Strange Electrical Circuit


My friends just purchased a new home.
Attached to the breaker box (screw in type fuses) there is a single pole switch. I started tracking this down, to find out what it was and this is what I found.
The circuit starts, with a black wire, coming from #17 circuit. That black wire goes into the Single Pole Switch on the breaker box. A white wire exits the switch and runs to 12/2 wire, which runs to a junction box, in the attic. The black wire, on the 12/2 goes into #20 on the breaker box.
I hope I explained that. If I was following it has one wire (as a circuit), it would start from #17 go through the switch and then to each outlet and returns and goes into #20 on the breaker box.
The junction box, in the attic, powers 3 outlets, located on the eves of the house, right next to the gutters.
First question. This is a 220 circuit, right? With two 110's leading to the outlets, it should have 220 to these outlets. (I just realized, I didn't look to see if the outlet closely, but it looked like a standard outlet on first glance.
Second question. There is no third wire, supplying a neutral. Nor is there a ground. Is this normal?
Third question. Are there any guesses, as to what these outlets would have powered? My only two guesses are Christmas lights, of some kind. Or quite probably some sort of "heater" to heat the gutters or stop ice damming?
Thank you for your anticipated responses.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

I'll take the 3rd- yup, sounds like heat tapes for the gutters
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Advise your friends that living with such an outdated and even jury-rigged system just isn't a smart thing to do. Urge them to bring things up to code ASAP. What you have described so far is rather scary.
Joe
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provided it was a well done job theres nothing really unsafe about adding a switch to a circuit although I would of probably just used the breaker as a switch
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

I disagree. That switch should have been two pole so as to open both ungrounded conductors simultaneously. The breaker should also have been two pole. As for the absence of a ground conductor that is a serious omission.
--
Tom Horne

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Thomas D. Horne, FF EMT wrote:

While I agree, what would bother me even more would be having the standard 110 outlets for a 220 circuit so any random 110V appliance could have been plugged in by the unsuspecting. This would make me suspect the heat tapes/whatever the former homeowner used were the tailed variety and weren't 220V rated which could have been a little spooky to say the least. As for the ground, from that standpoint, I guess probably they weren't supplied with a ground, anyway. But, overall, while it undoubtedly served its purpose and apparently (obviously) they got away with it w/o a serious problem, if the current owner is going to use the idea it ought to be wired correctly in all aspects.
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dpb wrote:
- overall, while it undoubtedly served its purpose and apparently - (obviously) they got away with it w/o a serious problem
How do we do know that? From the information the OP provided, I don't think we are able to determine whether this setup was ever used.
All we know is how it is wired based on the OP's description. It is certainly not obvious to me that it served its purpose or that it worked without a problem. For all we know, this was a botched installation from day one and never used at all. Or maybe not used after whatever it was intended to be used for blew up when plugged in for the first time.
I wonder if the new homeowner has considered contacting the previous owner for more information.

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DerbyDad03 wrote:

...
Possibly not used, granted. Apparently no _serious_ problem as the house appears still standing.
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Thanks for your responses.
If the opportunity presents itself, we'll ask the previous home owner.
I'm not sure that it was ever used. But the house is definitely still standing.
My idea, was to take one of the 2 wires (going to the 2 fuses) and put it on the neutral bar, thus making a 110 cirucuit. Maybe they would use it for Christmas lights then. I know they won't use the 220 circuit.
Thanks again!!
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

If so, make sure to make the unswitched let the neutral one. Also, iirc, your first description indicates a white wire exits the switch -- if that is, in fact the switched leg, it should be the "hot", not the neutral. If it isn't, at _least_ mark the wire ends a colored. Then, after that is right, make sure the neutral is on the correct side of the outlets. All in all, might be simpler/better if there is no need for it to simply disconnect it completely.
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