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Old 02-12-2008, 01:31 AM  
thenewguy
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Default Odd Wiring in Condo

Looking to replace switches and recepticles in a condo. Took off the switch and found the following: a.) one black wire; b.) one red wire; c.) no green wire; and d.) the two wires go into the back of the switch now around the terminal screws.

I've taken a circuit tester and get a complete circuit touching the black and red wire. Does this mean the red wire is the ground? Seems odd to me, I was under the impression that by law the ground wire has to be green or bare. This is not unique to one switch, but this appears to be how all the switches are wired.

To complicate things just a tad. This first switch previously controlled the bottom of a close recepticle. Now the receptible is always on. I thought I might have to break the bridge. The wiring here is like this: a.) one red; b.) one black; and c.) one white. Based on the goofy switch I connected one black to the hot side of the receptible, the white to the other and the red to the ground screw. Using a circuit testing plug I am told that both recepticles are wired properly save for the face that the bottom is no longer controlled by the switch. Like the switch, all the receipticles appear to be wired this way.

Any thoughts, comments or questions? Thanks



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Old 02-12-2008, 12:21 PM  
glennjanie
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Welcome Shawn:
Typically the red wire is the 'common' or 'traveler' wire for a 3 way switch. I definitely would not use the red wire for a ground. You can put a yellow wire nut on the end of it and terminate it but don't use it for a ground.
The 'stab-lok' switches and receptacles are not uncommon and are approved by Underwriter's Laboratory. However, if you feel safer using the screws it will be O K.
Remember, a switch only breaks the line of power. So, the black wire could be the power coming into the switch and the red wire could be the return wire to the fixture, called the 'switch leg'.
Glenn



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Old 02-12-2008, 04:00 PM  
thenewguy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glennjanie View Post
Welcome Shawn:
Typically the red wire is the 'common' or 'traveler' wire for a 3 way switch. I definitely would not use the red wire for a ground. You can put a yellow wire nut on the end of it and terminate it but don't use it for a ground.
The 'stab-lok' switches and receptacles are not uncommon and are approved by Underwriter's Laboratory. However, if you feel safer using the screws it will be O K.
Remember, a switch only breaks the line of power. So, the black wire could be the power coming into the switch and the red wire could be the return wire to the fixture, called the 'switch leg'.
Glenn
Firstly, I know very little about electricity, but enough to probably start a fire, so thanks for the help. What little I do know comes from following my grandpa around when he was working at our local stores fixing their electrical issues.

I've read that the "red" wire is often for switches, which makes sense. What if I said that some recepiticles, not connected to any switches, still had only a red, black and white wire and my socket circuit tester says they are wired correctly. If red was not the ground, wouldn't the socket circuit tester say that I had an open ground? And why would there be a red wire in a recepticle not connected to a switch?

Well, either way, the circuit breakers are off until I either figure this out or get an electrician to come out. I figured this would be a good way to learn a thing or two for the future.

Thanks again for the help.
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Old 02-12-2008, 07:03 PM  
travelover
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You might find it useful to get a basic wiring book from the library or big box store. It isn't rocket science, but if done wrong, can be dangerous.

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Old 02-12-2008, 07:46 PM  
guyod
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Why are you not just putting the wires where they went on the old switches and oulets. If everything worked before then it doesnt matter if they used purple wires you just keep it the same. makes everything easier.

If you dont remember where the wires went... well let that be a lesson for next time....

maybe the builder got a deal on white red and black w/o ground and is using the red as a ground. If it was on the ground screw on the old outlet then it was. If you dont remember i would take the cover off the breaker box and look to see if red wires go to your grounding block.

for the rest of your switches and outlets try label the wires when you take out the old switches and outlets.

You should defiently do this when you get to three ways switches they can get complicated. . I just spend 2 hours yesterday figuring out the wiring on a set of 3 ways switches that someone tried to replace and mixed up the wires. It was knob and tube so all black wires and i trusted on of those no touch circuit tester to find the hot lead. It beeped on the switch legs but not the hot lead. why would it do that????? if it was mine it would of went in the garabage..

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Old 02-12-2008, 10:18 PM  
triple D
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Default Have a power tester?

This is only my opinion, it may differ greatly than others, so do what you will........
It sounds like your in a home with no grounds, maybe the house was wired late 50's early 60's. What you might want to do, if your comfortable with it, is turn on the power and turn on and off the light switch, checking the power on the red wire. If this red wire turns on and off with switch, you should turn off all power and go to plugs with red wire. Then put the white wire on silver screws, or left side as you face the front of plug. Then brake the small metal bridge on right side of plug. Hook the red wire to top of plug, and black to bottom. if you do not have a bare or green wire to put on ground you need a two wire plug. You could put in a gfi plug anywhere you need to plug in something with a ground on the cord. Your going to want to check all your devices you've touched and check the red wire everywhere. I think you've electrified all the plate screws wherever you put a red wire on ground screw. If this is not the case then use a multi meter and test from hot black to red and see if you get 120 volts, maybe it is ground but I dont think so. Remember next time to follow what was there, exactly.... Good luck......

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Old 02-13-2008, 08:50 PM  
thenewguy
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Thanks to everyone for the help. As that I spend my day as a lawyer and only attempt to electricute myself on weekends I will be using the advice here.

Greatly appreciated.



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