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AssuredElectrical, Master Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 4241
Experience:  Contractor-42+ Years in the ElectricalTrade
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I have a circuit with too many outlets, including 3 lights

Customer Question

I have a circuit with too many outlets, including 3 lights on a switch. The lights are connected to the neutral wire in the middle of the circuit. There is a red wire from the switch back to the lights.
I want to add 3 lights for a total of 6 lights on one switch.
I have access to the switch and am running a new circuit for the added lights. The new circuit runs to a junction box. I can run 2 strand wire from the junction box to the lights and a 3 strand wire to the switch. I plan to power the switch from the new black, and join the two reds for the lights on the other side of the switch. Red will go to black in the junction box to power the three new lights. My question is: "Can I combine the neutrals at the switch for the two different circuits, as I can not get a new wire to the existing lights?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Electrical
Expert:  AssuredElectrical replied 2 years ago.
Welcome. My name is ***** ***** would be glad to assist.
I am getting lost somewhere, please elaborate?
If you are running new cables, why is it you wish to combine the neutrals of the circuits?
Combining neutrals is not allowed and it can be very dangerous to those working on the circuits.
Most do not understand, that a neutral wire carries the same current as the hot wire and cause electrocution as well.
I am missing why the hot can be run to a light and not a neutral if it is a new circuit?
They both originate at the panel.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
The existing lights are in the middle of the old circuit. and use the neutral common to that circuit. But a red returns to the lights. The existing black feeds the switch, and additional plug-ins. The Red feeds the lights from the switch. I presume the triple wire only exists from the lights to the switch. At the switch a double wire appears to continue on to more plug-ins. I want to continue feeding the lights with the red, but feed the switch from a new circuit.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I don't have access to run a new wire from the switch to the old lights.
Expert:  AssuredElectrical replied 2 years ago.
Lets try to break it down a little.
First, the lights are not picking up a neutral in the middle, the lights are in the continuation of the circuit.
Either the 2 wire in the switch box is the main power feed or the power feed is in the light box.
The circuit is a direct line from point A to Point B to Point C etc
Look at it this way,
If the power is the 2 wire cable at the switch box, that connects tot he 3 wire cable to the light.
The blacks are the constant power, the whites the neutrals and the red is a switched leg for the lights.
Same neutral and hot in all locations.
Or the power is in the light box, then it connects to he 3 wire down to the switch.
Same thing, blacks are hot, whites are neutral and red is switched leg.
The 2 wire is connected to the black and red and then continues to other locations.
Cables loop from one box to the next and always carry the hot and neutral together. They are never split up.
If you want to add other lights from the switch, you will connect to the white for neutral, black for power.
What you need to determine is where the power originates, switch or light?
The next part, why do you wish for a new circuit for only 3 light fixtures?
very small draw on the lights and the circuit can easily handle the addition.
Maybe that will help with the existing situation to assist on an alternate solution?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Back to Front. In Alberta code allows max 12 outlets per circuit. I inadvertently have 18. The circuit originally had 14 (I hadn't expected this and never checked) and I swapped out a track light for a pot and added two pots. The circuit also powers the crawl space where I added another 2 outlets to the original single. I can easily separate the crawl space and add it to the new circuit at the junction box. The new circuit also includes a water softener plug-in enroute and a future floor plug above the crawl space. So I will now have a new 11 outlet and an old 12 outlet circuit. And yes, I'm using 15 watt par 20 LEDs in the pots, but I want to be legal (And pass inspection). I will have to remove the pots (They are retrofit and removable) to determine if what you say is so, but I know that the power is coming from the direction of the lights. This is what leads me to believe that two wire into the box is the tail end of the circuit, but will have to confirm. I'm guessing the only way to determine power source at the switch is to undo the twisted connection?
Expert:  AssuredElectrical replied 2 years ago.
Ok, thanks, ***** ***** added information.
I understand the situation as it is now.
Yea, the 12 limit is a hindrance when the load is nothing near what a circuit can handle.
I would disconnect the 2 wire cable at the light switch, and then see what is dead after power is restored.
Maybe it will be minimal on the 2 wire out and then it would be an easy change, just the new cable at the switch box and then disconnect the 3 wire cable at the light box and only control the lights. The rest of the circuit out of the light box would remain on the old circuit.
The key will be which direction the flow is from the breaker down from the light or up to the light.
If it is up to the light, then there is a dilemma, as you cannot feed neutrals form 2 different locations or circuits, it creates a loop in the system.
There may be a way to cut off more on the other end, would have to a study.
I make maps of the panels and circuits, so you can get an overhead view of what is on each circuit.
See the link below: Very beneficial.
Hopefully power is out of the switch box and only to a single receptacle.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I will have to confirm that locally OK, but what do you think? Counter plugs run a common neutral on a dual pole breaker. I have these two breakers side by side in the panel. If I put a dual pole breaker on them with a cross bar, one couldn't be tripped without the other. Could they then share neutrals?
Expert:  AssuredElectrical replied 2 years ago.
The MWBC (multi-wire branch circuit) shares a common SINGLE neutral.
You are proposing to have 2 separate circuit neutrals combined together and that is not the same as sharing a single neutral with a mult-iwire circuit.
Only when there is a single neutral wire run with the 2 phase conductors is it allowed to be a multi-wire branch.
That is the whole purpose, to keep mistakes from happening at a later time by someone and creating major hazards.
Unless I have missed what you are now asking?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
No, you understood perfectly, and I understand and respect your answer. Thx. So, I'm still at the drawing board.
Expert:  AssuredElectrical replied 2 years ago.
Like to be sure I didnt miss something.
I do not know how many receptacles and how many lighting fixtures are on the circuit in question.
But there are exceptions on the #12 rule as you can see below, if it helps.
8-304 Maximum number of outlets per circuit (see Appendix I)
(1) There shall be not more than 12 outlets on any 2-wire branch circuit, except as permitted by other Rules of this Code.
(2) Such outlets shall be considered to be rated at not less than 1 A per outlet,except as permitted by Subrule (3).
(3) Where the connected load is known, the number of outlets shall be permitted to exceed 12, provided that the load current does not exceed 80% of the rating of the overcurrent device protecting the circuit