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Electrical Question

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by Bob Clayton, Oct 9, 2017.

  1. Bob Clayton

    Bob Clayton My P doesn’t have flats or tort Staff Member Supporting Member

    Aug 14, 2001
    Philly Suburbs
    In the never-ending tasks of a home owner, I'm switching out all out outlets and switches from off-white to white (exciting, I know) and on the very last switch I came across something I haven't seen anywhere else in the house.

    There's a box with two switches, each switch is powered by a separate breaker at the fuse box, and they each control different lights. So here’s the weird part.. In the picture below, the normal wires are coming from the wall into the switch on the left. Three wires are also coming from the wall to the switch on the right (it’s a three way switch so that accounts for the red), two plug right in, but the last is wrapped around one of the terminals on the left switch before plugging into the right switch.

    What is the point of this? Would this enable both switches to work in case one of the fuses blow?

    Last edited: Oct 9, 2017
  2. Are you sure they're fed from two separate breakers?
    because this scenario is normally used to feed power to two switches from the same source
    bholder likes this.
  3. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Fort Worth, Texas
    I actually doubt they are on separate breakers. It appears the one in back is ganged off the one in front to get power. I will say the wiring looks wonky. I also notice neither have a ground wire. Was this perhaps done by an amateur?
  4. A light switch only switches the hot side of the circuit.
    Neutral and grounds don't connect to switches.

    You can see that the neutrals are in the back and should just pass through the box.
    Likewise, modern wiring also would pass the ground wire through.
    This assumes there are ground wires.
    It may be very old wiring or was not installed to code.

    I agree that this does not look like a professional job.
    Note the switch on the left.
    The black wire appears to have been stripped mid wire.
    It does't look like it was under the screw very well.
  5. Jeff Scott

    Jeff Scott Rickenbacker guru..........

    Apr 11, 2006
    Bob won't admit to as much................... :D
  6. Jeff Scott

    Jeff Scott Rickenbacker guru..........

    Apr 11, 2006
    What going on with those smaller, twisted together wires in the rear of the box?

    I see that the box is plastic; as mentioned above, where's the green ground wires?

    And, why the separate breakers just for a couple of lights that feed off the same box?

    We have been updating most of the knob and tube wiring in our house over the years, and even replaced a bunch of toggle switches for push button one to go with the rest that are already in the house, except in service areas. We even have a 4-way using a push button dimmer combination.
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2017
  7. 10cc

    10cc Inactive

    Oct 28, 2013
    Your hand looks really soft.
  8. dannylectro


    Aug 2, 2010
    Atlanta, GA
    I’m an electrician. This appears to be wired correctly, for the most part.

    While there may be two circuits in the box, both these switches are wired to the same circuit.

    The wire stripped midway and wrapped around the first terminal is acceptable but should be better secured around the screw.

    There should be bare copper ground wires (not green in this case) all twisted together. However, there should also be two bare copper “pigtails” to attach to the green screw on each switch.
    Old Garage-Bander, bholder and MJ5150 like this.
  9. Bob Clayton

    Bob Clayton My P doesn’t have flats or tort Staff Member Supporting Member

    Aug 14, 2001
    Philly Suburbs
    Rather than quoting everyone, I'll just address everything that was asked.

    Separate breakers - Yes they are on two separate breakers. With both switches on, I turn off one breaker and one light goes off and one stays on. Both lights don't go off until I turn off a second breaker at the box.

    Work of an amateur - Possible, I don't know. All the wires and electrical work was done before I bought the house. This is how everything was wired when I took the faceplate off and unscrewed the switches. I did no actual wiring, just replaced switches.

    Ground Wire - The switch on the left has a ground wire running to it (the green screw is on the top left part of the switch, not able to be seen in the picture since I was showing everyone the other side). The switch on the right did not have one running to it.

    Soft Hands - Thanks, take care of them and they take care of you. :D

    So @dannylectro, the current wiring is acceptable if it's better secured around the screw?
  10. Jeff Scott

    Jeff Scott Rickenbacker guru..........

    Apr 11, 2006
    Any idea what this is for?

  11. Steve


    Aug 10, 2001
    what is circled is ground wires. That is appropriate. THE ONLY REASON you run a wire from one switch to the other like that is to carry power from one switch to the other to power both from the same circuit. If those switches are effected by two different circuit breaker there is a problem that a real guy needs to look at. If that circuit is not blowing out, that means it's been feed twice from the same phase somehow. It's not that out of the ordinary. The guy who does the ruff wire isn't the guy that does the trim, one guy marks the switch legs, the other marks the feeds..sometimes they run a piece of three wire up to a ceiling fan or to carry a constant hot plus a switched leg to a switched receptacle and someone will come along and think it's a 3 way switch...dook happens
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2017
  12. dannylectro


    Aug 2, 2010
    Atlanta, GA
    This is totally a possible scenario. It could also be a switch box containing a pass-through multi-wire circuit, wired before simultaneous disconnects (2 pole breaker) were required.

    If you’re not sure, and it is very difficult to diagnose from pics, you should get an actual electrician to fix it. I’m sure it is a simple fix, but one that should not get screwed up.
  13. Oh yeah! I see those ground wires now. Thanks for pointing that out.
  14. Thanks for updates. Learn new stuff here all the time.

    Got it... connect ground wire to switch ground connector in non-metallic box.

    Mid strip OK. Get it under the screw properly.
    dannylectro likes this.

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