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Home Electrical Question - Extremely Confused - Need Help!

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Home Electrical Question - Extremely Confused - Need Help!

Old 10-04-06, 07:19 PM
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Home Electrical Question - Extremely Confused - Need Help!

Ok, we are in the final stages of our kitchen remodel. In the process I've added some outlets and have done some rewiring. Well today I went to replace two outlets because they were painted blue.

First off, the wiring in our house may be the most ass backwards wiring I have ever seen in my life. In our kitchen alone there are FIVE DIFFERENT breakers represented.

So, I go downstairs, shut all 5 off (not know which ones are exactly the outlets I'm swapping out), come upstairs, test to make sure they are indeed off, and then replace.

I notice that the one outlet I'm replacing doesn't have a ground wire connected to the actual outlet. The grounds on the two wires are connected together but just not connected to the outlet. I am not 100% about this as it may have pulled off when I was swapping it but I am 99% sure. So I go ahead and pigtail a ground wire to it.

I then swap the other outlet without issue, put the wires back in the box, and put the covers on them.

I now go downstairs and flip all 5 breakers back on. In the process one blows. I go upstairs and take note that it's the one that didnt' initially have the ground attached. I unscrew it, check for any lose connections, or bare wires and I see none. I go back downstairs only to notice that two breakers actually blew?

I turn one of them back on, it stays on, I go back upstairs and check the suspected outlet, it has power. I'm thinking now that the problem is fixed. I go back down and flip the other breaker and BAM. It blows again also blowing the breaker under it. I then flip the breaker under it back on again and it stays on.

The whack thing is is all the outlets / lights in my kitchen are working fine.

WTH is going on here??

Thanks for any help or suggestions!
Old 10-04-06, 07:20 PM
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Oh yea and to add.. Am I in any danger if I go ahead and turn back on that second breaker even though the first breaker trips it?

The second breaker runs my fridge and the outlet I swapped that didn't have the ground attached to the actual outlet.

Praying my house don't catch on fire.
Old 10-04-06, 07:30 PM
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You wired together both phases. Each circuit will work on its own, but when you flip them both on, a short is created.

Somewhere you bridged two black wires, one from each phase. You probably did this at an outlet thinking you were continuing the circuit, when in fact you bridged two circuits.

Good luck.
Old 10-04-06, 07:33 PM
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Hold it. Are you saying that everything is on now? Hmm. Ignore my answer and sleep in a motel tonight.
Old 10-04-06, 07:34 PM
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Ok, first question. Is my house safe if this waits until tomorrow?

Second question. What does bridged two wires mean and what exactly should I look for?

I believe the one outlet has two 12-3 wires while the other one has two 12-2.

Does it mean I could have just reversed the two hot wires on the outlet? Meaning they were hooked up top and bottom on the gold side and now they are bottom / top?

Thanks so much Pete!
Old 10-04-06, 07:44 PM
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I would suspect you hooked up 2 phases as well. Either that or you disconnected a shared neutral between 2 hots. Are you sure the outlet you took out wasn't on 2 circuits? Was the little metal bar removed on the outlet you took out.
Old 10-04-06, 07:47 PM
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I don't have any good ideas. If the breaker blows, it is protecting the wiring. I'd be more worried about a load that is "almost" enough to blow it. However, any condition that causes it to blow repetitively doesn't seem real safe.

The first thing I'd try is unplugging any loads plugged into the outlets involved (maybe plug your frig in via extension cord and another breaker if you need too. Are the wiring and breakers OK with nothing plugged in, but all breakers on?

If so, then the problem may be in the loads plugged in and you can start plugging things in one at a time, to narrow the problem down.

If the wiring still has a problem with all the loads unplugged, then it is the wiring itself. I'd check all the connections for slivers, also consider that maybe the new outlets are defective (try the old blue ones).

I'm guessing somewhere there is a hot to ground short somewhere that was previously masked by leaving those wires disconnected. That could be pretty dangerous. If the cause doesn't become apparent fairly quickly in your investigation, I wouldn't leave it, I'd call an electrician. I'm off to do some stuff tonight, but I'll check later to see what you found.
Old 10-04-06, 07:51 PM
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Pete's theory makes sense too, if error came from your rewiring, so don't ignore it.

I was proceding on an alternate theory that maybe your house was never wired right.

I think both are worth considering.
Old 10-04-06, 07:54 PM
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Now I'm not a electrician and this advice is worth what you paid for it. And be very careful about messing with electricity. It can KILL you. It can also burn down your house.


When you mentioned that flipping one breaker will cause two to trip, it sounded to me like two black wires from two circuits on different phases were wired together. If both breakers are staying on, then that is not the case. Wired together = twisted together directly or both attached to the same side of a outlet (one in the top, the other in the bottom hole).

If it tripped once while flipping on, that may be caused by the refrigerator and everything else on the circuit trying to start at once. Turn everything off, flip the breaker on, and if it stays, turn everything on one by on.

If it randomly trips, you may have a intermittant short. Ugh.


I can't tell if your house is safe until tomorrow. Sorry. I would undo your work regarding the outlet on the refrigerator circuit (remove the outlet and separately cap the bare wires) until I was sure what was going on. Then check to make sure that the breaker(s) do not trip.

Do not do anything to prevent the breaker from tripping (like forcing them on). This can cause the wiring in your walls to melt and your house to burn down.
Old 10-04-06, 07:54 PM
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Swapping hot and neutral on the outlet would nt be the problem.

Are the 2 breakers right next to each other in the breaker box? If so, then I too would say you tied the 2 phases together.

You could turn both breakers off, and see which outlets are also off. Thurn on breaker on and see which outlets have power. Then switch that breaker off and the other on, and again see which outlets are on. The problem is probably located in the common outlets.

Did one of the outlets have 2 black wires going to it? It is possible that the top and bottom outlet were off a different circuit. I agree on checking the shorting bar on the removed outlet.

It would be best to leave both off for the night.
Old 10-04-06, 07:57 PM
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I thought I beat OldDude, but he snuck in while I was typing. My other thought was exactly what he typed.
Old 10-04-06, 08:03 PM
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The tabs were it!! I removed the tab on each of the hots (cuz they were both removed on the old ones) turned the breakers back on and.. NOTHING!!

Thanks so much fellas!! As always!
Old 10-04-06, 08:05 PM
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Do all of the outlets work now?

The outlets had 2 hots to it?

Glad you are now safe(r) tonight!
Old 10-04-06, 08:11 PM
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Great to hear!

That is usually done to put one outlet on a switch and the other permanent on. Does one of the outlets respond to a switch? Just curious - this can wait 'til tomorrow.
Old 10-05-06, 08:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Pistol Pete
Great to hear!

That is usually done to put one outlet on a switch and the other permanent on. Does one of the outlets respond to a switch? Just curious - this can wait 'til tomorrow.
Yes, all the outlets work and no, the outlets don't respond to a switch. Is something majorly jacked up?
Old 10-05-06, 08:43 AM
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Nothing is majorly "jacked up", it is just not very common to dual wire an outlet like that, unless on is switched. It is a kitchen, so maybe the figure tou could have 2-15 amp appliance plugged into the same outlet running at the same time.

The bonues is, if you ever want to plug a 220 air conditioner into the kitchen, you are pretty much there!

I am guessing your home is an older home, not built withing the last 10 years or so?
Old 10-05-06, 08:43 AM
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Nothing "wrong" but it is a little weird to bring two totally different circuits (not only different breakers, but opposite phases) into one box. On the good news side, you can plug heavy loads into both outlets and not blow anything.
Old 10-05-06, 09:13 AM
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House was build in 1969 and the electrician must have been Mickey Mouse himself. Like I said, 5 different breakers are represented in the kicthen alone. All 5 of them most likely are represented in the living room, garage, basement, and second floor (no joke).
Old 10-05-06, 09:18 AM
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Were there 2 neutrals with the 2 hots or is there a common neutral for the 2 hots? Did you remove the tab on the neutral side of the outlet? I am not saying you should. Were the tabs removed on the old outlet? both hot and neutral?

Do you have one of those testers that plug into the outlet and tell if you its wired right? If not you should get one..
Old 10-05-06, 09:29 AM
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Both OLD oulets had the tabs removed on the HOT side.

The one outlet had two 12-3 wires going into it. One of those wires..... Ah crap I can't remember..

You know what. I have to freaking replace the outlets again anyways because after I installed them I realized the new oulets were 15A outlets but they are on 20A circuits.

I'm assuming this isn't safe and will get some 20A outlets tonight unless someone tells me otherwise.

Oh and yea.. I do have one of those testers but I can't find it at the momment. Upon finishing the initial wiring I did test them and they all tested good. That may have changed since I replaced the outlets though.
Old 10-05-06, 09:38 AM
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It will be ok to have a 15amp outlet on a 20 amp circuit. you just can't have a 20amp outlet on a 15amp breaker. The 20 amp outlet have one of the plugs sideways to plug special 20amp appliances in.

I assume then the outlet that had the 12-3 wires were wired up a 2 hot with a shared neutral. Its important that the 2 hots are on different phases coming from the panel. This would mean they should be right next to each other in the fuse box.(top/bottom) Since they are 2 seperate hots the tab for the hots should be removed. YOu should leave the neutral tab on the outlet alone. If the other outlet has only 12-2 wires then it should be a hot and neutral. You should not remove any tabs on the outlet because there is only one circuit.
Old 10-05-06, 09:47 AM
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Hmm. I removed the tabs on both because both were removed on the old ones (just the hot side). Yea, the breakers are right next to one another..
Old 10-05-06, 10:01 AM
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On your other outlet, the one with 12-2 wires, Is there a wire on each screw? I would think no. If thats the case then the otherside of that outlet does not work. You should buy a tester to find out.

one of these
http://www.homedepot.com/prel80/HDUS...4+3004&pos=n04
Old 10-05-06, 10:30 AM
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Yea, both outlets had wires on all four screws. That link didn't take me anywhere

The tester I have that I currently can't find plugs directly in the wall and I believe has three lights. Two orange and a red. I'll try to find it again.
Old 10-05-06, 11:04 AM
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thats the tester....

so it sounds like your kitchen was wired so each outlet would have 2 circuits.

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