home wire? -- can I add an outlet?

Discussion in 'Fred's House of Pancakes' started by cyberpriusII, Sep 16, 2020.

  1. cyberpriusII

    cyberpriusII Prodigyplace says I'm Super Kris

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    This is not working, probably because I am trying to post from a friend's computer.

    So, sorry, am not able to post photo. but under a blank wall plate are bundled three black wires. And, also bundled together are three white wires. And, then a third bundle of two red wires. And a bare wire.

    I suppose I can't use use one of each and stick a wall outlet in that spot....

    This is in a room where the light switch controls one of the two outlets in each box...if that makes sense.What are they called "switch" or half-hot outlets?

    Another outlet on the same wall has only one red, one black, one white and one bare wire.

    kris
     
    #1 cyberpriusII, Sep 16, 2020
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2020
  2. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    If it were my box in my wall in my house, I might do it, but I would first depower the house and use my meter to completely convince myself I knew where all those wires came from and went.

    A little bit tedious, but more fun than rebuilding.
     
  3. fuzzy1

    fuzzy1 Senior Member

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    If it were my house, I'd attempt it too. But I don't have anywhere enough confidence to advise others. I'm not an electrician, only playing one when installing my own heat pump water heater and solar system. If you have to ask, then don't listen to me.

    Ideally, the black, white, and bare wires would be the same as normal 120V circuits, while the red wires would be the odd ones -- the other hot line on split phase 240V circuits in many situations, possibly the switched line in your case. But many many cases are not ideal or installed correctly ...
     
  4. vvillovv

    vvillovv Senior Member

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  5. ETC(SS)

    ETC(SS) The OTHER One Percenter.....

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    +1

    Hmmm...
    The fact that there's a bare wire is somewhat encouraging....I think.... :eek:
    In SOME cases you can add a convenience outlet to (or near) a box quite easily, but there are a lot of wires in there already and there's not already an outlet there.....perhaps for a reason.

    Sometimes electricians will remove an "old work box" and expand them
    What You Should Do with Crowded Electrical Boxes | Family Handyman

    ....but if you have metal work boxes securely bolted into 2x6 rough-cut wall studs under lath and plaster - this might be a little more...ah....involved.

    You will also want to know what else is in the circuit you are tapping into - so that you're not trying to add a room heater to a circuit already containing an iron, a toaster oven, and a bank of grow lamps.....(This IS Oregon we're talking about!) ;)

    Good Luck!
     
  6. sam spade 2

    sam spade 2 Senior Member

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    The red wires probably are a second "hot" circuit running in the same physical cable.
    In this case, red probably is the "switched" circuit.
    In those split outlets, you should find all 4 wires in use.

    White is neutral for both circuits.
    Black is full time HOT.
    Red is switched HOT.
    Bare is earth ground.
    Probably. But the red can be a second full time circuit too.

    You should be able to put an outlet in place of that bare plate by adding an additional wire to the white, black and bare bundle, to your new outlet. This depends in part on the anticipated current draw on that new outlet. The additional current might overload the circuit.

    BUT I strongly recommend that you obtain some help from someone with experience......if not an actual license.
     
  7. Mark57

    Mark57 Senior Member

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    Scary thread. You have one chance to get it right and many chances to get it wrong. Should it go wrong. the consequences are not worth saving a buck. Don't screw around with electricity if you don't know what you're doing. Find someone that does.
     
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  8. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    Learning to plaster turns it almost fun, in a "haha, I can close this right back up like original and not be changing out for drywall or any of that nonsense" sort of way.

    But I have a house from 1928. I think Kris's is more recent, from the aluminum-wire era? Maybe already drywall then?
     
  9. ETC(SS)

    ETC(SS) The OTHER One Percenter.....

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    Aluminum wiring almost always means sheetrock construction.

    There is the rare house out there with plaster AND aluminum, but generally (in the US!) sheetrock (invented in the 19-teens) has been used since the 50s and maaaaaybe early 60s.
    Builders had a dalliance with aluminium wire from the mid 60's to the mid 70's but by then we colonials had mostly abandoned plaster and wood for gypsum and paper.
    The reasons for both are fairly straightforward, although buildings with lath and plaster construction are not quite as controversial as those with wiring from Alcoa.

    The fascinating thing to history geeks like me is the glacier-like pace that plaster was replaced with drywall, as compared with the flash-in-the-pan history of Aluminum home wiring.
    My thinking is that Al was, unfortunately, considered to be a drop-in replacement for Cu requiring no training or tooling.
    Sheetrock on the other hand, was more transformative.
    The changes with the former were made because of LABOR costs, accelerated by things like the interstate highway system and as Oprah would say...."YOU get a new house....and YOU get a new house...."
    Aluminum wiring got to be a thing because of material cost, Al being a heckuva lot cheaper and lighter than Cu.

    Interestingly enough....we're seeing the same sorta thing in plumbing with PEX.

    Aluminum wiring does not make your house a ticking time bomb, despite what people who get paid to......ah.....REPLACE home wiring might tell you. You just have to treat it a little differently at the connection points.
    Information is your friend there....but remember.....LOTS of data isn't the same thing as lots of truth. ;)
     
    #9 ETC(SS), Sep 18, 2020
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2020
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  10. jerrymildred

    jerrymildred Senior Member

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    Yeah, you'll need to wring out those wires with all the power off and find out where they go. Figuring out old home wiring is usually a royal pita.

    Normally, if you have red, black, white, and ground, that's either for a three way light switch or a 240V outlet. If it's down at outlet level, it's probably an outlet. Up high is probably a switch. But you never know unless you wired it yourself. You can check if it's an outlet by measuring between the red & black to see if you get 240V.

    But, my official and safe answer is to have an experience electrician look into this since there are some signifiant hazards involved. If I had to be the one figuring it out, I'd probably start with an official, "Help me, Jesus!!" The only thing worse than old wiring (as opposed to new construction) is old plumbing. At least I've never had to mop up electrons.
     
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  11. cyberpriusII

    cyberpriusII Prodigyplace says I'm Super Kris

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    Well, sounds as if I am going to put that blank plate back on the wall and leave it there. IF I ever have an electrician come by -- and it may happen, I will have it looked at, because that spot is prime for an outlet. In other words, I NEED an outlet there.

    And, not sure where the aluminum thing came from....All my wiring is copper -- and I think it is all heavier gauge than usual, cause it is sure hell to bend the wires to fit around the screws....which is why when I replace anything here, I always use the 20 amp versions (outlets, switches).

    I know all the pipes are copper. I have become pretty good with compression fittings.

    kris.
     
  12. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    I may have misremembered something ... I thought you had an adventure with aluminum wiring to a kitchen cooktop some while ago.
     
  13. cyberpriusII

    cyberpriusII Prodigyplace says I'm Super Kris

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    Yeah, that whole cooktop thing was ... well ... interesting. So, I actually read back that cooktop thread.

    The wires FROM the cooktop were silver colored. Which created some confusion, because all my household wires are copper.

    Somebody said the cooktop wires were just coated...irregardless, that cooktop thing went on for months. But, it now works! Silver colored or not.

    Anyway, household wires are all copper and I think heavier gauge than normal -- or -- if not -- at least normal. But this house is strange. I have posted before about the panel not having a "main shut-off."
     
  14. Rmay635703

    Rmay635703 Senior Member

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    Get a voltmeter and an extension cord,

    check each wires behavior with the opposing switch in each position with respect to one another and neutral.

    Worst case you end up with a switched outlet,

    I built one out of a double three way switch and a traditional outlet, converted two standard three way switches into a quad setup so I had 2 switches and a double outlet.

    when the lights are on my outlet is on.

    Considering the lights are led there is a lot of leftover power for the vacuum
     
  15. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    Yeah, my parents once bought a 5-unit apartment building with the idea of retirement income. Various delightful things we discovered included that at some point in its history, somebody had bridged a circuit between two adjacent apartments. You could turn off the breaker in either apartment and it would still all be live.

    Of the various ways I could have discovered that, I was relatively thankful for the way I did.

    I also lived for a few years in a place where the kitchen lights had the switch in the neutral.

    Working out a system where you see some wires that are some colors behind some plates on some walls, sure, you look at the wire colors, take a meter, make some measurements, draw some sketches ... then you look very carefully at your sketches and work backward to identify all the assumptions you've made. Then you go back and test those.
     
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  16. TMR-JWAP

    TMR-JWAP Senior Member

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    You probably have 12 gauge wiring instead of 14.
    The house I owned prior to my current home, was wired with 12 gauge. Never thought much about it, until I helped a neighbor fix some wiring in a kitchen wall switch that had come loose. His wires were so easy to bend, compared to the wiring I had in mine.
    Pretty sure nowadays, 14 gauge is used on all 15 amp circuits (most lighting and receptacles) to save money and 12 gauge is required for all 20 amp circuits. Slightly older homes sometimes had 12 gauge for everything except of course, appliances circuits, etc.

    Here's a link that probably provides more wiring info than you'll ever need. Split receptacles are down the page a bit.

    Light Switch Wiring Diagrams - Do-it-yourself-help.com
     
    #16 TMR-JWAP, Sep 20, 2020
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2020
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  17. jerrymildred

    jerrymildred Senior Member

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    Great link! And that explains the red wire. I guess I missed that 2011 change.
     
  18. jerrymildred

    jerrymildred Senior Member

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    I know what you mean. I was helping friends move into their "new" rental house near us in Honduras. I was going to remove the refrigerator door and switch the hinges so it would open the other way. It was already running and had food in it. I was soaking wet with sweat, laid down on the tile floor to take off the bottom bolt. When I put the wrench on the bolt, I screamed like a little girl.

    I checked and the neutral was 70V above ground and the hot was 50V above ground. And that's why you're supposed to bond the neutral to the ground. Kids, don't try that at home! :eek:
     
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