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Household wiring

  1. Sep 1, 2011 #1
    This is how the wiring is set up in the basement I am renting out:

    On one circuit, there is a jacuzzi and a pond pump, both which run 24/7. There is a porch light that is controlled by a light switch inside. It is set up such that in order to keep the pump and jacuzzi running, you have to keep that light switch turned on, so that the light is on 24/7 as well.

    On another circuit, there is a mini fridge, most of the lights for the basement, and almost all of the outlets. Oh...and the central air conditioner for the 3-floor house.

    Basically, I can't use any appliances when the air conditioner is going or I will blow the circuit breaker. I can actually use a microwave when plugged into the outlet under the patio light switch - but I have to turn the switch off, first. This is fine for an hour or so, but it's problematic because if I forget to turn the switch back on, the fish will die.

    I'm considering talking to my landlords about it. What are your thoughts?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 1, 2011 #2

    jim hardy

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    "Oh...and the central air conditioner for the 3-floor house......Basically, I can't use any appliances when the air conditioner is going or I will blow the circuit breaker.

    That sounds to me highly irregular. One should not put appliance outlets on a central air conditioner branch circuit. The circuit breaker is sized for the airconditioner as you have demonstrated.

    What size is the breaker that blows when you try to use an appliance at same time as airconditioner ? The size should be indicated on the handle - 15, 20 or (hopefully not) 30 amp.

    Next look at the outlet you use for that appliance. If both slots are just straight and parallel to each other , || , it's a 15 amp outlet.
    If one slot is a tee shape, it's a 20 amp outlet.
    If the breaker is more amps than the outlet, your landlord has a fire hazard.

    Invest five bucks in one of those little wall outlet testers from Walmart.
    They carry a little orange one about size of an ice cube, it plugs into an outlet and has three little lights that light in a pattern to tell you if the outlet is wired properly.
    If you find the safety ground not connected stay away from that outlet.

    In house wiring one arranges so that no room has all its lights and ooutlets on the same breaker. That way a single overload doesn't leave occupamts of that room in the dark.
    BUT - whoever did that job shoulda picked something besides the airconditioner feed to share with your appliance outlet, some other lightly loaded 120 volt room circuit.

    Hopefuly your landlord is a conscientous DIY type who wants things right and can fix it without spending a small fortune. Sounds to me like some cleanup in the breaker panel will do it. Might need GFCI's for that basement - i dont know about your local code. Seems like the jacuzzi surely ought have one.

    old jim
  4. Sep 1, 2011 #3
    I am curious as to how any of this could be changed in the breaker panel...wouldn't it require total rewiring to change which circuit the A/C is on?

    All of the circuit breakers are 15-amp. Is there any chance it would be safe to just put a 20-amp in place, or might the wiring not be fit for it?
  5. Sep 2, 2011 #4

    jim hardy

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    sounds curious, a central A/C on just 15 amp circuit.

    Your First question: If you look inside the breaker panel you'll probably see most of the breakers have just one wire leaving them. I'm guessing that when they made the basement into a rental somebody just picked a breaker at random and added a wire to your 'new' appliance outlet. If so, the airconditioner breaker will have two wires leaving it- one for conditioner and one for your outlet..
    The fix would be to move the wire for your appliance outlet to a different breaker, one that is lightly loaded.

    I could be wrong - the airconditioner may be plugged into an outlet that's on same branch as yours. There'd be only one wire leaving breaker in that case.
    In that's what's there, i'd suggest add a new dedicated basement appliance outlet and wire it to a different breaker. If there's a spare space in the panel buy a breaker and plug it into the panel, wire to that - they're only a few bucks.. be aware there's brand specific mounting differences so get one same brand as the others.
    If this is a kitchen, well, ask at local builders supply if you need a GFCI. A GFCI outlet is around fourteen bucks.

    Second: ".. any chance it would be safe to just put a 20-amp in place, ..."
    You could get hurt.
    Breakers protect wire. In my part of the world 20 amp breaker protects #12 wire, to protect smaller #14 wire takes a smaller 15 amp breaker.
    If the place burns down and insurance investigators find 20 amp breaker on 15 amp wire there'll be legal troubles.
    Dont do it.

    fix it right. You could save next tenant's life.

    my two cents!

    old jim
  6. Sep 2, 2011 #5
    I'm not fixing a dang thing myself. I will, however, put pressure on my landlord to get it fixed :).
  7. Sep 2, 2011 #6

    jim hardy

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    of course, and he'd not want you tearing into his panel.

    I get into this toubleshooting mode and forget decorum, I spoke in second person shoulda been third...sorry about that.

    If he's any good he'll appreciate your pointing out the problem before it causes trouble..

    Good luck -

  8. Sep 2, 2011 #7


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    Double tapping (putting two conductors into one breaker) is against code most places, unless the breaker is specifically designed to accommodate double conductors (my Google-Fu turns up a thread at INACHI mentioning that the only brand that has something like that is Square-D).

    If this IS the case (you've got double-tapping, but single conductor breakers), get this changed. On the upside this'll fix your overloading, too!
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