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Kevin
Kevin, Licensed Electrical Contractor
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 3349
Experience:  30 years Licensed Electrical Contractor in Illinois, Adjunct College Electrical Instructor, Former Electrical Inspector, Diploma: Digital Electronics, FCC Technician License
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I've been updating outlets and switches in the house and

Customer Question

Hi. I've been updating outlets and switches in the house and just following the same wiring scheme that i come across. I tried to replace an outlet in the kitchen, and it tripped the breaker to the house. Couldn't figure out the problem and thought I had a faulty outlet but it did the same thing again when I tried a new one. After looking into it I realized it was a switched outlet and needed to break the tab.
When I did that it still tripped the breaker. I undid the 2 red wires that were tied together and left the black wires secured together, and that allows me to turn the breaker to that outlet on without it tripping. As soon as I touch the 2 red wires together it will trip it.
I'm prepared to call an elctrician in, but before I do I'm wondering if there's anything I can do myself?
Thanks for your time.
Shane
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Electrical
Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

Hello and welcome to Just Answer. My name is ***** ***** I will be happy to assist you with your electrical question.

1) The problem is most likely being caused by the switched loop wire is coming into contact with a hot wire

2) If you have an AC voltmeter available, you can confirm the correct switched loop wire that extends from the wall switch and will terminate to 1/2 of the duplex receptacle brass screw. The other brass screw (always live portion of the receptacle) will have 120 volts from this termination across to it's white neutral.

3) You will need to double check and confirm for the proper voltages on the wires using an AC voltmeter

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Ok. I don't have a strong knowledge base in this area so bare with me.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
There are 2 red wires coming from the wall that were conneted together, with a third red wire piggy backed to them and terminated onto one half of the brass screw. The same thing for 2 black wires that came from the wall, a third was piggybacked off them onto the other brass screw. The same again for 2 white wires that came from the wall and piggy backed onto a silver screw. the outlet worked fine before I tried to update it. After tripping it I can't turn the breaker back on without unthreading all the red wires and leaving them free. I don't have a voltmeter, just a voltage tester. Are yu saying that the problem may be further back in the wall somewhere ans one of the red wires is carrying too much voltage?
Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

No problem.

1) Shown in the picture below is a wiring diagram for a split receptacle. The top 1/2 of the receptacle is switched while the bottom 1/2 of the duplex is always live.

The diagram will assist you. Although, your wire colors are different since you have some red wires.

2) If using a non-contact voltage tester, that won't work since it detects voltage by inductance and can easily sense voltage from other hot wires inside the wall box and can provide a false indication. Whenever performing electrical work, an AC voltmeter is a must have testing instrument. You will need a meter to confirm and identify the wires, preferably one that also has a built-in audible continuity feature.

3) I suspect that one of the red wires is an always hot wire and possibly the 2nd red wire is the switched loop wire. Take a look at the wall switch. What wire colors are terminated to the switch?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The red wires terminate to the switch and the black wires terminate to the live.
Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

Are you saying that the wall switch has 2 red wires?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
By looking at it that are 2 lines that are feeding this outlet. Each line has a red wire, a black wire, and a white wire along with a ground. What they have done is connected the 2 red wires together, 2 black wires together and 2 white wires together then terminated them onto the screws as described. I can take a picture of it and email it to yu if that helps?
Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

In order to get things back in working order, this involves a process of isolation and confirmation of the wires. Thus the purpose of using an AC voltmeter:) A continuity tester can also assist to confirm the switched loop wire.

You 1st need to confirm the wire colors that land at the switch. One of the switch wires will be the switched loop wire that will terminate to the switched portion of the receptacle. The switched loop wire will only have 120 volts on it when the switch is in the ON position and 0 volts on it when the switch is in the OFF position. The other wire at the switch will always have 120 volts whether the switch is ON or OFF.

Next, the wire for the 1/2 of the receptacle that will always be live needs to be identified and confirmed.

Unfortunately, the wire splices (red and black) really don't mean anything. You need a meter to isolate and confirm the purpose of each wire. If no meter, then it becomes a guessing game as to the purpose of each wire.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I do see what you're saying. The strange thing is it worked fine with the wires connected this way prior to it being tripped, and now something is wrong. Looks like I'll need to get an electrician to come out.
Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

All it takes is one mis-wired splice or termination and it won't work correctly.

If you don't have a meter available, then probably best to call a local electrician.

If you have any additional questions, just let me know and I’ll be glad to answer them for you.

Otherwise, don’t forget to rate me before you log Off.

Thanks............Kevin:)

Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

If you have any additional questions, just let me know and I’ll be glad to answer them for you.

Otherwise, don’t forget to rate me before you log Off.

Thanks.............Kevin:)

Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

If you have any additional questions, just let me know and I’ll be glad to answer them for you.

Otherwise, don’t forget to rate me before you log Off.

Thanks.............Kevin:)

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