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Mike, Master Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 1425
Experience:  Licensed Master Electrician - OnQ Certified Data Voice Audio Video Installer
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I just tried to add an outlet in my attic. I took the wire

Customer Question

I just tried to add an outlet in my attic. I took the wire where the lights in the attic were connected and cut it to put the new outlet in it. The wire was a four wire cable (red, black, white and ground). To connect them I need to add some wire so I used the 12-2 wire I had, three wires (black, white and ground). I connected the red and black of the main line to the black on my 12-2 cable. White on white, ground the ground. On my outlet I have he hots on one side, whites on other side, and grounds to the ground nut. When I flipped the breaker back on, the outlet works perfectly, checked it with a night light and the lights did turn on. The bad news was that the light switch was turned off. I flipped it up and down but the light stays off. Please help! My email is***@******.***
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Electrical
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago. name is ***** ***** I will be happy to assist you with your electrical question. My goal is to exceed your expectations on Just Answer!
1) Can you temporarily turn the circuit breaker to the OFF position and back the wall switch out from the wall box but do not disconnect any wires from it? I need to know how many wires and the wire colors on the existing wall switch?
2) Any chance that you have a 2 wire lead AC voltage tester (a contact type) or better yet, an AC voltmeter available?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I pulled the switch out and saw the main two white wires connected with a short pink wire connected to the switch, the two main black wires connected together then a short black connecting the switch and the same with the ground wire. I attached a photo of the switch.I do have a Voltmeter.
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago.
Thanks for the picture and the replies.
1) Is the red wire on the switch spliced to the group of white wires? Double check the white wire splice as it appears that the red wire is not spliced to the 2 white wires? Need confirmation on this?
2) Set your meter to the AC voltage setting and the 200 volt range. Place 1 meter probe to the switch black wire and the 2nd meter probe to the bare copper ground. Flip the switch ON & OFF. Do you measure a constant 120 volts on the black wire whether the switch is ON or OFF?
3) Repeat the same for the red wire at the switch. Do you measure 120 volts on the red to bare copper ground when the switch is in the ON position and 0 volts when the switch is in the OFF position?
4) The purpose of the above test is to confirm which wire on the switch is the hot circuit feed and which wire is the switched loop wire that leaves the switch and extends to the light.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
1) the red wire is only a very short wire that connects to the two white wires and then goes to the switch, basically taking the neutral connection to the switch2) I got a constant 120 V when the switch was in the ON and OFF position with the black and ground wires3) I got a constant 120 V when the switch was in the ON and OFF position with the red and ground wires4) With this test, I'm thinking maybe the switch is bad and locked to ON internally. Could that be it?
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago.
Thanks for confirming.
1) ON/OFF Snap Switches such as the type you have are never wired using a neutral. These switches only have a hot circuit feed into the switch and a switched loop leaving the switch. Sounds like the whites are being used as the hot circuit feed then. They are definately not a neutral.
2) Flip the breaker to the OFF position and temporarily remove the red wire from the switch screw and place a wire nut on the red wire so you don't create a short or an arc. Then repeat the voltmeter test on the black to ground wire at the switch.
2) You mentioned that you spliced the red to a black in the attic. Remove the red wire from the splice you made in the attic. Re-terminate the red to the switch. Take your meter into the attic and place 1 meter probe to that red wire and the other probe to a bare copper.
Have an assistant flip the switch ON & OFF while you are in the attic. Does the voltage go ON & OFF on the red wire in the attic? Or does the red wire stay constantly hot?
3) How many lights are controlled by this switch? Looks like 2 lights based on the wall switch wiring?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I will do this test tomorrow after work, thank you for your help. it's past midnight here. I will answer you when I get back home.
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago.
No problem. I will be logged on the site tomorrow. So just reply back to me like you have been doing and we can take it from there.
In the meantime, have a good evening and we'll catch up with you tomorrow.......Thanks.......Kevin!
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
1) Thank you for the information.
2) Removed the red from the switch, I got 120 V on the voltmeter on black and ground
2b) With the switch off, both ends of the red were 0 volts. With switch on, one end had 0 volts, the other end had 120 volts. I'm guessing I need to just need to connect the red to red wires independent of the black. In other words, I needed a 12-3 cable correct?
3) yes 2 lights
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
How acceptable would it be to connect the red wires with a second 12-2 wire's black wire and leaving the other wires of the 12-2 wires un-terminated?
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago.
Thanks for the replies.
1) I'm wondering if the wires are transitioned somewhere in a splice box and wire colors were changed via a splice?
The 2 blacks that are terminated to the switch should be the 2 switched 1 black going to one light and another black going to the second light. If so, this would make the whites along with the small red in the switch box the hot circuit feed.

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