connected correctly.

    You might want to see what the pros have to say.
  3. colbymom

    colbymom New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Yep. Found it. Tedious but effective. I started tracing through the switches I'd disconnected and found it in less than an hour. Should switches be connected to outlets? I thought switches were on 15A and outlets had to be on 20A?

    Thanks,
    Maria
  4. Tundra

    Tundra New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Yellowknife, NT
    Your receptacles should not be on a 20A circuit unless they are rated for 20A...you will see this on the receptacle. 99% of the recepts out there are rated at 15A. Standard switches are rated at 15A.

    If you are using 12awg wire you may put in a 20A breaker but your receptacles and switches must be rated at 20A.

    Respectfully,

    tundra
  5. Speedy Petey

    Speedy Petey Licensed Electrical Contractor

    Messages:
    988
    Location:
    NY State, USA
    This is only true in Canada. In the US we can (logically) use 15A receptacles on 20A circuits with few exceptions. Same goes for switches. The only time you need 20A switches is on a 20A circuit where the load switched is more than 15A.

    WHEN was the last time you saw ANYTHING other than a LARGE power tool or A/C with a 20A plug on it? If it has a 20A plug there is a very real chance it will need a dedicated circuit anyway.

    Sorry, no disrespect meant to Canada (our northern neighbors are awesome) I just think their 20A receptacle requirement is silly.
  6. Billy_Bob

    Billy_Bob In the Trades

    Messages:
    422
    Actually there could be any sort of wiring combination you could imagine!

    Switches could be 20 amps or 15 amps.
    Outlets could be 15 amps or 20 amps.
    You can have wiring for outlets passing through switch boxes.
    You can have wiring for switches passing through outlet boxes.

    You could have 15 amp wiring, 15 amp outlets, and someone incorrectly installed a 20 amp breaker. (Dangerous!)

    In addition to electricians properly installing wiring, you also may have non-electricians incorrectly installing wiring. So no telling what you will find!

    So the key is to understand electrical wiring, know the way things SHOULD be, then be able to identify what wire is going where and what it will be used for, and make sure everything is properly wired. And to correct problems or any wiring which was done incorrectly.

    If I am doing electrical wiring, either I KNOW where each wire goes and what it is used for, or I FIND OUT (by testing) what each wire is for. I use a continuity tester or a voltmeter for testing. Or I can test by turning on light switches or plugging something into various outlets.

    When I am finished with my wiring work, I know how many and which outlets are on a particular circuit and know if the breaker will handle the load of all those outlets considering what the outlets will be used for. Or I know all outlets to various bathrooms are GFI protected and they are safe for people to use - that people using these outlets will be protected from being electrocuted.

    I also get an electrical permit and have my work inspected by an electrical inspector. Then I know that this work will be covered by an insurance company should there be a fire or someone electrocuted. (Insurance companies will not pay for damage caused by electrical work which was not installed to code and inspected.)
  7. Tundra

    Tundra New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Yellowknife, NT
    Speedy,

    My bad....keep forgetting you're down there. We do have 20a recepts that don't require any funky plug and use them quite regularily in garages for chop saws etc. I can see the common sense side of your argument and agree but I don't really see the LOGIC in putting a 15a recept on a circuit with the potential for 20a but I am a little Canadianized...... Which means I can see the logic behind making us pay 10x the $$ for a recept :rolleyes:

    Our CEC is not known for applying the common sense approach....or are the inspector's for that matter :(

    No disrespect taken EH :D I guide Americans for caribou every year and only been one of ya I didn't like ;)

    Respectfully,

    Kevin
  8. Chris75

    Chris75 Electrician

    Messages:
    608
    Location:
    Litchfield, CT

    The logic is simple, we just dont have many 20 amp appliances.... I've been in the trade for over 15 years. I've only needed a handful of 20 amp receptacles for treadmills... thats about it...
  9. Tundra

    Tundra New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Yellowknife, NT
    Chris,

    If you read the entire post you would have noticed that I was in agreement with what I referred to as the common sense approach as in 99% of installations it would not be an issue. However, as I stated it is illogical to me to protect a device with something that has the potential to put out a higher current than the device is rated at....but again, that is how my little peanut works.

    So using this logic it would be OK to run a circuit with a 20a breaker and #14 wire as long as it was a dedicated circuit that you couldn't plug more than one device into? Yes it would be safe and work but legal...no...at least I don't think it would be down there as it is definatly not OK here. It just seems to me that the logical view would be that a 15a recept becomes the weakest/lowest rated component in an installation that has the potential to run 20a through it and that ain't no good.

    It is the law up here so it is a little more common place to see 20a receptacles....the only difference in them and regular recepts is the rating and the price....they look exactly the same.

    Sorry for ruffling feathers....I've got a pretty dry sense of humour :eek: It was not my intent.

    Respectfully,

    Kevin
  10. Chris75

    Chris75 Electrician

    Messages:
    608
    Location:
    Litchfield, CT
    No prob, I was only offering my input, your logic only has one flaw though, the guts of a 15 and a 20 amp receptacle are identical, only the outside shape is different. so really installing a 15amp receptacle on a 20 amp circuit really isnt that un-logical. :D
  11. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,817
    Location:
    New England
    Four 5A devices, each plugged into a 20A circuit still works, but then turn on that lamp, and now, you've overloaded the CB, but not any of the outlets - the CB protects the wiring, not the device. If you DO have a 20A device, and have 15A outlets, you can't plug it in, so it is a mute point. So, you MUST use the proper wiring for a 20A circuit, but the outlets don't need to be individually rated for 20A.
  12. Billy_Bob

    Billy_Bob In the Trades

    Messages:
    422
    A 15 amp receptacle can have 20 amp rated connections (or more) for the wires (to connect to the next outlet(s) downstream), but only be rated for 15 amp use.

    A 20 amp male plug would have one horizontal prong and one vertical prong.

    A 15 amp male plug has two vertical prongs.

    So basically you can have a 20 amp circuit and all 15 amp outlets, the wiring connections from outlet to outlet would handle a 20 amp load, but you can only plug in 15 amp male plugs.

    Or you could have a 20 amp circuit with some 15 amp outlets and some 20 amp outlets.
  13. Mikey

    Mikey Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek

    Messages:
    2,713
    Location:
    Central Florida
    AND as long as a short circuit didn't develop somewhere that resulted in 19.9A being drawn through your #14 wire. I doubt a fire would start, but my doubts aren't good enough for NEC. As Jim points out, the CB protects the wiring.
  14. Chris75

    Chris75 Electrician

    Messages:
    608
    Location:
    Litchfield, CT

    #14 AWG is actually good for 20 amps, just a sad fact the nec restricts us taking advantage of it.
  15. Mikey

    Mikey Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek

    Messages:
    2,713
    Location:
    Central Florida
    In certain situations, #16 is good for 20A in aircraft wiring.
  16. rgsgww

    rgsgww New Member

    Messages:
    53
    Location:
    Ia
    Well it would be an advantage in the winter...that 14 awg would keep us nice and warm.
  17. pudge565

    pudge565 New Member

    Messages:
    24
    Why not just put in the combo 15 and 20 amp recepticals. They look the same as a 15 anp receptical but they also have the horizontal slot in them.
  18. Billy_Bob

    Billy_Bob In the Trades

    Messages:
    422
    This is what I did at *my* house. Also I used "commercial grade" 20 amp outlets which cost about $2.50 each at the time (all 20 amp circuits).

    But if you are an electrician in business to make a profit, people want the lowest price possible. So in that case it is the cheap 50 cent 15 amp outlets.

    And if doing new construction, the builder wants bids for say wiring 20 new homes. The low bidder gets the job. And the low bidder will be using the least costly parts, smallest wire allowed, etc.
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