Bathroom - electrical help needed

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by CCanade, Mar 27, 2020.

  1. CCanade

    CCanade New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2020
    Location:
    Florida
    Hey all,

    In working on a bathroom of a house built in the 50's here in South Florida I'm running into a real head scratcher on the electric. I'm hoping some pros can help.

    The bathroom has 2 switches one outlet. One switch for the bathroom light, the other for the heat lamp lights.
    Outlet looks like it was replaced with a 3 prongo after the house was built as most of the house has 2prong outlets. No biggy..

    Walls are getting painted among other fixes.
    Naturally, I killed the breaker, removed the bathroom light. I replaced the old 3 prong outlet with a new one since the old one had been painted over.

    Wires from the light have wire nuts on them.

    Now here's where it gets weird.

    All I've done is remove the light and cap the wires. Replace an outlet.

    In turning off the breaker, it killed the bedroom electric as well. Apparently both are on the same breaker. The owner wanted the electric on in her bedroom to run the AC.

    No problem I thought, wires to the light are capped turn in the breaker she can have electric and AC for the night.

    I flip the breaker on... All lights in the house flash on even though they are turned off and the breaker immediately trips.

    I try it again... Again, all lights in the house flash on as I turn the breaker on and it immediately trips.

    I haven't changed any wires. Haven't messed with them.

    Removing a standard bathroom light shouldn't cause this. Nor replacing an outlet.

    Looking in the bathroom light box, I see 2 bare wires.. (ground?) Tied into all the white wires... But that's how it was, it didn't trip the breaker before obviously but I've never seen bare wires tied into a power lead before.

    I'm scratching my head on this one. I've changed out lights and outlets and switches plenty of times before. Never had something like this happen. And yes I checked the outlet I replaced, nothing touching or crossing...


    I can upload pics of the box if needed.. I haven't a clue how to correct this and she wants the power back on for her AC...

    And thoughts?
     
  2. WorthFlorida

    WorthFlorida The wife is still training me.

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2009
    Occupation:
    Retired
    Location:
    Orlando, Florida
    Were there three or four wires to the old outlet? Check if the old outlet had its jumper broken off on the black (hot) side.

    outlet.jpg
     
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  4. CCanade

    CCanade New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2020
    Location:
    Florida
    There was only 2 wires to the old 3 prong outlet. And no, the jumper was not broken. Just a simple two wire duplex connection. It's grounded to the box now, which it wasn't before. These newer style three prong duplex outlets have a ground to the screw that holds it in place. The old didn't... You think that's the issue? The box itself is isolated from what I can see.

    I took a pic of the junction box wiring where the bathroom light goes.

    I've circled the 2 bare wires that are in question.

    What would cause the all the lights in house to power on when I flip the breaker on... Even when all the switches are of to begin with? There has to be a dead short created when removing the light or replacing the outlet... But I don't see how. Just removing something from the circuit shouldn't cause a dead short let alone power the whole house and turn on lights that the switches are turned off.

    Doesn't make sense to me at this point.

    There's no conduit in the house, to throw current through to ground. There's no ground wire throughout the house
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Mar 27, 2020
  5. WorthFlorida

    WorthFlorida The wife is still training me.

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2009
    Occupation:
    Retired
    Location:
    Orlando, Florida
    All switches and outlets must now have a ground. That is the bare or green wire. The white wire is the neutral. The ground and neutral are only tied together at the breaker panel.

    The picture shows three whites and a ground twisted together. Someone added to it the ground something. Can you figure wire that bare wire is coming from?

    In this whole mix, are there any three way wall switches? What happens when you have the wall switch turned on when all the lights are on? There is some kind of back feed. It’s hard to get the lead on this not being there. It is possible that two hots and a neutral are in one cable(14-3) for two circuits and it is split somewhere else. And removing the light fixture opened up one circuit, so the power from the other circuit through another appliance keeps the hot side hot. Probably doesn’t make sense. At the breaker panel with all breakers on with all the lights on, start switching off other breakers. First start with the 22ov breakers. I’m have a feeling the lights will turn off by another breaker.

    Have you tried reconnecting the old light fixture to see what happens?
     
  6. fullysprinklered

    fullysprinklered In the Trades

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    self-employed plumber-electrician doing residentia
    Location:
    Georgia
    At that time the power went from ceiling box to ceiling box and the power went down to the switch on the white wire and back to the fixture on the black if that helps.
     
  7. CCanade

    CCanade New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2020
    Location:
    Florida
    I just found the culprit...

    I was thinking it had to be something to do with the outlet as that's the only thing I changed.

    As a test, I pulled it out of the box leaving it connected. Flipped the breaker, it didn't trip.

    Looking inside the box I see one of those bare copper wires tied to the outlet box. So the box is "grounded" but it still goes to the load wires up in that junction box (pic I uploaded).

    Next test was to just barely install the outlet just to test if it was indeed the ground to box screw these new outlets have. Flipped the breaker, all good.

    Looking a little closer inside the outlet box I saw the issue.

    This being a metal box, 70 year old.. it has 4 metal tab finger tabs. Real thin almost like spring metal. 2 on each long side of the box folded over the front edge into the box. Each about an inch and a half long. The top one on the hot side was bent. Like a battery terminal almost.

    Inserting the outlet all the way, that finger rested right on the hot terminal screw.

    I flattened it out, did an old school method of wrapping around the outlet screws with electrical tape for safe measure. Reinstalled the outlet. Flipped the breaker and all good again.

    But that said, I don't trust this wiring. Mainly because I don't understand using the ground wire tied to box then going up and tying it in with the load wire as you see in the pic. I don't see how that grounds anything. It puts ground into the circuit load path doesn't it?

    Perhaps this 1950's wiring method is just too old compared to current methods I'm use to for me to grasp the concept of the method.

    Could someone explain this older method to me?
     
  8. WorthFlorida

    WorthFlorida The wife is still training me.

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    Location:
    Orlando, Florida
    This is a perfect example why everything must be grounded. Metal boxes, outlet and switches. If this house had a ground at every metal box, the breaker would always trip. The condition you got into could have caused wires to overheat when the breaker didn't trip and if your were grounded and touched the metal box, you'd be the path to ground. Good find. Any home wired before the 1960's with two wire should be rewired. It might cost $10k-$15k plus a whole lot of wall patching but far cheaper than a house fire and injury.

    50's wiring was only 2 wire. The house I grew up in built 1952 was all 2 wire 60 amp service. The problem was over the years as wires with ground wire were installed, three prong outlets become normal since a lot of appliances used three prong plugs, a whole lot of hacks were done. Some correct and some not correct. After my parents died and the house was inspected after an offer, my dad did all kings of things that it was amazing that there wasn't a fire. Just before my mom died, a powered hospital bed was placed in her bedroom. Three prong with a two prong house. I replaced it with a three prong but labeled the cover "no ground".

    If you need an electrician, I know one personally that lives in Wellington. He does go to Dade and Broward county for work. He might be retired now but his son now has his licence for about four years now. I haven't heard from him for over three years.
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2020
  9. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    Retired Systems engineer for defense industry.
    Location:
    New England
    The house I grew up in was also built in the 50's, almost all with 2-wire cabling. A lot of it was the old-style BX (no ground or tracer), where they used the metal sheath for a ground, but over time, that corroded, and was a very imperfect electrical path with rust and corrosion over time. While not as good (some devices actually really need a ground connection), I opted to replace each branch that wasn't already proper with a GFCI by finding the first receptacle on each branch, then 'normal' 3-prong receptacles in the rest of the locations properly labeled as GFCI protected, no ground.

    FWIW, any remodeling should call for the things you touch to be upgraded to current codes which, at the minimum, requires a dedicated, 20A GFCI protected circuit ONLY for the bathroom. SOme also want it to have AFCI protection.

    There's a reason why you should have a license to do electrical...do it wrong, and it can kill you.
     
  10. WorthFlorida

    WorthFlorida The wife is still training me.

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    Retired
    Location:
    Orlando, Florida
    Problem with Florida homes is that most are on slabs so all wiring must go through the attic. Problem there is not just tremendous heat, a good chance of really bad insulation with asbestos fibers. My sons house in Altamonte Springs, built on 1977 with aluminum wire, four bedroom ranch with a low pitch roof, vermiculite insulation and new blown fiberglass on top if it. We ran some new copper wire and he coughed for two days.
     
  11. WorthFlorida

    WorthFlorida The wife is still training me.

    Joined:
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    Retired
    Location:
    Orlando, Florida


    Not much to do during the stay at home and I came across this post. Reread the fix and I what you have is an old method of adding a metal electrical box before the days of plastic ones. These can still be bought and used in commercial settings if a metal box needs to be used.
    https://www.homedepot.com/p/RACO-Switch-Box-Old-Work-Supports-2-Pack-8977/100547662

     
  12. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2004
    Occupation:
    Retired Systems engineer for defense industry.
    Location:
    New England
    Always use a good dust mask when dealing with insulation.
     
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