Double switch with 5 sets of wires


  #1  
Old 11-26-16, 03:34 PM
F
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2016
Location: USA
Posts: 4
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Double switch with 5 sets of wires

Hi,

I've been replacing the outlets and switches in my 60s home. I am a novice, but I have done about 3/4 of the outlets and switches. I've run into some strange wiring, and even managed to fix a 3 way switch (after I screwed it up). Anyway, today I was replacing the double switches in both bathrooms.

The first bathroom had 4 sets of cables. The whites were wirenut'd together, the 4 black wires were attached one each on the top and bottom of each switch (4 screws, 4 black wires). Then there was a short piece of white wire which went from the bottom of switch 1 to bottom of switch 2. I replaced those two switches using the exact same configuration and everything works fine.

The second bathroom has 5 sets of cables. (5?!?) Again, the whites were wirenut'd together, but this time the top of switch #2 had two black wires attached (5 black wires, 4 screws). Then there was, again, a short piece of white wire which went from the bottom of switch 1 to the top of switch 2. Well, I am installing Leviton Decora switches, and there is no way I can get 3 wires around that screw. I see no holes in back to stick the wires in.

So...I put the short white wire from the bottom of switch 1 to the bottom of switch 2. Both switches work (light and fan). However, the outlet on the other side of the wall shows an open ground. I confess, I am not really sure what that means.

Now, I did not check that outlet before I started...my bad...so I'm wondering, did I screw up the outlet with that short piece of white wire in the switches? If so, how can I configure this short white wire without having to put 3 pieces of wire on one screw? (I could probably pigtail them together and attach, but I'd rather not do that if there's an alternate configuration.)

I'm about to replace both outlets with GFCIs (have already done this in the kitchen and first bathroom). But I don't want to start that until I know I've done the switches correctly.

I'll attempt to attach two pictures. One is a picture of the double switch before I disconnected everything. The second is my diagram of the double switch before I disconnected everything. The circles are the 5 sets of cables in roughly the position they are in the outlet box. The solid lines are the 5 black wires. The 5 white wires coming from those cables are not shown in the diagram. The dotted line is the short piece of white wire.

If you can tell me a configuration that would work, or confirm the outlet is not related, I would be most appreciative. Thank you for any help!
Name:  Double switch diagram.jpg
Views: 2967
Size:  9.3 KB
Name:  double switch.jpg
Views: 3334
Size:  40.4 KB
 
  #2  
Old 11-26-16, 03:46 PM
PJmax's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Jersey
Posts: 65,401
Received 4,046 Upvotes on 3,630 Posts
Welcome to the forums.

Every standard single pole switch (not three way) should only have two wires* on it.
Many times people are lazy and connect extra wires to the switch instead of making up a splice and using a short tail from the splice to the switch.

White should not be used as a jumper between switches. It will work but white signifies neutral and that is not a neutral.

*(not including ground)
 
  #3  
Old 11-26-16, 03:58 PM
ray2047's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 29,711
Upvotes: 0
Received 15 Upvotes on 13 Posts
When you have multiple wires on the same terminal they are using it as a splice. That is not good practice. If they have more then one wire per screw that is a not code compliant. The best way is to connect all wires to a single pigtail and the pigtail to the switch or receptacle. When you remove multiple wires from a terminal they all must be kept together because they form a single splice.
I see no holes in back to stick the wires in. So...I put the short white wire from the bottom of switch 1 to the bottom of switch 2
If you didn't keep all the wires together that is a problem. You can't mix up the wires.

Basically what you have is one power in cable and multiple power out cables. The way it should have been wired was a pigtail for each switch wired to the black of the power in. And then one pigtail to each switch.

That should leave you with blacks from each power out cable. One of those blacks go to each switch.

All of the whites are connected together.

Name:  BG.jpg
Views: 5386
Size:  26.2 KB
 

Last edited by ray2047; 11-26-16 at 04:27 PM.
  #4  
Old 11-26-16, 04:22 PM
F
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2016
Location: USA
Posts: 4
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Thanks for your fast reply. I didn't know - thanks for the info. This makes sense - so the short white wire was carrying the hot to the other switch. So with 5 cables, I have 1 power in (line) and 4 power outs (loads). Are you saying:
1. Attach the line in to a pigtail with 2 short tails, and attach one short tail to the top of each switch.
2. Pigtail the 4 loads and attach to the bottom of one switch (or pigtail 1-2 together and 3-4 together and attach the first pigtail to switch 1 and the second pigtail to switch 2).

Since the whites are already tied together with a wirenut, I'm wondering how I would fit 3 more wirenuts with pigtails into this box. *sigh

Thank you!
 
  #5  
Old 11-26-16, 04:26 PM
F
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2016
Location: USA
Posts: 4
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Thank you, Pjmax! I thought that was the case, so thanks for confirming that the short wire should be black.
 
  #6  
Old 11-26-16, 04:31 PM
ray2047's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 29,711
Upvotes: 0
Received 15 Upvotes on 13 Posts
I added a diagram to my post. Note by code the jumpers or pigtails can't be white, gray or green. Usual colors are black or red.

Name:  BG.jpg
Views: 2930
Size:  26.2 KB
 
  #7  
Old 11-26-16, 07:47 PM
F
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2016
Location: USA
Posts: 4
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
The diagram is very helpful - thank you, Ray2047!
 
 

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
 
Ask a Question
Question Title:
Description:
Your question will be posted in: