Electrical Question

1. ## Electrical Question

So I have a wiring question, and not having any electricians on the speed dial I can just call and ask, I'll use the internet for what it was made for, free information. And porn.

I'm hooking up 20A timers to my bathroom fans. The current wall switches just have hot wire coming in, then the hot coming out, and a ground.

The switches require a neutral wire from the switch to be hooked up to work.

Can I just tag the neutral wire onto the existing ground which is attached to the switch receptacle box?

Will this burn my house down?

2. Most likely.

20A timers need a 20A breaker. You probably only have 14/2 wire in there. (That's 14ga, 2 wire) and that is only rated for 15 amps. Call the city if you can hook up a rated 20amp timer on 14/2 wire and a 15amp breaker.

If you have a black wire, a white wire and a bare copper wire, then that is most likely a 14/2 wire with a 15amp circuit on it.

20amp loads, such as your timer, uses 12/3 wire or even 12/2 wire.

Remember, timers are just switches. Hook them up the same way.

I hooked up my bath fan directly to the light fixture. Every time the light fixture is on, the bath fan goes on.

3. I believe you can put a 20amp switch in a 15amp circuit, just not the other way around.
The load (fans) aren't changing, so wiring, etc is okay.
What you need to check is to see if they specify neutral only. It's a reference for the timer, nothing more, but if they specify neutral only, and you have a fire, bye bye insurance.

4. What PRS said. The current draw won't change from the fan so it won't matter if you have a 15a, 20a, or 100a! timer in there. Thats just what the timer/switch is rated for.

If there are 2 sheethed wires coming in the box that each one contains a BLACk, WHITE and bare copper wire (nmd90 14/2 wire).
Then once you look in the box you should see:

Both bare copper (ground wires) connected to the box each other and to the box

Both WHITE wires (neutral) tied together with a marret.

Both BLACK wires (hot) connected to the original switch.

Take the original switch out. Connect one black wire from the (new) timer to one of the BLACK (hot) wires. Connect the other timer wire to the other BLACK (hot) wire. And connect the white wire of the timer to the two marreted WHITE (nutral) wires. And connect the timer green (ground) wire to the bare copper if there is one.

If it looks or sounds different then i stated. Get outta there and take a picture before you kill yourself.

Let me know.

ps: turn the power off

5. I believe what the O.P. has described is that power is entering into the fan box first. So no neutral wire will be present at the switch box. A regular switch itself does not need power to function (just a human with a finger).

The 20 Amp rating, (like others had already said) is for switching the said fan circuit. However, the timer itself needs a little power to run its internal clock and relay circuit. The power consumed by the "timer switch" itself could be very low. The O.P. should check into it.

At the main breaker panel, the neutral and grounding (bonding) wires are all connected to the same point, which is connected to grounding rods outside the house. However, electrons, like BCSB members, would like to rip it up whenever they can. And like how BCSB bikers would prefer to ride on an empty open road rather than ones that are congested, the electrons are going to more likely to travel in wires that have less "electron traffic".

Neutral wires are the return wires for circuits under load. Hence, electron traffic would be present in neutral wires. Under proper operation, no current should be present in the grounding (bonding) wires. But should a hot wire be shorted, a human would be protected from a grounded surface because the electrons would more likely flow through the ground wire than a human should the ground wiring circuit is not loaded.

Hence, if the O.P. is only loading the grounding circuit by a miniscule amount (running the timer switch itself), the protection of the grounding (bonding) circuit should not be affected by an appreciable amount.

However, I don't have an up to date code book on hand, so I can only provide the theory part.

6. All the information previously stated is correct regarding the 20A switch rating.

Can I just tag the neutral wire onto the existing ground which is attached to the switch receptacle box?

Answer: NO not in anyway shape or form can you use a bare ground as a current carrying conductor in a residence.

And here is the Canadian Electrical Code Rule to back it up:

4-020 Insulation of neutral conductors
(1) Except as permitted by Rules 6-302, 6-308, 12-302, and 12-318, neutral conductors shall be insulated.
(2) Where insulated neutrals are used, the insulation on the neutral conductors shall have a temperature rating
not less than the temperature rating of the insulation on the ungrounded conductors.

(Side note: the referenced rules 6-302, 6-308, 12-302, and 12-318 listed above only deal with the installation of overhead lines and neutral supported cables)

For qualification purposes I'm a journeyman electrician and ASTTBC C. Tech and work for an electrical engineering firm.

7. are u sure you're wiring up bathroom fans and not... i dunno, lights? got a spare bedroom you want to use to bring in some extra income?

8. Originally Posted by xpl0sive
are u sure you're wiring up bathroom fans and not... i dunno, lights? got a spare bedroom you want to use to bring in some extra income?
Maybe you are onto something.

Originally Posted by Lyzic
Can I just tag the neutral wire onto the existing ground which is attached to the switch receptacle box?

Will this burn my house down?

9. How about hiring an electrician?

10. CEC Also states that you cannot bond neutral and ground together anywhere except at your main service entrance panel. Simply put, If you dont know what you are doing, dont mess with electrical stuff. Its not worth your life..

11. Originally Posted by Scorpion71
All the information previously stated is correct regarding the 20A switch rating.

Can I just tag the neutral wire onto the existing ground which is attached to the switch receptacle box?

Answer: NO not in anyway shape or form can you use a bare ground as a current carrying conductor in a residence.

And here is the Canadian Electrical Code Rule to back it up:

4-020 Insulation of neutral conductors
(1) Except as permitted by Rules 6-302, 6-308, 12-302, and 12-318, neutral conductors shall be insulated.
(2) Where insulated neutrals are used, the insulation on the neutral conductors shall have a temperature rating
not less than the temperature rating of the insulation on the ungrounded conductors.

(Side note: the referenced rules 6-302, 6-308, 12-302, and 12-318 listed above only deal with the installation of overhead lines and neutral supported cables)

For qualification purposes I'm a journeyman electrician and ASTTBC C. Tech and work for an electrical engineering firm.
You should know that the "current carrying conductor" you reference is not a "neutral" and thus your code quotations are not on point. By definition a "neutral" carries the unbalanced load and thus would require three current carrying conductors at a minimum and not two current carrying conductors. You should also know that your so-called "bare ground" is in fact a "bonding conductor".

12. Originally Posted by Livetoride
CEC Also states that you cannot bond neutral and ground together anywhere except at your main service entrance panel. Simply put, If you dont know what you are doing, dont mess with electrical stuff. Its not worth your life..
You should know that the Supply Authority can also bond the neutral to ground at other than the Consumer's Service.

13. Originally Posted by Livetoride
... you cannot bond neutral and ground together anywhere except at your main service entrance panel ...
Aside from the code compliance viewpoint, it would not be too difficult to see why, in general, the average lay person should not be connecting white neutral wires to bare grounding (bonding) wires.

Bonding wires are usually uninsulated and are attached to conducting surfaces that they are supposedly providing protection to. Once a circuit is turned "on", the white neutral wire becomes "live". And hence, if connected, "everything" becomes "live".

For certain high load applications, and/or especially, should the white neutral wire develops a poor ground "downstream", it is possible for the voltage in the white neutral wire to reach high enough to cause harm. Now, not only has the purpose of the bonding circuit been defeated, it now has become the opposite, exposing live current "everywhere".

14. come on guys.... its all about potential.

Neutral/indentified conductors are bonded to ground at the main panel. There will not be a difference in potential between a neutral conductor and a bonding conductor, so the metal parts of the box will not have any volts to ground even if the bonding conductor is used as a neutral/identified conductor. The danger arises when that bonding conductor you are using is no longer a path back to the panel, and instead all the electrons stop, and wait for a path with little enough resistance to get to ground. If you fit the description, it will be you, if a nail in the wall really close to the metal box is somehow grounded you could cause arcing in your wall as the electrons try to jump the almost low enough resistance gap. Not only have you caused the potential problem of having metal parts with a difference in voltage to ground exposed to people, and other grounded objects that could pose a hazard, you have also effectively removed your safety net from the equation in the process.

Its a bad idea. The current draw of the timer argument is not valid because if the circuit were to open there is still an exposed hazardous voltage, and the current will change based on the resistance of whatever is completing the circuit.

Of course this is just what I think, and I am totally open to discussing what is wrong with what I said, its possible I'm not right at all, or that i'm not explaining it the way my brain is seeing it.

15. stupid projects I think will be easy...

Well, I am replacing two fans (not putting in a grow, if so, I'd have one heck of a bike collection.) One is probably 30+ years old, and has 0 draw, the other was the cheapest fan you could buy 10 years ago and sounds like a jet taking off.

I solved the problem with the switches by looking at the loads of my new fans and seeing that they are 0.5A. Pretty sure I don't need a 20A switch regardless of what the box on the switch says. So I went and got two 5A switches that don't have a neutral wire, only the three regular ones which negates that problem.

I replaced the jet fan with a nice, quiet energy efficient model. Took the wired connections that were intertwined in insulation and put them into a junction box. Wired up everything, got the ducting all in order and was feeling pretty good. It's a major pain in the ass when your working between floors and only have access to the bottom of the fan. I tested it all out and it all worked perfectly.

Final last words.

I mounted it, which is a side mount that you are supposed to snap onto that is a major pain when you can't work from above and finally got the damn thing to fit flush. I then sealed the gaps, made it all nice and pretty and cleaned up everything. Turned the power back on, and nothing.

Goddamn it.

With a tester I have power on both wires to the switch and both to the fan while using the respective grounds. Any idea where the loose one would be then?

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