Oh where, oh where does that circuit go?

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by bmaker, Jan 16, 2013.

  1. bmaker

    bmaker New Member

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    Ohio
    Doing a bit of remodeling on my daughter's kitchen. They have a switch on the wall that doesn't seem to control anything, although I can tell it is wired up to a hot circuit. I've checked all the outlets and lights in the immediate vicinity, even the garage and outdoors. Is there an electrician's trick to chasing down a circuit short of tearing out the wall and physically following the wire?
  2. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    Look for an outlet in the room where ONE of the plugs is controlled by the switch. This is a code requirement if there is not a ceiling light in the room. POSSIBLE PROBLEM: l over the years, if that particular outlet was replaced, someone may have failed to wire it back so it is controlled by the switch.
  3. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    4,134
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    I have a circuit tracer that can follow wires inside walls, even inside EMT but it is not something the average DIYer would have.

    You might be able to generate a noise that an AM radio can pick up and use the radio to follow the wire.
  4. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,262
    Location:
    New England
    In a kitchen, that switch could control something like a garbage disposal. It might go to an outlet under the sink, but it could go lots of places.
  5. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    4,134
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    Is it in a ganged box with other switches? If so, what are the other switches for? A ceiling fan may have been wired with an extra conductor for a light but the light never broken out to its own switch. See if the wire in the box is 3 conductor and if so where the other conductor goes. I wire my ceiling fans with 3 conductor JIC I decide to have a lamp as well. I hate when they are wired common with the fan and need to use the pull chain.
  6. ActionDave

    ActionDave Electrician

    Messages:
    361
    Location:
    Colorado
    Kill the power to it and go home....wait for the call, "My xxxx is not working."
  7. bmaker

    bmaker New Member

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    Ohio
    I checked some of the duplex outlets but maybe not all. Will try that.
  8. bmaker

    bmaker New Member

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    Ohio
    There is a ceiling light but not a fan. Perhaps there used to be. Will check out this option.
  9. bmaker

    bmaker New Member

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    Ohio
    No garbage disposal but there was an in-counter blender thingy that we got rid of. I checked that circuit but alas it was fed from a different breaker.
  10. bmaker

    bmaker New Member

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    Ohio
    Hah! Best suggestion yet. I'll do that after trying the other ones above!
  11. teamo

    teamo New Member

    Messages:
    95
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    Dishwasher disconnect?
  12. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,028
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    quote; No garbage disposal

    BUT, could there have been a circuit for one when the house was built? Unless it was in the 40s, it would have be de rigueur to install one.
  13. bmaker

    bmaker New Member

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    Ohio
    Probably not, since the switch is over by the back door, several feet from the sink. The more I think about this, the more I'm thinking it must be either a switched outlet or a circuit in the garage. Will check next time I'm over there.
  14. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    4,134
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    When I wired my home, I put two switches in the mud room for future consideration. The wires simply terminate down in the crawlspace for now. Eventually they will control outdoor lights.
  15. big2bird

    big2bird IBEW Electrician

    Messages:
    141
    Location:
    Anaheim, Ca.
    I used to install a switch by the back door for the garage door opener. "Vacation switch."
  16. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,028
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    Have you actually looked at the switch to be sure it is NOT a three way switch for something? Switches by back doors are usually 3 way or they control something outside the house.
  17. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    4,134
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    I put several outlets under the eaves for roof de-icing cables that are wired to switches. Those switches however I put in my wiring closet as I didn't want someone to turn it on by mistake and run up my electric bill.
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