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any 120v electricians here?


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kenwood_nut 
Copper - Posts: 194
Copper spaceThis member has made a donation to the12volt.com. Click here for more info.spacespace
Joined: April 10, 2009
Location: Washington, United States
Posted: November 10, 2010 at 2:47 PM / IP Logged  
Okay, here is my situation: (Pictures below)
My garage has a pair of 3-way switches for the ceiling light near the pull-up door. One switch by door going into house, one near pull-up door. Sounds normal enough and I understand the concept. But when I had my garage door opener installed 2 years ago, the guy ran one of my HD extension cords to the other end of the garage to power it because next to the opener on the ceiling was next to a light socket and not an outlet. He said I need to change it to a socket, which I did a few days later. He also told me to never turn off either switch that controls that outlet or my opener would lose power. So I put duct tape over both of them.
So far, everything sounds logical, I'm sure. But here is where I need advise:
I was getting tired of running an extension cord from the back of my garage to the outside when I wanted power in my driveway (like to vacuum my car or use a drop light). So recently I got this "cool" idea that I would replace the switch by the overhead door with a socket since there is power there. NOT such an easy task since it's a 3-way switch I'm replacing!
I have "basic" knowledge of home wiring as well as excellent books on the subject when needed. I've changed light switches and sockets and light fixtures for many years. Never fried myself of started any fires! Yippee! But I'm NOT at all familiar with the concept of wiring the 3-way switch. How it works makes sense, just not how to wire it when it has red and green wires instead of black and white and no bare ground.
This would be an easy task IF my wires weren't installed 50-75 years ago in the stone age!!! Everyone says to look for black, white, and ground. Well, there are none of those. Here is what I have:
2 green wires (one on each side of old switch) going UP wall.
1 red wire to lower right side of switch going DOWN wall.
NO visible ground wire to box.
I do have a multimeter, and set AC voltage selector to 200 (only choices are 200 & 500, and when I set it to 500 it says High Voltage on display). So, I set it to 200. Touched ground lead to box and red lead to each wire and got these readings:
0 volts to lower red wire.
0 volts to upper left green wire.
1.2 volts to upper right green wire.
(I'm assuming that "1.2" is 120 volts.)
Okay, the reason I need this switch replaced instead of just hooking it up is because it's shorting out now and tripping my breaker. I went to Lowes and got a new 3-way switch since it looks like my idea of putting a plug there isn't going to work. But I also have a plug.
So, can someone tell me which wires are which, and which screws on NEW switch to attach them to? You can refer to the letters I put in the pictures or just upper/lower/left/right/etc.
If you know the correct way to wire the wall plug to the 3-way system, like just using 2 wires and capping off the 3rd, that would even be better.
Here are pictures for you to study. I need help. Right now I have no power to my overhead garage door until I replace the prehistoric switch with the new one (or the plug).
any 120v electricians here? -- posted image.
any 120v electricians here? -- posted image.
any 120v electricians here? -- posted image.
any 120v electricians here? -- posted image.
any 120v electricians here? -- posted image.
any 120v electricians here? -- posted image.
kenwood_nut 
Copper - Posts: 194
Copper spaceThis member has made a donation to the12volt.com. Click here for more info.spacespace
Joined: April 10, 2009
Location: Washington, United States
Posted: November 10, 2010 at 3:04 PM / IP Logged  
If it would be easier, I can always just cap two wires together to keep the overhead socket ON at all times, but I need to know WHICH TWO wires to cap together, then I'll cap off the 3rd wire. I don't REALLY need the switch or wall outlet, but I need my garage door to open! Thanks.
oldspark 
Gold - Posts: 4,913
Gold spacespace
Joined: November 03, 2008
Location: Australia
Posted: November 10, 2010 at 5:20 PM / IP Logged  
I would suggest a local qualified electrician before you house or shed burns down, or you or others and kids get fried - or at least fairly burnt.
But as an alternative, I have some questions.
Is doing that sort of AC wiring illegal where you are? (It is here in Australia, but not in New Zealand. We both use 230V AC).
Do you use an earthed (grounded?) system?
Is it a MEN system (Main(s) Earth-Neutral; the neutral is bonded to the earth at a site's main switch board.
Does mains power (wall sockets) have to be earthed?
Do light circuits have to be be earthed?
(Hence...) Is it legal to take power from lighting circuits?
Do you have RCDs installed (Residual Current Devices)?
If so, for both lighting and power?
If so, separate RCDs for power and lighting?
Is the existing lighting on a light circuit or a power circuit?
If green is being used for L1 or L2 power (Active or Neutral), who the heck wired it and when?
What are the legalities of using a green wire for anything other than Earth?
What type and class of insulation and wiring currently exists? (Rubberised insulation that is breaking down?)
kenwood_nut wrote:
Touched ground lead to box and red lead to each wire....
Since the "box" is floating, why would you NOT expect to get any reading?
Or - why did you expect to get a meaningful reading?
And yes, that reading was 1.2 Volts - it is NOT 120 Volts!)
Since it's a metal box, is it earthed?
Is it required to be earthed?
Are the wires run in conduits? If so, metal conduits, and earthed?
Looking at your "dream" socket in the orientation as shown above, which pin/terminal is required to be the hot or Active line (or L1 etc)?
What colors do you used for hot or Active conductors?
(Do you use the brown, blue & GREEN/ YELLOW system; or red, black, green; or some other convention?)
Unfortunately because AC systems and Regulations vary so greatly, and because your wiring is far from any Regulations I know of, I require the above before anything else.
However since this is probably a Regulated issue and has safety ramifications, I will probably chose not to provide direction other than the type of advice and warning in my first paragraph.
And this site may chose to lock this thread (but hopefully after your reply) if it is seen as a risk.... (Though there would be no direct legal issue if I were to advise a New Zealander, though indirect action is possible...)
I too get a kick from electricity.
kenwood_nut 
Copper - Posts: 194
Copper spaceThis member has made a donation to the12volt.com. Click here for more info.spacespace
Joined: April 10, 2009
Location: Washington, United States
Posted: November 10, 2010 at 5:52 PM / IP Logged  
I would suggest a local qualified electrician before you house or shed burns down, or you or others and kids get fried - or at least fairly burnt.
That's funny... but true! No worries, I'm a little better than that.
Is doing that sort of AC wiring illegal where you are? (It is here in Australia, but not in New Zealand. We both use 230V AC).
Not that I've ever heard of. I'm just a homeowner (okay, renter, but don't tell anyone!) who needs to replace a wall switch. Perfectly legal here. I'm not doing any actual wiring or rewiring. Just replacing a bad switch.
So there ya go. I hope this answered some of your questions. Again, I believe this house was built in the 50's but it has been remodeled on the outside. But the wiring appears to be original. Even the furnace is from the 60's!
I still haven't found an answer to my question but DID find a site that showed what the OLD wire colors WERE and what they would be. Please tell me if these seem right....
Black, Red, or Blue (copper wire): hot
White (silver wire): Neutral
Green (or bare copper): Ground/Earth
Green with yellow stripe: Isolated ground
Thanks for at least replying to my post. You're the first one. I might have to just put the old, worn out switch back in so I can open my garage door with the button. If the breaker trips, I'll just reset it. It only trips when I flip that old, ancient, prehistoric switch.
Is it a MEN system (Main(s) Earth-Neutral; the neutral is bonded to the earth at a site's main switch board.
Do you use an grounded system?
It's certainly supposed to be, but I've found online that some are not grounded, or they are grounded inside the walls to each other (or something to that affect). But yes, they should all be grounded.I'm not really sure. If the wires were the correct colors of today's industry standards, I would know. I do NOT see a ground inside the junction box behind the switch. I know SOME are grounded from the switch to the box. Not this one.
Does mains power (wall sockets) have to be grounded?   Do light circuits have to be be grounded? (Hence...) Is it legal to take power from lighting circuits?
Do you have RCDs installed (Residual Current Devices)?
If so, for both lighting and power?
Separate RCDs for power and lighting?
Is the existing lighting on a light circuit or a power circuit? If green is being used for L1 or L2 power (Active or Neutral), who the heck wired it and when?
What are the legalities of using a green wire for anything other than Earth? What type and class of insulation and wiring currently exists? (Rubberised insulation that is breaking down?)
Unknown on all of those questions. Again, I'm not rewiring anything so I haven't gotten into the wall electrics or done any inpections. As for WHEN it was done? Probably when the house was built back in the 50's or earlier. It's old wiring. But I've been here 2 years and never burned anything up or tripped a breaker no matter what I've plugged in.
kenwood_nut 
Copper - Posts: 194
Copper spaceThis member has made a donation to the12volt.com. Click here for more info.spacespace
Joined: April 10, 2009
Location: Washington, United States
Posted: November 10, 2010 at 7:41 PM / IP Logged  
32 views but nobody has chimed in. Is this question that confusing? Or did I just make it sound more complicated that it really is? I still have no power to my garage door opener. My old switch is shorting out and needs to be replaced. Just need to know what the older generation of wires go to. They are:
2 green going UP the wall from the right side of switch.
1 red going DOWN the wall from the top left of the switch.
NO apparent ground (no wire to gox, no bare wire, etc)
Have new switch. So, which wire goes where on it?
flobee4 
Silver - Posts: 585
Silver spacespace
Joined: January 02, 2004
Location: United States
Posted: November 10, 2010 at 8:37 PM / IP Logged  

This is how i would attack this one if I was you. Its a lot of looking and alot of testing. But lets see what you got.

It sounds like the electrical box you are working at is not grounded nor has a neutral, so what you are trying to do there by adding and outlet is probably not possible...

If you want to replace the switch this is how I would test:

grab an extension cord that reaches from the back of garage outlet you mentioned in your post or an extension cord from any outlet and get it to the electrical box you are working at. make sure it is a 3 prong extension cord.  Put your black probe in the ground hole on the extension cord, then with the circuit breaker on and the red and 2 greens hanging out of the box and seperated in a way not to short each other. touch the red probe to each wire individually. one has to be the "hot" wire or "feed" Once you find that wire, which i suspect is the red one, I would switch the other switch in the oppisite direction to see if you are in fact at the "master switch" if the red looses power and it jumps to another wire then you are at the "slave switch"

If you are at the master:

the constant 120volt wire goes to the black screw. again this wire stays constant at 120volts regardless of how the other switch is flipped. probably red, but test.

(2) other wires go to the brass screws - doesn't matter which goes where

If you are at the slave switch:

The 2 wires that toggle the 120volts during testing and flipping the other switch goto the 2 brass screws- again no important which of those 2 wires go where. 

the 3rd wire that would have no power regardless of which way the other switch was flipped would goto the Black screw. This wire leaves the electrical box and goes to the light.

After testing and you are about to make your connections, makle sure you flip off the circuit breaker.  When doing the testing, remember the wires will be live and the hot wire is the one that kills. especially when it crosses the heart.... example, left hand on ground and right hand on hot wire. path of electricity wants to goto ground, in that senario the fastest way is across the heart...

If you have any other questions, let me know. Work is pretty crazy right know, I might not be able to answer till late at night.

Frank

oldspark 
Gold - Posts: 4,913
Gold spacespace
Joined: November 03, 2008
Location: Australia
Posted: November 10, 2010 at 9:19 PM / IP Logged  
CAVEAT - Death is Fatal!
You have been warned.
Of course there won't be any "ground" to the switch!
And I don't know how a switch can "short out" so that it trips a breaker. Are you able to explain that?
The reason no one has chimed in is probably because there is no guaranteed answer to your question, and people are wary of enticing you or others to their death.
I on the other hand don't mind the Darwin Awards, and I often get a chuckle watching people get shocked - whether it's though their teeth (water taps), opening a fridge door, or changing light bulbs. (It's not as if watching petrified kids that begin burn when train surfing - that stinks! Kids only stink after touching live AC fittings and switches if they haven't been found for a few days.)     
Normally the 2-way switching switch uses three wires - the power in or out (Common switch pole) with the switchs' (SP)DT terminals interconnected (ie, 2 wires between the 2 switches).
And they should all be active (hot) connections (not neutral or ground!).
But there are other DANGEROUS (and illegal) ways of wiring them so be warned.
Make sure that you understand how to test for a live connection, and how to isolate the power and confirm that it is safe.
Assuming the circuit breaker or fuse is connected, you should have measured 120VAC (else a balanced 60VAC) on one of those 3 wires.
The fact that you didn't measure it suggest that you don't know how to.
TIP - use the back of your hand, not your tongue.   
kenwood_nut 
Copper - Posts: 194
Copper spaceThis member has made a donation to the12volt.com. Click here for more info.spacespace
Joined: April 10, 2009
Location: Washington, United States
Posted: November 10, 2010 at 9:25 PM / IP Logged  
It's pretty easy to understand how a switch shorts out and trips the breaker: it's worn out inside! If I turn it on or off, the breaker trips. If I leave it alone, the breaker is fine. So, there is obviously a short in it.
kenwood_nut 
Copper - Posts: 194
Copper spaceThis member has made a donation to the12volt.com. Click here for more info.spacespace
Joined: April 10, 2009
Location: Washington, United States
Posted: November 10, 2010 at 9:28 PM / IP Logged  
oldspark wrote:
Of course there won't be any "ground" to the switch!
Well this is a new one to me! I've had others tell me there MUST be a ground to the switch, and if there isn't, to make one.
i am an idiot 
Platinum - Posts: 13,254
Platinum spaceThis member consistently provides reliable informationspace
Joined: September 21, 2006
Location: Louisiana, United States
Posted: November 10, 2010 at 9:39 PM / IP Logged  
The metal part of the switch housing should be grounded.  what oldspark meant was the ground connection should not be connected to the switching part of the switch.
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