More than one hot lead to an outlet

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by twobeemers, Dec 26, 2008.

  1. twobeemers

    twobeemers New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Richfield, WI
    Hi guys (and gals).

    I was playing around in my garage attic the other day and before I did, I powered off the overhead garage door opener outlet. My plan was to add an outlet in the garage attic so I could plug in a light or whatever when I went up there to move around stored stuff. So I shut off the power and checked it with an outlet tester and I got no lights so proceeded to do the work. When I was hooking things up I noticed the regular black leads but I also noted a red lead tied in to things. I didn't think much of it until I got a little shock off ot it when putting things back together. I put things back the way they were and didn't think too much about (tired and had a thousand other things to get done) but once I had some time to think about it, I can't think of a single reason why there should be more than one power lead into that box, and why it would be a hot lead.

    So, this makes me think my innocent little garage outlet is wired incorrectly. My plan is to power off the outlet at the box and then try to track down the source of the power lead by shutting off other breakers in the box until I find it, then working back towards the other boxes/outlets in the area and remove teh offending lead from it's power source. Then snip off as much wire as I can reach from both ends so it CAN'T be used for anything else.

    So two questions:

    1. Can anyone think of a reason why there would be a red traveler in that box, and
    2. does my method for fixing it make sound sense?

    Thanks!!
  2. WV Hillbilly

    WV Hillbilly New Member

    Messages:
    178
    Location:
    WV
    Someone probably ran a 12/3 to that receptacle box . 1 black wire-1 red wire-1 white wire & 1 bare ground . There is probably a breaker in your panel that has the red wire on it . The red wire probably feeds garage receptacles , ect . The black wire & the red wire are probably sharing the neutral - white wire & the ground . The reason you got shocked was because you turned off the power to the black wire but not the power to the red wire . If you have 2 wires coming in that box that has a black , red & white wires it could be 3-way switch wiring . I wouldn't be cutting any wires untill you find out what you have . Probably no reason to cut any wires period . I'm sure others will comment .
  3. twobeemers

    twobeemers New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Richfield, WI
    I agree that somebody ran some extra wires in there - just not sure WHY. And I'll definitely track down the source and take care of it from that end first. Just confuses me why it was done in the first place, unless someone though it was a lamp outlet and they were making it hot for that reason.

    I'll look at it more next week.

    Thanks!
  4. WV Hillbilly

    WV Hillbilly New Member

    Messages:
    178
    Location:
    WV
    It is not uncommon to find two circuits feeding through one 12/3 cable . Both circuits using the same neutral & ground . The wiring you are reffering to was probably wired that way intentionally .
  5. Bill Arden

    Bill Arden Computer Programmer

    Messages:
    584
    Location:
    MN, USA
    Having two hots also lets you add a 240Volt outlet anywhere you need it.

    I would leave it since it could be useful.

    Just be sure the red wires are wire nutted or capped in each box in case it's used latter in the string.

    The only problem with having two hots on a 120 string is that you HAVE to use a double breaker. Also... If GFCI is need you also have to use a GFCI breaker.
  6. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    If you just got a "LITTLE" shock, makes me wonder if it is connected directly to a hot lead, or could it be coming through a motion sensor, photocell, lighted switch, etc???
  7. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,485
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    wire

    If you cut the red wire, you will probably discover that at least some outlets no longer work. And if you connect them to the black wire, they could overload it.
  8. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,889
    Location:
    New England
    If they broke the tabs on the duplex recepticle, they may have two circuits run to that original outlet...one for the opener, and the other for whatever else you wanted to run. In a garage, though, it should be running through a GFI, if I understand the rules.
  9. maddog62

    maddog62 New Member

    Messages:
    4
    12-3 w/ground

    Most times you find these wiring installations were for a specific reason. Take the example of a ceiling fan and light combination. If code and the style of breaker allows, you could bring both the black and red hots from the same breaker but route them in a 2-gang box so that one switch controls the light and the second controls the fan. Both share the same neutral as the loads are not "outa-phase" and no chance of getting 240 VAC on your fingers.
  10. Alectrician

    Alectrician DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    689
    If you are halfway smart you would call an electrician to fix your mess. There are several reasons for the red wire, one of which could literally smoke things in your house if the white wires are not properly connected.

    My guess is that the red wire is the garage light switch leg.

    If you describe everything in detail, you may get help here.
  11. twobeemers

    twobeemers New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Richfield, WI
    Well, I DO fancy myself somewhat smart (which is why I haven't mucked with them to this point) and I DO believe that they were run for a reason. What I don't know is if they were run in error. So the next step is to track down the origins of the red lead and make my next move from there.

    I won't keep the red in there as a hot lead for the purpose of creating a 220v outlet. It's on the garage ceiling, nearly eleven feet off the floor. No, it was put there in error, and I need to track down the source of the error, or call in some proper electrical help.

    Thanks everyone.

    j
  12. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,485
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    red wire

    quote; I DO believe that they were run for a reason. What I don't know is if they were run in error.

    IF it was done for a reason, then it was NOT done in error. And if it was an error, then there COULD NOT be a reason for it. But I have done many outlets with separate feeds to the two sides so that a tripped breaker on one side did not power down the entire outlet.
  13. codeone

    codeone Code Enforcement

    Messages:
    160
    Location:
    North Carolina

    You said the red lead was tied into things.** Aparently the person who wired your house ran what is called a multi-wire circuit through your garage opener rec. box. A fairly common practice. If you cut the red wire off at the source you will lose power somewhere.

    The 2008 NEC requires these type of circuits to be on a common trip breaker now. This is so when one is doing something like you where you wont get shocked off the second circuit or even the unbalanced load on the neutral.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2009
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