And this is exactly why NOBODY should be taking electrical advice from you.
It is NOT "up to Ivan to figure out what he wants to do." It is up to
Ivan to figure out how to install what he wants to install in compliance
with the electrical code. In many places, the NEC has the force of law.
And it IS the concern of, among others, anyone else who might ever work
on that circuit in the future.
If I was considering the purchase of a home in which an inspection
turned up something like this, I certainly would refuse to close until
the violation had been corrected. This is the sort of "material defect"
that can scuttle a real estate deal.
On Sun, 18 Sep 2011 07:20:12 -0700 (PDT), " firstname.lastname@example.org"
The no neutral incandescent only switch would most likely be a WS467,
and the flourescent control (with neutral) would likely be an XPS3
If the relay is operating on 110 volts nominal voltage, it will, in
all likelihood, draw aprocemately 1ma - as MOST miniature relays have
85 to 110 mw coils. Lets go worst case at 110mw on 120 volts - that
is 0.91 ma. The AVERAGE person will not even detect current flow of
under 1 ma. My OLD GE plug-in remote control appears to draw just over
10ma of current at 117 volts, but it has a transformer in it where the
X10 wall switch most likely uses a miniature switcher to provide the
low voltage. Anyone have an XPS3 and a multi-tester to settle this
once and for all????
And again - I would NOT advocate running an "orphan" neutral into
On Sep 18, 3:25 pm, email@example.com wrote:
I say it's totally irresponsible to be encouraging someone
to tap into a neutral on another circuit based on guesses as
to the design and operating charecteristics of an X10
switch they would install when you don't even know which
one it is or how much current it sends down the neutral.
And I've asked about 5 times now. If he can go find
another circuit's neutral and run a wire from that to
the switch, then why the hell can't he just run a hot
back as well and make it code compliant and safe?
>he AVERAGE person will not even detect current flow of
That wouldn't settle it because we don't know which
switch actual he has. Or which switch he or someone else will
replace it with in 2 years when it fails. How about they
replace it with a switch/receptacle combo?
I sure looks like the two of you are giving it the green light
by claiming it's safe.
On Mon, 19 Sep 2011 05:42:31 -0700 (PDT), " firstname.lastname@example.org"
No, I'M NOT giving the green light. I'm just trying to correct the
ASSumpions a lot of electrically semi-ignorant people have re:
It is NOT a good idea because it is against code - and that is
basically because of what else COULD be done in the future.
The actual safety of the installation is NOT a serious issue.
And if the OP wants to cheat, there is a MUCH simpler way than
installing another orphan neutral. No extra wires required - just as
safe, and just as much against code - but no chance of a future
installation making it more unsafe.
I'm not going to tell anyone how to do it, because it is not proper -
but it WILL work, and it WILL be safe, and it IS dead simple.
How do you like THEM bananas??
On Sep 19, 4:27 pm, email@example.com wrote:
I say because you don't even know what X10 switch he's
actually using, you are making assumptions about how much current that
send down the neutral. It takes as little as 30ma to kill
someone. I sure wouldn't be proclaiming it safe based
on guesses as to what the current coming out of the switch
which has a relay that gets energized might be.
Those X10 switches are made in China and I'll bet
they do not even spec the current, so it could be
anything and vary from one manufacturer to another.
<<I've asked about 5 times now. If he can go find
another circuit's neutral and run a wire from that to
the switch, then why the hell can't he just run a hot
back as well and make it code compliant and safe?>>
We don't agree on much, but you're spot on here, Chet. If you're going to
pull one freaking wire, why not pull two?
I bought a house that had neutrals pulled from other circuits that I didn't
discover until I ripped out the suspended ceiling in the basement. Passed
some pretty invasive testing, too, because jack-assed wiring was a concern.
I'm still not sure how, in the course of what normal home sales allow, how I
*ever* would have caught the miswiring before purchase. Shocked the living
shit out of me. So I am a firm believer in "if it's not code, don't do it."
I suspect that the reason my house's former owners pulled only one wire is
that they were cheap SOB's. But, as you say, if you're going to pull one
wire, why in heck not pull two and do it right? Unless you're drilling
through 12" of 80 year old superhard concrete, there's no earthly reason not
to pull the whole damn wire with proper ground in proper sheathing.
It sounds like Ivan will make the same choice as I did in really
nasty-to-reach fixtures: use incandescents. I bought a hybrid GE
CFL/halogen bulb to see if it would allow enough current to pass for the
switch to operate in a circuit without a neutral. It turned on by remote
control, but would never turn off, except by the local control.
The reason the CFL bulbs don't work well on X-10 is that X-10's circuitry
derives power from being able to deliver a very small trickle current
through the cold tungsten bulb filament when no neutral is present. A CFL
bulb presents quite a different electric "landscape" than a tungsten
filament one. It usually consumes that trickle power in the form of
I am surprised none of the X-10 gurus have ever developed a retrofit like a
disc (like the old coin shaped fixed dimmers) placed between the bulb and
socket that allowed a small trickle current to flow like a cold tungsten
filament does. I imagine the devil might be in the details and that CFL
bulbs probably present a host of different electrical signatures.
As for the "should I do it?" debate, I always get antsy when there is a very
clear right answer and people begin to talk esoteric technical stuff that
obscures it. Things like skin resistivity and parallel circuit theory HAS
to confuse the hell out of newcomers here in AHR. Some responses appear to
gloss over the NEC as somehow "niggling" or not really applying to this
situation. The NEC's "reason to be" has been not only "original" safety
(building the circuits), but follow-on safety as well (maintaining or
extending the circuits). The NEC is just as concerned about the next person
to own or work on the wiring as it is the original electrician running the
wires. It provides a standard way of doing things so that people will have
some confidence in the way the wiring was done.
To me, it makes little sense to even say "only pull a neutral." I think
it's merely a case of people/docs wrongly saying "you need a neutral"
instead of saying "you need a new (or piggyback) circuit with a neutral."
Told they need a neutral, that's just what they do when confronted with a
device like an X-10 module or an electronic timer that requires a neutral in
The debate about how dangerous it is to "break code" happens repeatedly in
AHR - people forget they weren't (usually) asked question about advanced
physics, nuclear engineering or quantum mechanics. So they descend lower
and lower into the weeds losing sight of the original question. It's an
easy thing to do, but it's really a disservice to the OP in most cases.
In this situation I have to agree with Chet and the others that the OP
*should* be hearing (as some did strongly advocate): "You at least need to
pull hot and neutral together, preferable with ground, too. The safest
solution, and one that would satisfy the NEC would be to run that wire back
to the panel. That way you would be sure to not to overload whatever
circuit you are looking to tap power from."
That's what I did when I wanted outdoor CFL's. Since those lights burn most
of the night that's a use where they really save money. I pulled a new
circuit to a new fixture and left incandescents on the old, motion-triggered
lights that are only on for 6 minutes per activation but need to come on
instantly, even in the cold. Tungsten bulbs are ideal for that use, they
don't cost much to operate 6 minutes at a time, they don't mind frequent
"short cycling" and their light contains enough IR to give me about 2
F/stops more light than the CFLs on my CCTV setup.
* FERNANDEZ, DANIEL Rank and organization: Specialist Fourth Class, U.S.
Army, Company C, 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry (Mechanized) 25th Infantry
Division. Place and date: Cu Chi, Hau Nghia Province, Republic of Vietnam,
18 February 1966. Entered service at: Albuquerque, N. Mex. Born: 30 June
1944, Albuquerque, N. Mexico. Citation: Realizing there was no time for his
wounded sergeant or the other men to protect themselves from a grenade
blast, Sp4c. Fernandez vaulted over the wounded sergeant and threw himself
on the grenade as it exploded, saving the lives of his 4 comrades at the
sacrifice of his life.
On Tue, 20 Sep 2011 08:43:32 -0400, "Robert Green"
The NEW building the insurance office I work for every morning moved
into a year ago has all kinds of "orphan" neutrals. - and it passed
inspection that way. Not saying it is right.
And all Ivan needs ie ONE incandescent on the circuit. A 7 watt bulb
is more than adequate - a standard incandescent night-light (not one
with a photo-cell) will do the job (or has for a friend of mine usinf
the "incandescent only" switch in his basement full of flourescent
On Tue, 20 Sep 2011 13:21:53 -0400, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Sometimes you find strange things. I inspected an office suite for
changes requested by a new tenant and I found that the 277V.
fluorescents were fed with one wire and connected to the to the steel
structure for the neutral. Needless to say, I contacted the city and
the entire building was declared unsuitable for tenancy. While the EC
that was hired for repairs was working, the building actually caught
fire in another suite.
Some folks will cheat at anything if they think they can make a buck
and to hell with safety.
Reading that actually made me squirm in my chair. Non-electricians seem to
have a very odd understanding of the true relationship between neutral and
ground. From that error all manner of kludges flow.
Nothing like a little fire to confirm your diagnosis that something's not
quite right with that building.
One of the most outrageous examples I ever came across was a federal
contractor who was installing a fire sprinkler system WITHOUT PLUMBING!
They just attached the heads to the ceiling panels hoping they might never
be inspected or tested. Never underestimate what a person or company will
due when they're facing bankruptcy. I'm waiting for some serious disasters
to occur because safety is often an area quite prone to panic-style cost
*HIBBS, ROBERT JOHN Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army,
Company B, 2d Battalion, 28th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division. Place and
date: Don Dien Lo Ke, Republic of Vietnam, 5 March 1966. Entered service at:
Des Moines, Iowa. Born: 21 April 1943, Omaha, Nebr. G.O. No.: 8, 24 February
1967. He prepared his men for an oncoming Viet Cong onslaught by placing 2
mines in their path and, when the insurgents were within 20 feet of the
patrol's position, he detonated them, wounding or killing half of the enemy
company. Learning that a wounded patrol member was wandering in the area
between the 2 opposing forces and although moments from safety and wounded
in the leg himself, he and a sergeant went back to the battlefield to
recover the stricken man. After they maneuvered through the withering fire
of 2 Viet Cong machine guns, the sergeant grabbed the dazed soldier and
dragged him back toward the friendly lines while 2d Lt. Hibbs remained
behind to provide covering fire. Armed with only an M-16 rifle and a pistol,
but determined to destroy the enemy positions, he then charged the 2 machine
gun emplacements and was struck down. Before succumbing to his mortal
wounds, he destroyed the starlight telescopic sight attached to his rifle to
prevent its capture and use by the Viet Cong.
(Sorry for the length, some of these citations just can't be edited down to
I agree. I left the organization before I found out what happened in the
end, but you'd be shocked to learn which Federal agency was afflicted.
* KEDENBURG, JOHN J. Rank and organization: Specialist Fifth Class, U.S.
Army, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces. place and
date: Republic of Vietnam, 13 June 1968. Entered service at: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Born: 31 July 1946, Brooklyn, N.Y. Just as the helicopter was to lift them
out of the area, the South Vietnamese team member who had been unaccounted
for after the initial encounter with the enemy appeared in the landing zone.
Sp5c. Kedenburg unhesitatingly gave up his place in the sling to the man and
directed the helicopter pilot to leave the area. He then continued to engage
the enemy who were swarming into the landing zone, killing 6 enemy soldiers
before he was overpowered.
It wasn't. I'd still like to know how to easily check for crossed neutrals
in a house that I want to buy. Standard outlet tests (with those little LED
testers) revealed nothing wrong with the house that I bought that had
several crossed neutrals.
How do you accomplish that in the typical wall switch/ceiling fixture
w/single ceramic socket arrangement? The only thing I can think of is a
Y-socket splitter with a CFL in one socket and the night light in another.
Not very good light distribution but it might work if the fixture is large
enough. Hmmm. I might try that tonight. Some overhead fixtures are two
and three bulb units. I wonder if a nightlight in one of the extra sockets
would do the trick? I might even try that experiment tonight if I have the
*HARTSOCK, ROBERT W. Rank and organization: Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, 44th
Infantry Platoon, 3d Brigade, 25th Infantry Division. Place and date: Hau
Nghia, Province, Republic of Vietnam, 23 February 1969. Entered service at:
Fairmont, W. Va. Born: 24 January 1945, Cumberland, Md. As a wounded enemy
soldier fell, he managed to detonate a satchel charge he was carrying.
S/Sgt. Hartsock, with complete disregard for his life, threw himself on the
charge and was gravely wounded. In spite of his wounds, S/Sgt. Hartsock
crawled about 5 meters to a ditch and provided heavy suppressive fire,
completely pinning down the enemy and allowing his commander to seek
shelter. S/Sgt. Hartsock continued his deadly stream of fire until he
succumbed to his wounds.
Because ELECTRICALLY, there is no difference as long as nothing goes
wrong. You need to physically disconnect and separate all the neutrals
and then check for interconnection between circuits - one at a time,
in every possible combination, to find it. Or load each circuit, and
energizing each circuit sparately, check each neutral to see if the
neutral corresponding to the line - and ONLY the neutral corresponding
to the line, is "live" - while all neutrals are physically
Only other way is to physically trace back all the wires - an even
On Sep 20, 10:55 pm, email@example.com wrote:
I would think a relatively easy test would be to put in a GFCI
breaker, temporarily at least, in each breaker slot. GFCI's
include a circuit which places a small test voltage on the
hot and neutral simultaneously to detect if there is a short
between the neutral and ground anywhere in the circuit.
That GFCI would also trip in the case where the neutral
is either not for that circuit, or crosswired with another
neutral because it would look to the GFCI just like a
short between neutral and ground.
On Wed, 21 Sep 2011 05:27:21 -0700 (PDT), " firstname.lastname@example.org"
No, it would not - as ALL neutrals are connected. The only way the
GFCI would trip is if there is a problem in one of the neutrals -if
Try it some time. Wire up a couple of circuits on a test board and
plug it into an outlet. Have 2 "circuits" on the test board, and cross
the neutrals. Put a GFCI on one or both circuits ant test to your
On Sep 21, 5:44 pm, email@example.com wrote:
Wrong. Go take a look at how a GFCI is actually designed.
As I stated, besides comparing the current flowing
in the hot and neutral through any loads,
they also generate a small 120hz
test voltage on both the hot and neutral. Any path back to
that GFCI other than the hot and neutral connected to it
will result in it tripping. That path could be the neutral
of that circuit connected to ground OR that neutral
connected to another neutral. In either case, the
GFCI will trip as soon as power is turned on, without
So, if you want to find out if you have any shared or
crossed neutrals, all you have to do is replace breakers
one at a time with a GFCI and turn the power on. If
there are any crossed or shared, the GFCI will trip.
It's all about parallel circuits.
You really should stop giving advice on subjects
beyond your pay grade.
On 9/21/2011 10:12 PM, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Requires a load at each outlet.
If neutrals from different circuits are interconnected, the GFCI feature
trader describes would cause an immediate trip. The feature is intended
to detect downstream N-G connections and a N-otherN connection looks the
If the circuit is connected to a different neutral, when a load is
connected the neutral and hot current at the GFCI breaker will be
different and the GFCI will trip.
For a different neutral the trip will be when there is a load connected,
The injected current on the hot wire doesn't accomplish anything since
there is voltage on the hot wire anyway. If the GFCI is reverse H-N
wired the feature that detects a N-G (or N-otherN) connection downstream
will still work.
I can't think of an easier test than GFCI breakers. You need to stick a
load on each outlet.
You could also loop a clamp on ammeter around both H and N for the
circuit. It would also require a connected load, one outlet at a time.
There isn't a real easy test for N-N connection and interchanged neutrals.
Sure seems that way some days.
I agree that capturing a neutral from a different circuit is a dumb idea
(particularly from an EE).
I don't think it came up - the problem of no neutral at a switch is why
the 2011 NEC requires a neutral (with major exceptions).
I understand the curiosity motive from EE's - how dangerous is it to pull a
"foreign" neutral? But I think it does a disservice to the man in the
street who wants to simply know whether he should "pull a neutral" from
elsewhere. Sure, it probably won't hurt HIM, but it could kill the next
person. If the OP has a bad memory, that next person could easily be him.
After years and years of seeing people pull neutrals from other circuits and
the proliferation of switches and devices that need a neutral, it was long
I just wonder how much money builders saved by wiring wall switches without
*JOHNSTON, DONALD R. Rank and organization: Specialist Fourth Class, U.S.
Army, Company D, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division. Place and
date: Tay Ninh Province, Republic of Vietnam, 21 March 1969. Entered service
at: Columbus, Ga. Born: 19 November 1947, Columbus, Ga. An enemy soldier
threw 3 explosive charges into their position. Sensing the danger to his
comrades, Sp4c. Johnston, with complete disregard for his safety, hurled
himself onto the explosive charges, smothering the detonations with his body
and shielding his fellow soldiers from the blast. His heroic action saved
the lives of 6 of his comrades.
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