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outlet check question

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  • outlet check question

    I did some rewiring in my living room, and added a 4 way switch circuit to switch on and off the bottom half of the outlets in the room. When I plugged my outlet checker (CA-300A Sperry 3 Wire Circuit Analyzer CA-300A NIP) into any of the switched halves with the switches in the OFF position and nothing else plugged into the outlets, it lights up very dimly that there is an open neutral. I checked, and the neutral is fine, but I show about 45 volts on the hot side at this time. If I plug a lamp or any load into the outlet, this immediately goes away and everything seems fine. Anyone run across this before, and is it a problem, or is it just a normal occurrence caused by induction?

  • #2
    Re: outlet check question

    What are you calling " a 4 way switch circuit"? Sketch a drawing of what you did.

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    • #3
      Re: outlet check question

      Lets get the terms in order first. A 4 way switch is used in conjunction with 3 way switches to create switch locations of 3 or more locations. If you only want to have switches in 2 locations you use a combination of (2) 3 way switches. Once you go to 3 or more locations you need to add 4 way switches. In your case, since you mention a 4 way, I assume you are trying to switch the outets from 3 loactions. Is that true? Depending on how you wired this configuration, you could have involved a neutral in your switching by mistake. Unless you diagram how you wired in the 2 3ways and the one 4 way we don't know where your mistake is. Also, did you break the taps ONLY on the hot side of the outets?

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      • #4
        Re: outlet check question

        well, after I posted this I figured out a way to prove that it is just voltage created in the open line due to induction. QROKING I used 2 3-way switches with a 4 way wired in between, and only broke off the tap on the hot side. I will try to draw up a schematic here to show what I have.

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        • #5
          Re: outlet check question

          ok, hopefully this works and is enough. See the attached pic. Almost forgot, the 3 upper boxes are the switches, and the 4 bottom ones are the outlets. I live in a modular home with vaulted ceilings, and the existing electrical goes from each outlet up into the ceiling, so I left it and added my 4 way switch circuit with 14-2 from the first switch to the first outlet and from the last switch to the last outlet, and 14-3 in between.
          Attached Files
          Last edited by d_slat; 03-04-2012, 10:38 PM. Reason: added description of circuitry

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          • #6
            Re: outlet check question

            Your diagram is not correct if you did do it that way. First, are you sure that the feed you used at the first switch coming down on the left is on the same circuit as the other outlets? Are all the outlets involved on the same circuit? In this case you cannot mix the switch power circuit with the outlet steady power circuit. You should not mix circuits in this case. The absolutely correct way to do this would be to connect the 3 switches with 3 wire with the 4 way in the middle, then on the switch leg side of the 3 way then feed each outlet on the lower side. Your traveler wires cannot be broken along the way as switch legs. It gets confusing, but to simplify you must first establish your switching circuit and then follow though the load side to each outlet bottom.

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            • #7
              Re: outlet check question

              Yes, I'm positive the outlets are on the same circuit as the switches, and I think it is wired how you described. Since the outlets already have a common, I didn't need to run a common through the switch boxes. I used the black and white wires as my runners and didn't tie anything else into them, they are just wire nutted together in the outlet boxes (I marked the white ones with red tape so they don't get confused as being a common). Then, I tied the red of my 14-3 up to the load side of the 2nd 3-way switch to carry back to all of my switched outlets. Are you saying I shouldn't have used the common from the constant power side of the outlet to also be the common for the switched circuit? They are all on the same breaker, and there isn't a GFI or arc-fault protection device anywhere on the 15 amp circuit, so I didn't think it would matter as long as it was all on the same breaker and the wire was big enough to meet code.

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              • #8
                Re: outlet check question

                OK, one question. aside from the voltage reading, does the bottom part of all the outlets switch properly when all the switches are tried in various positions?

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                • #9
                  Re: outlet check question

                  yes, it works the way it should, I was just curious about the "stray" voltage when it's turned off. It goes away if I plug as little as a 13 watt bulb into it, and is even there if I disconnect the red wire from the switch and all of the outlets, so I know it's because of induction.

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                  • #10
                    Re: outlet check question

                    ok, if the outlets turn on and off from all 3 switches without it not working with any switch in a particular position, then it is wired OK. There should not be stray voltage though. It is leakage from somewhere on that circuit. It could be feedthrough from something plugged into one of the outlets. A lamp perhaps. Try unplugging everything and check all connections.

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                    • #11
                      Re: outlet check question

                      that can't be. It's impossible that it's feeding back through something else, because I disconnected the red wire from every connection point, and it still gets the 45 volts when I turn the breaker on. Plus, it only does it when I have nothing plugged into any of the outlets. As soon as I plug a light with a 13 watt bulb in, the voltage goes away. I've come to the conclusion that it's just a normal occurrence.

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                      • #12
                        Re: outlet check question

                        if you can measure this voltage with a volt meter, IT IS REAL VOLTAGE. I'll bet you somewhere there is a nail or a staple grazing the hot to neutral or ground. There isn't a good enough connection to throw the breaker becuase it cannot carry the current of 15 or 20 amps to throw the breaker and the connection breaks down under load. You can see that as soon as you add a tiny load it disappears. I recall when working on a job I got a shock off of the drop ceiling grid later we found one screw holding the edge grid punctured the circuit wire once the screw was removed the voltage went away. Do you have a hot stick?

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