Strange findings in electrical system

We have found many strange things in the electrical system of the house we bought recently:
1. Several outlets in the kitchen were ungrounded. In one of the "upstream" boxes I found two bare copper wires that were not connected to each other; connecting them restored the ground to the other outlets.
2. Found one outlet with Hot and Neutral reversed. Easy fix.
3. One 20A breaker in the box seemed to do nothing although it had wire (12/2) connected to it. Eventually found that it was feeding a single outlet (a regular 15A one) in the den (possibly intended for a heater, as the room has no heating vents), but that it runs via a junction box (to which is also connected the transformer for the doorbell), from which point on the wiring is only 14/2. Haven't yet decided whether to replace the breaker or the wire.
4. The wiring to the A/C unit runs from a pair of tied breakers, but the wiring is 12/2 (+G), with white used for one of the Hot connections. Haven't yet decided whether to do do anything about it. Would putting red tape or nail-polish on the white at both ends be an improvement?
5. A pair of tied breakers is labeled "Kitchen," with red and black wires, but only one of them seems to be used: I cannot find 220/240v between any two Hots in the kitchen.
6. A red and white are taped together in the box, but I haven't yet traced them to see what they are all about.
MB
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where do you live?
In Canada (or at least in Montreal, where I live) the kitchen counter outlets are on 2 breakers, and each counter top outlet has the two plugs on separate wires/breakers.they are still 120V though. in other words I can plug 2 things in one counter outlet, each of which can draw 15 amps. they do it this way because in the kitchen you can have things that draw a lot of power on the same outlet, for example toasters and coffee machines etc.
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************That would be allowed.*************

***************Possible multi wire circuit? Tony D.
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therefore you would have to change the wire AND the breaker to make it a 20 amp circuit.
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Yes thats correct, All though I think he said he allready had a 20 in there, :>) "

Tony D.
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Probably simple oversight on one outlet. However, I have seen contractors that think that manually half-twisting the wires together is good enough.

Replace the breaker.
Downsizing wire below the breaker is _sometimes_ permissible, but not in this case.

Tape or nail-polish the ends. Perfectly code-approved.

Canadian (though, often used in the US too) style kitchen split-duplex receptacle. You'll probably find that one of the counter top receptacles has 240V between the hot pins of the two outlets. This is _normal_ (and in fact required by our code). It's still two 120V outlets, but you can draw _both_ of them at full ampacity simultaneously.

Main panel? Possibly something to do with a 240V feed. You shouldn't have switch loops in the main panel.
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Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
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Could also be:
Is this 2 - pairs of tied breakers, where the red and black are sharing a neutral and might feed countertop split duplexes and the reason you're not finding 220 between any 2 hot pins in the kitchen is because they're improperly tied to a single twin breaker connected to only 1 leg in the panel, instead of 2 consecutive twin breakers on opposing legs?
Just a thought.
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Good point

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The outlet boxes I opened while searching for the cause of the lack of grounding had only a single Hot with the outlets still connected to each other (i.e., the break-off tab was still in place.) The tied breakers labeled "Kitchen Outlets" (with red and black wires connected) are adjacent breakers in a Cutler-Hammer CH box, so they should be on "opposing legs," shouldn't they?
MB
On 01/04/04 04:10 pm HA HA Budys Here put fingers to keyboard and launched the following message into cyberspace:

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The outlet boxes I opened while searching for the cause of the lack of grounding had only a single Hot with the outlets still connected to each other (i.e., the break-off tab was still in place.) The tied breakers labeled "Kitchen Outlets" (with red and black wires connected) are adjacent breakers in a Cutler-Hammer CH box, so they should be on "opposing legs," shouldn't they?
MB
On 01/04/04 04:10 pm HA HA Budys Here put fingers to keyboard and launched the following message into cyberspace:<br>

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Yes. In most boxes, "adjacent" breakers are "opposing legs", which is why dual breakers are used for 240V circuits.
Did you check the kitchen counter outlet wiring for whether the tab was broken, red/black on different outlets?
It's also code-legal to use 240V 4 wire circuits to be two essentially independent circuis - the neutral is common to a point, and then split from there on. Ie: one half feeds one receptacle box, and the other half goes off to another receptacle box.
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My cottage had three #12 cable circuits on a single 50a breaker. My house had a multiwire circuit where both hots were on the same leg.
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To confirm, that "had" means "until I fixed it", right?
[For those that may not be aware, if the hots on a multiwire circuit _aren't_ on the same leg, you're overloading the neutral.]
Generally speaking, using dual breakers (as you should) guarantees opposing leg.
However, there I have seen a breaker panel were the banks of breakers had the legs sequenced like this: 112211221122
You had to be careful to bridge the dual breaker between the two legs - alternate positions would/would not work.
The friend I was wiring for found out the hard way when he moved the dual breaker I had just installed for the stove (during a rewire) one slot down. The only thing working was the clock, and he was trying to cook dinner ;-)
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Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
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Clewis - in an earlier post the OP said the breakers were dual. I'm trying to ascertain whether there really is 240 on the opposing red/black, as using dual breakers (2 circuits from one breaker slot) certianly does NOT gurantee "opposing leg," in fact, it certianly gurantees both circuits WILL be on the *same* leg.
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I used the term "tied breakers." These are "full-width" breakers in adjacent slots, with a tie-bar between them; they are not "dual breakers" (two half-width breakers in a single unit occupying a single slot; I saw such breakers for the Cutler-Hammer CH yesterday for the first time, and noticed that there seemed to be no means of "tying" them -- no holes for a tie-bar).
Moreover, I have now measured and found that there is 235v between the red and black in question.
MB
On 01/05/04 07:26 am HA HA Budys Here put fingers to keyboard and launched the following message into cyberspace:<br>

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Then this definately sounds like a "kitchen split" receptacle. Standard in Canadian code, legal (but mostly old work only now) in US code.
Find which counter receptacle in the kitchen it controls. The outlet is probably split.
Alternately, the electrician was just using up four conductor wire, and the red and black are actually different circuits just sharing a neutral up to a point. This is also perfectly legal, just not very usual - I do this when I have two circuits to feed a long way, and they're going to the same place and are somewhat related. Means you only pull one wire, not two.
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Not very usual?
Chris - I can point out developments here where ALL homeruns are 14/3 or 12/3. Many wired by yours truely, and others wired by any one of my 1st 3 bosses, all of whom swore it saved money somehow...
Even had one extremely anal-retentive boss who would ADD a circuit to a home, beyond minimum, instead of having an odd number of circuit homeruns...
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What percentage of total US housing were wired by you and your first three bosses? ....
Yeah, "not very usual" in the scheme of things implied here <grin>
Over the many years I've been associated with Usenet groups where wiring is discussed, writing the FAQ, etc, it's pretty clear that the majority of experienced electrical DIYers and even a significant portion of licensed electricians don't do these (much), and in too many cases, don't understand them at all.
I remember "common neutral" flamewars from over a decade ago. In some (too many) cases with professional electricians being in the wrong.
Yeah, two lengths of /2 wire usually cost less than one length of /3 for some idiotic reason, and yeah, dual breakers are usually more expensive than a pair of untied ones. But, labour (wire pull) costs sometimes favour /3.
I much prefer pulling one wire over two myself. Besides, round /3 is easier to pull than flat /2.
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True enough - when in doubt, test it. Do note that I was responding to Toller's remark, not the OPs.
That being said:
A) I doubt you'd see a dual half-width breaker with a tiebar for that very reason. You'd only need the tiebar in a breaker installable in such a way that they can be on the same legs in certain very unusual circumstances that you wouldn't normally see in a residence.
[Except the wierd 112211221122 panel I mentioned earlier.]
B) Generally speaking, whenever you see a red wire connected to a breaker, it _has_ to be part of a 240V or 240V/120V multiwire circuit with two tie-barred breakers. The only time where it doesn't need to be tiebarred is when the two hots of the multiwire circuit do not feed a "common strap" (NEC terminology). Which rules it out in most residential circuits.
In the CEC, there are effectively no exceptions.
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