Wiring question #2,719

At a friend's house, there's a covered box over a work bench, with a really fat wire going into it, nothing coming out. We suspect the previous owner had some sort of 220v tools there, maybe. My friend would like a regular 110v outlet. The house was built around 1985. Am I correct in thinking there are two hot lines in there, and that I can pick off just one of them plus neutral in order to get 110v? We're hoping to not have to run another line back to the breaker box. What's the color arrangement for a 220v line, assuming that's what's there? (Haven't gone in with a meter yet to measure).
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Do not assume anything, and you can't go by color. If you make a colored wire into a neutral, wrap it with white electrical tape.

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Doug,
Since you believe the wire is 220V, you'll need to kill the power and open the box to look at it. 220V wiring has a ground and two hots, no real color code to go by but the ground should be obvious. If you measure with a volt meter from the ground to one of the other wires, you should get 120V, to either. Measuring across the two that are not ground will give the 220V. So, if you want to use this for a regular 120V outlet you will need to cap off one of the wires (not ground). You'll also need to change the circuit breaker to protect the amperage rating of whatever you're going to use that outlet for, 15A-20A is common. At the breaker box you can just remove that dual-gang breaker and install a regular breaker (cheaper too). Just remember to also cap off the wire you're not using in the breaker box also. If the wire in the box where you're wanting to put an outlet is too heavy a gage to wire directly to the outlet then you'll need to see the electricians at your local store to see what they have available to reduce it (properly).
J
Doug Kanter wrote:

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Top posted this one time for clarity.
Doug,
Joey gave you the right answer and the proper warnings.
Just add a blank to fill the duplex hole in the breaker box cover or stick in a non connected breaker.
Colbyt

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Doug Kanter wrote:

I am very hesitant to suggest that you go ahead there. There are just too many possible things you could run into to list them all here. If we miss the wrong one, it could kill you or cause a fire. In this case I suggest calling in a professional. This is a very easy job for them and should result in the minimum bill. If it turns out to be more than the minimum, then it is a good that you had the pro there.
--
Joseph Meehan

Dia duit
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Some good ol' common sense goes a long way Joe!
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will be either 3 or 4 wires. There is always 2 hots and a ground, there might also be a neutral. If you have a neutral you can create a circuit between one of the hots and the neutral. Without a neutral you must change the whole circuit to 120v by changing one of the hots to a neutral. You will almost certainly have to replace the breaker. If the wires are large, it is probably more than a 20a breaker, and that is the max normally used for 120v. Having the wires too big is good, but the breaker must be correct.
This "sounds" like it should be doable in an hour (assuming that it really is a 240v circuit...) but it would be nice if you could find another friend who knows something about electricity. Replacing a breaker and installing an outlet is easy enough, but doing it wrong can be fatal.
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Really fat wire, I must have missed that stuff during my apprenticeship.
Not knowing how many conductors there are no one can answer you.
There is no color code, ESPECIALLY for residential. Hots can be any color including white.
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Fer cryin' out loud....you must be an engineer. How about this: Fatter than the typical 12-3 or 14-3 wire you see running around most of the typical house in America, but thinner than the stuff you run for an electric range. Not a range where cattle graze. A stove with oven in the same floor-standing metal structure. Floor, meaning something mounted on beams running across some sort of foundation.
:-)
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Doug-
I was going to try & sort your situation out but the gratuitous slam at engineers turned me off. If it weren't for engineers your life would be a lot less comfortable than it is.
People are trying to work essentially blind from the description of the situation in your post. Wrong advice can be damaging, dangerous.or deadly esp w/ electricity
good luck with your "really fat wire"
"Am I correct in thinking there are two hot lines in there"?
can't tell from here :
cheers Bob
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Bob,
I used to slam engineers also until I realized that they performed the job they were hired to do, which unfortunately in this country is to design a product that builds a product "to a certain price point". Highest quality is rarely the objective. If it were I am sure most of you could do a far better job.
Once I realized that they worked with at least one hand tied behind their back I no longer felt this way.
Have a great day.
Colbyt
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Sorry that bothered you, but everyone else seemed to understand the obvious: If there's a mile of wiring in a typical house, a few feet of it will be fatter than all the rest, and that's a tipoff that the fat wire serves some purpose other than lighting, such as range, air conditioning, etc. You knew what I meant by "really fat".
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Sorry Doug, I must disagree with your comment
"but everyone else seemed to understand the obvious"
I was not the only one who found your description lacking, I choose to ignore your post until the "engineer" crack. I think you have the thread confused.
I can only assume what you meant by "really fat", again, the view from here is a little unclear
btw were you describing a cable w/ insulated conductors inside or a single "really fat wire"? I seen strnage installations with both conditions.
big difference
Your insistance "You knew what I meant by "really fat". further proves my point.............. how can you know what my thought process & level of understanding is? Perhaps your crystal ball could be put to use on the electrical circuit in question
working on electrical circuits requires a certain amount of precision; in language & practice
cheers Bob
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You are correct. Perhaps my question didn't make it clear that I didn't have enough information. :-) I was trying to narrow things down from a vast number of possibilities to a somewhat smaller number, based on what I hoped might be a likely set of wire colors.
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"There is no color code, ESPECIALLY for residential. Hots can be any color including white."
hots can be any color including white (& green?) ?
Do mean this is allowed by NEC OR just could possibly be since anyone could have worked on the installation?
cheers Bob
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I've been in the handyman business for more years than I can count, and NOTHING surprises me. The first thing I take for granted may kill me - and I've seen things that could have.
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"There is no color code, ESPECIALLY for residential. Hots can be any color including white."
hots can be any color including white (& green?) ?
Do mean this is allowed by NEC? Or it just could possibly be since anyone could have worked on the installation?
cheers Bob
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no. to start with you'll want a ground. if no ground at least go with a gfi. but your wire size is too fat. what if: the last guy blew out the circuit, removed the bad female receptacle and covered it. what if the power runs underground from the neighbor's house who rented there 20 years ago and the neighbors ran a line for emergency power. and they didn't disconnect it at their house because a real electrician was too expensive. look at the main panel and turn off main and subpanel and turn off its main. with a tested meter, check the 2 wires separately for power to GROUND. colors may vary by availability of previous materials or information or practices in your area. you will also be replacing any old blown or oversize circuit breaker with probably a 20 amp breaker so why not rethink this and look for running a new grounded 20 amp line to match the use you intend? by helping your friend properly you will help him avoid future problems for this line and future damage from it to his home. after identifying these mystery wires, why not work together with him and identify all circuits and outlets by numbering switchplates and outlet covers to match the circuits stamped in the metal of the breaker panel. this work with a sharpie marker and a clipboard to hang by the breaker panel will be of great help to the electrician. see also: http://www.faqs.org/faqs/electrical-wiring/part1 /
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