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Rick
Rick, Master Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 434
Experience:  10 yrs as a electrician. Have my own company.
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i installed a new vent/light in my bathroom. the old unit

Customer Question

i installed a new vent/light in my bathroom. the old unit was a vent/light/heater. I also am attempting to install a new switch. the old switch had three wires in the box (three black, three white, three grounds). what do i do with the extra wire. when i hook up the wires to the switch it just trips the breaker.
Submitted: 11 months ago.
Category: Electrical
Expert:  Rick replied 11 months ago.

Sparky :

Hello, my name is Rick and I'm here to answer any of your electrical questions.

Sparky :

Do you have a voltage meter?

Customer :

no,

Sparky :

Can you take a picture of the wiring so I can see exactly what you have, and upload it?

Customer :

sorry i have no way of doing that

Customer :

the old switch had the black wires hooked up to the switch and the white wires twisted together and capped. the ground wires were were also twisted together not hook up to the switch.

Sparky :

The switch is just a standard switch? on off. 2 screws on the side where the wires connect to?

Customer :

yes but i got a switch that has two on off buttons, so it has four total screws for the seperate switches. the plan is to have one control the light and one control the fan.

Sparky :

The switch that you just described, is this the existing switch? Or a new one?

Customer :

new switch, the old switch had three on off controls. one controlled the light, another controlled the vent, and the last controlled the heater.

Sparky :

Here is what I need for you to do. I need to know how many cables are going into the switch box, how many wires come from each cable, and how they were connected. For instance cable #1 black to cable #2,3,4 black to switch. I don't know if you remember how it was, but if you can not, then you will need a voltage meter.

Sparky :

Or if you could tell me how many wires were on the switch.

Customer :

there are three cables going to the switch box, all of then have a black and white wire plus a ground. this was necessary to operate the old bathroom vent im assuming. i now only need two cables and don,t know what to do with the thirdcable.

Customer :

when i wire it just trips the breaker. but every time i wire it i leave one cable out because i don't know what to do with it.

Sparky :

How many cables are going to the fan from the house, and how did you connect them to the fan?

Sparky :

Also were any of the white wires connected to the switch?

Customer :

i hooked the fan up a while ago and don't remember how all that went. I do remember that it seemed pretty easy to wire up.

Customer :

i could go up into the attic and check that out if you need me to.

Customer :

no none of the white wires were connected to the switch

Customer :

none of the white wires were connected to the old switch

Sparky :

If none of the white wires were connected to the switch, that will make things a little easier. You shouldn't have to go to the attic to see how you wires your fan. You should be able to access the junction box inside of the fan by taking it apart from the bottom. Because you are tripping the breaker as soon as you turn it on, there is a direct short somewhere.

Customer :

do you want me to check that out

Sparky :

You said you have black wires and that your old switch had 3 controls on it. So something is wrong with what your are telling me then because to have 3 controls you would need to have a minimum of 4 black wires, or one of the white wires was on the switch.

Sparky :

For a switch to operate you need a power wire, and a wire to each of the things it operates.

Customer :

one of the whites may have been hooked uo and the other two were twisted together. i remodeled my bathroom and have had this apart for quite some time

Sparky :

You're going to need a voltage meter, in order to figure it out, now that you told me that.

Customer :

what do i need the voltage meter for

Sparky :

To find out which is your power wire, find where your power starts from, and to know how to connect what you have

Customer :

i know what wire is my power wire, i have hooked the wires up in different ways. when i leave this one particular wire out, the breaker does not trip.

Sparky :

You may think you do, but more than likely you are wrong. The reason I say this is because if a white wire was connected to the switch, that was probably the hot wire. This is why we need a voltage tester. I can not advise you how to hook something up that we have no clue on how it is wired.

Customer :

could you at least tell me what i would do with the third cable that i no longer need.

Sparky :

Cap it off.

Customer :

how about the ground that goes with that cable

Sparky :

You can leave it grounded. It's not going to make a difference.

Customer :

since i don't have a tester i guess there is nothing else we can do here

Sparky :

No, there is not. You can get a tester, log into your account and go to your questions list and we can continue when you have a tester.

Customer :

what am i looking for with the tester

Sparky :

Something that's going to give you a read out. You don't need anything crazy expensive. Something simple from home depot, lowes.

Customer :

it sucks that we can't figure this out but i do appreciate your time.

Sparky :

No problem.

Customer :

you have a good one

Sparky :

you to

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