<<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.