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House electrical puzzlement.


Matthew Duncan

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20 plus years ago a Licensed Electrician wired the house and country Building inspector blessed the work.

 

I had one wall receipt wired so the top outlet would be switched and bottom outlet is always hot.  Plug a lamp in top outlet and flip the switch by the patio door and lamp comes on.  Over the years we discovered that we never used the switched outlet.  A few years ago I successfully repurposed the patio door light switch for a new ceiling light.

 

This morning was the time.  Tired of plugging things into the top now dead unswitched outlet.  As I expected I found 2 - white wires and 2- black wires connected to the receipt.  White wires were connect to the separate silver screws and black wires were connect to the separate brass screws with the connecting tap between the brass screws removed.  Voltage meter confirmed the top black wire was "dead" and the bottom black wires was "hot".  All I need to do is connect the bottom white and bottom black to a new receipt and tape off the formerly switched top white and black wires.  Peace of cake.

 

Here's where the puzzlement comes in.

 

Went down stairs to get my electrical tape and discovered the basement ceiling lights weren't working.  AND now what was the top WHITE wire has 120 VAC on it and If I switch the basement lights off the same white wire is "dead" !!!!!

 

Wire nutted the top white and black wires together and the basement lights work.  The bottom white and black is now wired to a new receipt and both outlets are "Hot".

 

What I don't understand is how did the top white and black wires power the basement ceiling lights when they were connect to the original receipt?  The wires would have been open!?!?

 

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, Matthew Duncan said:

20 plus years ago a Licensed Electrician wired the house and country Building inspector blessed the work.

 

I had one wall receipt wired so the top outlet would be switched and bottom outlet is always hot.  Plug a lamp in top outlet and flip the switch by the patio door and lamp comes on.  Over the years we discovered that we never used the switched outlet.  A few years ago I successfully repurposed the patio door light switch for a new ceiling light.

 

This morning was the time.  Tired of plugging things into the top now dead unswitched outlet.  As I expected I found 2 - white wires and 2- black wires connected to the receipt.  White wires were connect to the separate silver screws and black wires were connect to the separate brass screws with the connecting tap between the brass screws removed.  Voltage meter confirmed the top black wire was "dead" and the bottom black wires was "hot".  All I need to do is connect the bottom white and bottom black to a new receipt and tape off the formerly switched top white and black wires.  Peace of cake.

 

Here's where the puzzlement comes in.

 

Went down stairs to get my electrical tape and discovered the basement ceiling lights weren't working.  AND now what was the top WHITE wire has 120 VAC on it and If I switch the basement lights off the same white wire is "dead" !!!!!

 

Wire nutted the top white and black wires together and the basement lights work.  The bottom white and black is now wired to a new receipt and both outlets are "Hot".

 

What I don't understand is how did the top white and black wires power the basement ceiling lights when they were connect to the original receipt?  The wires would have been open!?!?

 

 

 

 

 

Withdrawn. Just too many variables to safely diagnose.

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I agree with Double Barrell but have seen all sorts of things over the last 30 years.
 

It sounds like somewhere along the way the basement got tapped into the wiring from patio door switch ( or neutral) to the formerly switched top part of the duplex receptacle. The 120 volts on the white wire may very well be a floating neutral situation for that basement light, and the 120 volts is simply coming through the load and and back out the white with looking for a return path. Hard to say with out looking.


Put this way, if 120 is sent to an incandescent bulb via the black wire to the eye of a socket, and the white wire  connected to shell of the socket is disconnected (an open condition), if you use a voltmeter to measure between that “ open” white wire and ground (or neutral) you’ll read 120 volts. The 120 volts is simply passing through the load and reaches a dead end. The light won’t come on but your meter still measures the potential difference.

 

Another thing could be the now defunct practice of switching neutrals, in this instance, leading to confusion. I seriously doubt this is the case. This practice pretty much ended in the early 80’s but I saw instances of guys (old timers) doing it in the mid 90’s.

Those will wake up the unsuspecting!

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