# Electrical current strength normal?

• posted on August 9, 2009, 12:59 am
After disconnecting and reconnecting the wires in an electrical circuit, my low-tech current tester seems to indicate (with low lamp brightness) that the current in the reconnected wire circuit isn't as strong as I think it should be. Could there be a problem with my reconnections? Facts: Wires are in a metal ceiling box governed by a wall switch.
One 14/3 wire plus ground enters the box and one 14/2 plus ground enters the box from the opposite side.
Black wire from 14/3 is connected inside the box to black wire from 14/2 wire. White wire from 14/3 is connected to white wire from 14/2 wire, both of which are connected to one end of a short white 14 gauge wire. The other end of the short white 14 gauge wire isn't connected to anything. The red wire from 14/3 isn't connected to anything.
The ground wires from the 14/3 and 14/2 are connected to each other and rest against the metal box which has no screw to fasten them to the box.
I'm assuming that I can connect a standard two-wire lamp fixture to the red wire and the white wire. When I test the circuit by touching one wire on my tester to the red wire and the other wire on my tester to the short white wire, the lamp that indicates current flow is much dimmer than it is if I insert the wires on my tester into the prong-holes in a wall socket.
Is the relatively dim indicator light on the tester a sign that I've reconnected the wires incorrectly? If not, why is the indicator light so much dimmer?
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<%-name%>
• posted on August 9, 2009, 1:03 am
Darro wrote:

Hmmm, Are you talking about voltage or current? How do you measure current? AC current is usually measured using clamp on type probe. Is this what you are using? What is the reading?
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<%-name%>
• posted on August 9, 2009, 1:18 am

It sounds like the connections are made up correctly. The only reason I can think of, would be that the switch is a dimmer
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<%-name%>
• posted on August 9, 2009, 2:16 am
RBM wrote:

That would be one possibility; others could include poor neutral connection in this circuit or simply not getting good connection to the meter/test light as compared to a solid connection in an outlet.
The curious part of this is why there's a 14/3 conductor going nowhere.
The bad part of it is the grounds not being firmly connected together and to the box--that's Code violation and a potential hazard that should be corrected.
--
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<%-name%>
• posted on August 9, 2009, 10:28 am

The feed, is the 2 wire cable. The 3 wire is bringing the feed to some other outlet via the switch box, and the red is the return from the swith to the light. Or, the feed is the black and white of the 3 wire, the red is the return from the switch to the light, and the 2 wire is bringing the feed to some other outlet via the ceiling box

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<%-name%>
• posted on August 9, 2009, 2:22 am
Darro wrote:

Did you take a photo or make a sketch of those wirtes before you disconnected and reconnected them Darro?
Most likely the indicator light is "so much dimmer" because the red wire isn't connected to a 120 volt source and what's making the indicator bulb light is just capacitively coupled current from the red wire being adjacent to a black wire carrying 120 volts.
Now, you also didn't tell us whether that wall switch you say is controling the circuit was on or off when you made your measurements, so we don't have enough information to give you a complete answer.
Stop using that tester and use a 25 watt candelabra bulb in a socket with a coupklee of wires on it. That'll give you a much better idea of whether there's a completed circuit there or not there.
Good Luck,
Jeff
--
Jeffry Wisnia
(W1BSV + Brass Rat \'57 EE)
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<%-name%>
• posted on August 9, 2009, 2:35 am

Digital cameras. One of the handiest tools from wiring to carb rebuilding to whatever.

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<%-name%>
• posted on August 9, 2009, 2:35 am
Darro wrote:

I think the box was installed as part of a three-way system, and there was once another three-conductor cable going to another switch. If you still have a three-way switch, the red may be live when the light is switched off.
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<%-name%>
• posted on August 9, 2009, 4:56 am

Strongly suggest the OP get some help from someone more knowledgeable.
There is also a danger that while it might be made to work something unsafe will be left undone! Such as that "..... ground wires from the 14/3 and 14/2 are connected to each other and rest against the metal box which has no screw to fasten them to the box". (It's pretty easy to provide some sort of connection to most metal boxes using household tools; it also suggests that whoever did the previous work may have installed something that is not to code or in a rather slap-dash fashion?)
Later on in the event of a problem neither the fire commissioner nor an insurance company would be very impressed by "Thought it was all right to hook it up that way"!
It does sound also that the OP is using some form of voltage tester???? Possibly a digital voltmeter or similar and may be picking up a capacitive or other stray induced voltage (but not actual current flow) on an otherwise 'dead' wire.
But there is confusion with the use of the terms 'voltage' and 'current' which makes it impossible to tell what is meant!
Just for the record (and even then terms are often used loosely in day to day conversation);
1) Voltage is the 'pressure' at which electricity is present or not in a circuit or between two conductors. It is measured in volt. Nominally in North America the voltage is often and typically somewhere between 115 and 125 volts.
2) Current is the 'amount' of electricity, measured in amperes (amps) that is flowing through an established(and switched on) circuit. It is infrequently necessary to measure current in most domestic wiring situations. Provided a circuit is properly wired (and grounded) and switches and circuit breakers work correctly it is very unusual to have to measure the amount of current actually flowing.
Since, in this case the wiring is 14 AWG the fusing and/or circuit breaker for this circuit, no matter whatever else is joined into it, should not be larger than 15 amps.
Agree don't use the tester; depend on a standard light bulb in a pigtailed lamp socket. Check that ground wire 'really' is grounding the box and also as it should be back at the main panel. 'Ground' not essential for getting a lighting circuit to work, but for safety and to meet code. Some other electrician may need to safely work on that circuit some time in the future.
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<%-name%>
• posted on August 10, 2009, 4:28 pm
Hi all,
While following up on your answers, I found out that my "helper" turned off the wall switch without my knowledge. As soon as the switch was turned on, the circuit came alive. Everything works well now.
I'll also be taking a digital photo before disconnecting/disassembling anything that needs to be reconnected/reassembled in future and will make sure the box is properly grounded.