Problem with replacing a bathroom light switch

Page 1 of 2  
Hi folks,
I'm hoping that someone wiser than I in matters electrical will offer some guidance.
I live in an old co-op apartment. There's a single light fixture over the bathroom mirror/medicine chest. It has an electric outlet as part of the fixture. The wall switch is really old, and only has 2 wires.
Here's the thing. I just got a new electric toothbrush. I'd like to wallmount it and keep it plugged in. That socket is useless for this at the moment though, since when the light is turned off, the socket is off as well.
What I'd really like to do is replace the switch with a combination switch and electric outlet, preferably a GFI. Is this possible to do with only 2 wires in the wall? I don't have access to rewiring everything. It's my impression that such an installation would result in just another wall socket which will go off when the switch is turned off. Is there a switch will can control the lamp and yet maintain current to the outlet with only 2 wires?
I was looking at this one:
http://tinyurl.com/ubd2
but I don't fully understand the wiring alternatives here.
If what I'm hoping for is not possible, does anyone have other suggestions? Perhaps a different light fixture/electric outlet combo, with its own switch for the light?
In advance, thanks for your help. The toothbrush is important to me, as it's part of a gum disease care program, and as it is now I have to keep it plugged in elsewhere, then transport the whole thing (it's big, has a waterpik like thing too) into the bathroom for use.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sun, 09 Nov 2003 21:44:20 GMT, "Sparky"

If you open the fixture how many wires do you see? Colors? Color of wires at switch?
...Jim Thompson
--
| James E.Thompson, P.E. | mens |
| Analog Innovations, Inc. | et |
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
2 wires connected at the switch. Red and black. There's a second red wire connected to a screw in the back of the switch's box; I'm assuming that's ground.
I haven't opened the fixture, since it's been painted to the wall several times it'll be quite a project. If it's important though, I will.
Thanks again.
Jim Thompson wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sun, 09 Nov 2003 22:10:31 GMT, "Sparky"

Hmmmm! Sounds like a 3-way switch. Is there another switch location which controls the fixture?
To get the fixture loose run a penknife around the edge until you cut thru the paint.
If you're in luck power will have been brought directly to the fixture *then* to the switch. (Which, IIRC, is code?)
...Jim Thompson
--
| James E.Thompson, P.E. | mens |
| Analog Innovations, Inc. | et |
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Nope, there's no other switch. It's a tiny bathroom.
If I open the fixture, what exactly am I looking for in order to make the determination of whether power goes to the fixture and then the switch? Or is that even relevant if it's not a 3 way switch installation?
Sparky
Jim Thompson wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Jim "anal fissure" Thompson wrote:

Nobody cares about your sex life anymore than they care about your stupid sig line, pussy.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Thund3rSUCK Spilled my beer when they jumped on the table and

Oh wow! I pissed off a troll!
So sad, too bad...
NOI
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

You engineers are weird. "If you're in luck power will have been brought directly to the fixture*then* to the switch. (Which, IIRC, is code?)"
Actually, he's *si+ outta luck. IF he was truly lucky, power would have been brought directly to the switch *first*, then continued on in a 2-wire (with ground) cable to the light. That way, future conversion would have been simpler - the feed, neutral, and switchleg would all be exactly where they're needed.
Why, if I may ask, would you think it advantageous, if not code (It isn't BTW, codes are written for a safe and usuable electrical system, not future add-ons or expansions) to have power at the fixture first? That almost always results in the switch having only the feed and switchleg, and no neutral. Now impossible to have a receptacle at the switch location. Sounds like this building is very old.
AT any rate, back to the OP's issue...
First, it's very odd to have 2 reds and a black wire within 1 cable. 2 wire cable (with ground, or the sheath if the cable is BX armored) is always black & white, with a bare copper ground wire, (or the sheath if the cable is BX armored) You should only find red in a 3-wire cable - black, white & red, and a bare copper ground.(Or the sheath if the cable is BX armored)
Are you absolutely certian there's no white wire in the switch box?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On 10 Nov 2003 01:20:21 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com (HA HA Budys Here) wrote:

Maybe he's color-blind ?:-)
If power were brought to the fixture, then a loop-wired switch link, he'd have power available *at the fixture* for an *always-on* receptacle.
...Jim Thompson
--
| James E.Thompson, P.E. | mens |
| Analog Innovations, Inc. | et |
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I'm hoping that is the case, or at least somehow this cable's insulation has faded or somehow become distinctly different over time. It has happened, as much of the "blue" cloth-insulated 500KcMil in Rockerfeller center has turned green. (Really scares the pants off the apprentices)

The issue I'd have with that solution is that those snap-in fixture outlets were never meant to handle modern loads such as 1500w - 1800-w hair dryers. They're almost always connected to #18 awg. fixture leads.
Another issue is it wouldn't be GFCI protected, and is not only in the bathroom, but directly over the sink. I can just picture this old bathroom with what is most likely a pedestal stink, and this on- 24/7 monstrosity of an appliance falling into the sink or toilet.
At any rate, the multiple layers of paint issue aside - it's not too bad a fix if the medicine chest is recessed, with the light either incorperated in it or directly above it. Usually, removing the cabinet exposes the entire wall cavity, and a new cable and proper GFCI outlet, on full time, can be installed without the need for any patchwork afterwards.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
It's not recessed, the medicine chest. It's stuck on the wall. Again, I do NOT have access to the wiring other than at the points where they actually exit the wall, at the switch and at the fixture. The light fixture is above the medicine chest, but removing the chest will reveal nothing. It's just attached to the wall.
No I'm not colorblind, no I'm not stupid. This wiring has not been touched since this building was first put up in 1950. So no, it's not up to current codes, standards, etc.
Sorry but I'm just trying to be clear. I really was just asking a question, and so far I've seen curses tossed towards each other, suggestions that have nothing to do with my original post, etc.
Thanks for the help.
HA HA Budys Here wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

The problem is, this is not enough to run the power outlet which is also in the same box. All the switch does is connect and disconnect the two wires connected to separate terminals on the body of the switch. When the switch is closed, power goes through the switch to the light, which already has a neutral wire permanently connected to it. So the wiring is:
live (red?) from elec panel to switch---wire (black?) from switch to light---neutral wire back to panel
(or something like that). So when the switch is closed, the circuit is completed and the light goes on.
But the electrical outlet will not function without a neutral wire AT THE OUTLET to complete the circuit. There must be another wire, and I don't mean ground.
If there is a neutral wire, you can easily rewire so the power to the outlet bypasses the switch and is always on. Just detemrine whether the red wire or the black wire is live irrespective of the switch, and connect a wire from it straight to the outlet.
If there is no neutral, either some fundamental natural laws are being violated, or maybe the ground is being used as neutral, which is a bad thing to do.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Sounds like the power is at the fixture. Black sends power to the switch and red is the switch leg which carries power back to the light when the switch is on. The neutral remains at the the light fixture. Most likely there isn't a neutral at the switch. If there is conduit connecting the switch and the fixture a neutral could be ran to the switch to install the GFCI receptical/ switch combo.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Thanks, but I can't open the wall to run another wire. All I see is a thick cable running into the switch box.. out of that comes the 3 wires. Nothing really I can do to run a new wire between the fixture and the switch.
Marlow & Jenny Yoder wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Mon, 10 Nov 2003 00:02:59 GMT, "Sparky"

We really need to know what's in the fixture. Once we know that we can suggest some tests to figure out how it's wired.
...Jim Thompson
--
| James E.Thompson, P.E. | mens |
| Analog Innovations, Inc. | et |
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Thanks Jim, I'll pull it off the wall tomorrow and let you know.
Jim Thompson wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Sparky, Let's try this again. You asked what you thought was a simple question, but what you described as the wire colors in the box is so non-standard (and was non-standard in 1950) that people are having difficulty understand what is actually in the box your switch is in. What is important here is that if there is no neutral wire in that box (a distinct possibility) there is NO WAY you can put an outlet there without a rewiring job which would add that neutral wire, which you say you are not prepared to do.
--
Peace,
BobJ

"Sparky" < snipped-for-privacy@rocketmail.com> wrote in message
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Mon, 10 Nov 2003 16:08:13 GMT, "Marilyn and Bob"

I used to keep several rolls of vinyl tape... red, black, white and green... to "re-color-code" hack wiring jobs that I couldn't extract/replace from walls.
Disconnect everything, ohm out or use a tracer, then "color-code" and re-connect as needed.
Fortunately I'm now in a new house that I watched them wire and everything is Kosher.
...Jim Thompson
--
| James E.Thompson, P.E. | mens |
| Analog Innovations, Inc. | et |
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Thanks Bob,
I still haven't gotten around to taking off the lighting fixture itself. If necessary, I'll try to get to it tomorrow while there's still adequate ambient light.
I opened the switch again though. Here's what I see, and the colors are a bit different than I thought at first.
There's a black cable coming into the box. As far as I can see into it (till it vanishes into the wall) there are 3 wires emerging from that cable. One is black, and one is sorta burnt orange. There are the 2 which are connected to the switch. The third wire is red (for sure), and it's attached with a screw to the back of the box itself, not to the switch.
I took pictures, but not posting here because this is not a binaries group. If anyone would like to see them, and of course I'd appreciate the help, please let me know and I'll send out a couple of small (but detailed) jpegs.
Thanks again,
Sparky
Marilyn and Bob wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Mon, 10 Nov 2003 22:22:33 GMT, "Sparky"

Obtain my legitimate E-mail address at my website and send me the pictures. I'm on a high-speed connection so don't worry about the file size.
...Jim Thompson
--
| James E.Thompson, P.E. | mens |
| Analog Innovations, Inc. | et |
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Site Timeline

Related Threads

    HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.