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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
When we moved into our house, there was a dimmer switch on the wall that controlled a specific wall socket that had a light fixture plugged in and it worked appropriately. The previous owners took the fixture with them and we never had a need to use the receptacle as a dimmer, just as a normal power source and had no problems with this. I just installed a dinning room light and plugged it into the same outlet and the dimmer switch would not work. I replaced the switch and it still does not work. After using a meter, I found out that there is no power in the main wires going to the switch. Now, every receptacle in the room and around the switch work fine, so I don't think anything came loose. Any suggestions on what to look for or where, so I can get the wires live again and the switch working?

Thanks,
Jim
 

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My suggestion is to talk to Pandora about it...........

He told me last night that he does home plumbing, gas and electrical.

Hope that helps.
 

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Usually when a dimmer is hooked to a receptical the tabs connecting the two outlets together are broke off. One outlet dimmer, one outlet full power. That's the way it should be anyway. Put the plug into both sets of holes and check.

hammer aka mr. fixit
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
QUOTE(hammer @ Dec 5 2003, 12:18 PM)Usually when a dimmer is hooked to a receptical the tabs connecting the two outlets together are broke off. One outlet dimmer, one outlet full power. That's the way it should be anyway. Put the plug into both sets of holes and check.

hammer aka mr. fixit
Dear Mr. Fixit,

Thank you for the suggestion. I have tried plugging the light fixture into both recepticles and the light works fine in either, but neither is working with the dimmer switch. It was after I did this, same thought process as you, that I checked the wires to the dimmer switch and realized that it was not hot.

I just came down from the attic to try and trace the line and couldnt even find the line. The attic is all blown insulation and no wires are visible anywhere. COuldnt even feel them by digging my hand around under the insulation.
 

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Do the wires from the switch go up toward the attic or down toward the outlet?
 

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QUOTE(PyrateJim @ Dec 5 2003, 01:27 PM)COuldnt even feel them by digging my hand around under the insulation.
ewwwwwww, last time I did that I was at JasonR's new house (new at the time) and I found nasty nasty things other than wires. Ewwwwwwwwwwwww
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
QUOTE(hammer @ Dec 5 2003, 12:34 PM)Do the wires from the switch go up toward the attic or down toward the outlet?
The wires go up towards the attic. The outlet that WAS working with the dimmer switch is actually about 15' away and on another wall in the same room. Other than the wires going to the switch from the direction of the attic, there are no other wires from the switch to anywhere.
 

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Screw it. Take the light back and buy one with a dimmer built in.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
......


So much help, so much love. You gotta love LSCN peeps!!
 

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Ok so dumb question of the day did you check your panel?? (breaker/fuse)

Was it hooked to a 3way so another switch could over ride this switch?
At the cottage my upstairs switch sort of locks out the 1st floor switch it was not set up as a 3way so no power goes to the lower switch if the upstairs is off.(gotta love 1920's wiring)

Tony
 

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Yep, checked all the fuses (going to circuit breakers someday) and all is fine. As far as another switch, I can t find anything that is on the same line with this, but do have some downstairs I can flip for the fun of it and see what happens.

I'm willing to burn incense and face east, sacrafice a stuffed toy animal, stand on my head and sing Mary Had a Little Lamb in my holiday boxers (scary visual on this one peeps) or do nearly whatever to get this to work. And I stress the word NEARLY.
 

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Sounds like you have one of goofy problems that takes much patience on tracing down. I hope I can explain this without sounding too confusing. First, are you sure that dimmer worked properly for the previous owners. It sounds like you have a problem that already existed. Secondly, if the hot wire going to the switch has no juice, the switch will not control anything. Need to find out why there is no power. Your last post states the fuses are ok, so that is eliminated. Next, you say there is only one rolmex running to the switch. This means it must be hooked up as a 3-way. A 2-way switch must have two sets of rolmex (one that supplies juice to the switch, & one running to the outlet). A 3-way may have one or two sets of rolmex, depending on how its wired. Take a look at the rolmex running to your switch. If it is a 3-way and is wired properly, there will be four wires: black, white, red, and bare (ground). Also, the switch will have an extra screw for the extra wire (red one). This will tell you if it is a 3-way or not. A 2-way will have three wires: black, white, & bare. However, whether it is a 3-way or 2-way one of those wires should have juice. Those are some possibilities of what you may have. I am unfamiliar with the wiring Tony was referring to. I have never worked on houses that old, so I can't say what to do in that situation, but here is what I would do:

1. Check the dimmer and look at the rolmex to see if it is 2 or 3-way, just so you know what you are working with.
2. Then, you will have to trace the wire and see where it goes, and why there is no power. I know you stated you were up in the attic, but you may have to look a little harder. I know it is a pain


I cannot really say what to do next without knowing what you have. Too many possiblilties exist, depending on the type of switch. Check that out, and post the results. Since your outlet is working, I am going to say it is getting its power from another source, and not the dimmer. Also, the way you described the room, there is no reason for a 3-way. My guess right now is you have a 2-way dimmer that is not hooked up to anything, but that is only speculation from what I know. My reasoning for this is there is only one rolmex with no juice running through it, yet everything works. Let me know either way how it turns out. I am curious. I know this sounds confusing. If you want, pm me or call me and I can probably explain it better. Good luck and hope this helps
 

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if the dimmer controls the plug how can it still be hot has to be getting power from elsewhere. wondering if the owners didnt want the plug on a switch and fed from another power source or rerouted it to be hot all the time leaving the power to switch dead and just a wire there.
you saw the dimmer work with previous owners? or did they just have something pluged in.with the light on?

worst case you might run a line from another source.
 

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just one more hit it right on the head, look in the box where the dimmer used to work, at the plug. im not exactly sure on the codes where you live but a dimmer to an outlet may not have been allowed at time of sale. there may be wires from the old switch just tucked in that box or just dead in the wall. they may have had power coming in from another source. maybe just bypassed the switch and put the outlet back in series with another outlet in the attic. i would look for a junction box up there. a lot could have been done. people do a lot of strange things. that could explain only one set of wire to the dimmer. they could have pulled the hot lead out from the switch and ran those directly to the plug. you can tell your circuits in your house. it is a pain but easiest way is to plug something into every outlet turn everything on, pull one fuse at a time note what goes off. a circuit is not all in one room sometimes it tkaes care of two room especially if they share a wall. if you still have a problem pm me i love a challenge like that we could always put in a new dimmer. east to do. we could put it where you want the switch.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I'm printing out the topic and reading everyone's suggestions. I appreciate the great response.

I have unwrapped the wires (extra electrical tape) from the rolmex and found the following. The one solid white copper wire. The one solid black copper wire. On the black wire, about 3 inches back from the end, was found a space about 1" in length where the insulation had been stripped and the bare copper (ground I am assuming) wire was wrapped around the stripped portion of the black wire and then covered up with the electrical tape. I have all 3 seperated now.

Running the volt meter from the white wire to a ground in a recepticle, a chain hanging from a ceiling fan in the other room, or any other ground (other than the black wire, which I was originally using) the meter is reading 120 volts. Using any of the same grounds and hooking to the bare copper wire I found, I am reading 120. Using the same ground to the black wire, I read 000.0

So at this point I am now thinking I was testing incorrectly in the first place (Hey, I never claimed to know what I was doing...just enough not to get shocked into the holiday week early), and that I may just ahve picked up the only bad dimmer switch on the shelf. I am getting another one later today and will try again tonight after work.

Thaks again to everyone who is helping in along in this. Beleive it or not, I am learning alot from the posts in how this all works and not just for this one application.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Here is a pic of the wall wires and the testing sequence I have done:

Originally #3 was wrapped around the bare spot on #2.

With ground on the meeter to #2, and red on #1 or #3, reads 000.00

With ground on meter grounded on another recpticle or a grounded light fixture or hanging fan chain, meter reads 120 with positive on #1 and on #3 and reads 000.0 when on #2.

The dimmer switch did work when we bought the house and the fixture was plugged in to the same outlet we have our new fixture plugged into. The wiring was the same with the old, now broken switch except that #3 was wrapped around #2, and the old switch simply had 2 black wires coming out of the back with one going to #1 and the other to #2.

Thanks again.
 

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SO what your saying is the white is hot? and not the black? Thats a$$-backwards.
 

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it sure is
 

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the joys of home improvement , nothings square or plumb , start a project and wind up having to shim everything or re do some crappy contractors work.


my house was new when i bought it man what a shotty half a$$ job they did. replaced windows, furnace central air, roof. all in a matter of 10 years,,, how some of the stuff passed inspection ill never know someones pockets got lined.
 

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i say we get out the saws all and investigate this..and trace em back ....
 
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