mysterious outlet wiring question

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I'm trying to install a GFCI outlet on our (110v) washer and dryer. I turned off the breaker and confirmed that the outlet was off. The I opened the outlet: it has one red wire, and two white wires attached. I figured as usual red was hot, white neutral, with white looping on to some other outlet. But then I got a shock off the white wire. I measured the voltage between the two white wires and I get 110v. If I measure between the red and either white wire I get no voltage.
Can someone explain to me what's going on here? Are the colors just backwards? And why does the breaker turn off the outlet but I still get voltage on the line?
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HamNCheese wrote:

This sounds odd to me, how many cables are in the box and which wire colors are in the cable?
nate
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That is with the breaker off, right? How were the wires connected to the outlet?
For the moment I will guess that the hot white comes from something that is turned on, so it has voltage. If you turned the breaker on you would see voltage on the red. But that is a guess, subject to answers to the questions.
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OK, you're onto something here. Here's some more info.
Yes, if I turn on the breaker, I get 110v between the red wire and *one* of the white wires.
If I test between the red wire and the *other* white wire, I get 220v.
If I test between the "hot" white wire and ground (the outlet box) I get 110v.
Next I turned off the breaker to the refrigerator, which is on the other side of the wall of the outlet in question. Sure enough, the "hot" white wire on the washer/dryer outlet went dead, too.
So is this a case where the refrigerator closes a circuit and sends power through the white wire which is then looping on to the washer/dryer outlet?
And now the question beckons, (a) is this dangerous in any way, and (b) how am I supposed to hook up a GFCI outlet to this line? Is it even possible? I'm also wondering if I put the GFCI on the refrigerator outlet instead, is the washer/dryer outlet considered downstream of it so that I would get GFCI protection on both circuits?
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Correct. Presumably the refrigerator is not able to run unless the two white wires are connected?

Only if you don't know what is going on. I don't like multiwire circuits for that reason. A previous owner of my house changed the breakers so that both were on the same leg. Could have burnt the house down.

Just wire it normally. Both white wires go to the input side; or pigtail them as someone else suggested.

You probably don't want a GFCI on a refrigerator, and it wouldn't affect this circuit anyhow.
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Just to clarify: It is a code violation to connect both Neutral wires (of a multiwire) to any outlet or device, they must be pigtailed or connected so as not to be dependent upon the device

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Washing machines will false trip GFCIs and like refrigerators and freezers arent required to be on a GFCI.
been there done that.
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On Sun, 11 Nov 2007 17:16:13 -0800, " snipped-for-privacy@aol.com"

So far, the GFCI I put on the washer/dryer outlet works fine.
The one I tried on the refrigerator outlet kept tripping as soon as I turned on the power.
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HamNCheese wrote:

It's the start up current required by the compressor. That's why GFCIs are not recommended for refrigerators. Further, the plug for the fridge is usually unaccesible to anything else, so the safety issue is greatly diminished.
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jumping in in the middle of this thread. I'm having a bit of a time understanding the code on the GFCI's in a basement area. I have a property that'll have the laundry in the basement, also i have a sump pump. Now i've read several places not to put washers or sump pumps on a GFCI, but the code 'seems' to indicate that all basement outlets should be GFCI. Can someone help clarify this?
thanks
steve barker

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On Mon, 12 Nov 2007 08:42:32 -0600, "Steve Barker"

The basic "basement" rule is if it is unfinished space you need GFCI. "Finished" generally refers to wall and floor coverings. There is no exemption for refrigerators or washing machines. If either are tripping a GFCI they are defective. In the 2005 code all receptacles within 5 feet of a laundry sink are required to be GFCI and in 2008 code AFCI is extended to all 15 and 20a receptacles. AFCI incorporates GF protection.
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Thanks for the reply. Sounds like the NEC people are in cahoots with the AFCI breaker people. Good thing our AHJ is just now changing to the 2006 IRC and IBC. Sounds like i'll just put GFCI's on the washer and the sump pump and see if it all stays on.
s

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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

I never read the final decision. I thought I read somewhere it was more like (almost all) 120/15/20 outlets had to be AFCI if not required to be GFCI.
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Why does it matter? I understand the two 120v circuits would suddenly be in series in a 240v circuit if the wrong wire pulled out of the outlet, but you would have that if the wrong wire pulled out of the pigtail; so I don't see the difference. (assuming the outlet can safely take two wires...)
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Got me, but I suppose, given some of the really cheap outlets , a pigtail is just a more durable connection

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wrote:

That's why it matters!

Remove the outlet -- to replace it, for example -- without killing *both* legs of the Edison circuit, just the one feeding the outlet. If *any* load on the other side of that circuit is switched on, one of the two neutral conductors at the outlet suddenly has a 120V potential to ground, and to the other one.
In my mind, this scenario is a better argument for changing the Code to require handle-tied double pole breakers for all Edison circuits than it is for requiring that the continuity of the neutral be independent of any device, but there it is.
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No, actually it stall ran, or at least the light was on.

I figured the refrigerator has water going to it from the icemaker, so in the event of a leak it might be a good idea, no?
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i had a light fixture sort of like this and the hot white was a ground coming back. took me an hour to understand that on earth the previous owner had done. i believe you should do some careful investigating before making any assumptions, like why the heck you got one red and two whites - you should have one black and one white, or 2 of each if the circuit continues on.
you should not see a red wire except for a 3-way switch. it really sounds like some previous owner jacked the thing up and now you get to figure it out...
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That's not true; there are several reasons why there would be a red wire. Now the two white wires are odd, but not the red wire.
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What you have is an incorrectly wired Edison circuit. There are two circuits sharing that neutral. You only killed the one circuit, so when you disconnected one neutral, you got a shock as the other hot of the circuit was unable to return through the now open neutrals. To wire this properly, the two neutrals cannot be dependent on a device, they must be spliced together then pigtailed to the outlet.

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