Home>Discussions>ELECTRICAL & LIGHTING>Was the negative side ever switched?
18 posts / 0 new
Last post
Richp
Was the negative side ever switched?

The topic should be-Was the neutral ever switched.
I have a old house which was built in 1906 and then renovated about 1930 or so. The house originally had knob and tube wiring which was all replaced. The area I am working on has a very old type of shielded cable(BX like cable) from the 30's or so.
There is a wall sconce that I have removed and I would like to disable the hot wire to the sconce so I can plaster over the hole. When I opened up some light fixtures and swtiches to locate the source of the hot wire, I discovered that for both ceiling lights in the room, the hot wire comes into the light socket and then the neutral goes to a wall switch and then back to the neutral in the ceiling box. I understand that the switch should always be on the hot side but I was wondering if the neutral was ever switched in very old work? Thanks for your help.

A. Spruce
Re: Was the negative side ever switched?

The correct terminology is hot, neutral, and ground. It's easier for everyone this way. :cool:

The hot is the one that should be switched.

Richp
Re: Was the negative side ever switched?

Thanks A, I fixed it. Rich

canuk
Re: Was the negative side ever switched?
Quote:

I understand that the switch should always be on the hot side but I was wondering if the neutral was ever switched in very old work? Thanks for your help.

The short of the long to your question --- yes.

Ernie_Fergler
Re: Was the negative side ever switched?
canuk wrote:

The short of the long to your question --- yes.

Is there not a term for that type of wiring? Besides a few commonly used expletives, of course.
One can only wonder what it was like to actually wire a residence using K & T. Where is that "Way-Back" machine when you want it, anyway? :cool:

canuk
Re: Was the negative side ever switched?

Many, many, many moons back I remember my grandfather describing how K&T was installed ---- quite the process.

A "mechanic" would go around and hand auger all the holes for the tubes ---- run the conductors and mount all the knobs.

The "electrician" would then come after and polish the exposed conductors and twist ( Western Union --- I think ) or tap splice---- then dipped into a pot of molten solder and taped after they cooled.

Lots of work and people --- always having someone heating a pot with a torch to melt bricks of solder. A bit hazardous as well with the open flame torches and dropping pots of molten solder --- :eek:

Me thinks the costs of wiring that way wouldn't fly these days.

Sombreuil_mongrel
Re: Was the negative side ever switched?

From what I've witnessed with old wiring, almost everything pre-war, including K&T, where I guess it started, was lighting circuits were run from ceiling box to ceiling box, a hot & neutral in each box, and switch legs were dropped to wall switches. There's always a hot conductor in the ceiling box.
The only thing this is good for is mounting a ceiling fan: you can control the fan light from the wall and the fan motor from the pull chain. DAMHIKT ;)
Don't try this at home, guys.
S_M

JLMCDANIEL
Re: Was the negative side ever switched?

It is also possible, if you have 3 way switches that is was wired using the Carter system which was prohibited by NEC in 1923 but was used during K&T wiring. It was dangerous because with 2 of the possible switch combinations the light is off but but there is power to both terminals on the light.
Jack

Ernie_Fergler
Re: Was the negative side ever switched?
canuk wrote:

Many, many, many moons back I remember my grandfather describing how K&T was installed ---- quite the process.

A "mechanic" would go around and hand auger all the holes for the tubes ---- run the conductors and mount all the knobs.

The "electrician" would then come after and polish the exposed conductors and twist ( Western Union --- I think ) or tap splice---- then dipped into a pot of molten solder and taped after they cooled.

Lots of work and people --- always having someone heating a pot with a torch to melt bricks of solder. A bit hazardous as well with the open flame torches and dropping pots of molten solder --- :eek:

Me thinks the costs of wiring that way wouldn't fly these days.

The "mechanic" would have forearms like Popeye after a summer on the job...:D
I do remember being taught a "Western Union" splice by a great teacher, even though its time had passed into the sunset by then.....He felt it very important to understand some of the situations you would run into later while troubleshooting work done by someone else.

canuk
Re: Was the negative side ever switched?
Ernie_Fergler wrote:

The "mechanic" would have forearms like Popeye after a summer on the job...:D

LOL --- actually it was more of using a bit & brace --- but still .....;)

Quote:

I do remember being taught a "Western Union" splice by a great teacher, even though its time had passed into the sunset by then.....He felt it very important to understand some of the situations you would run into later while troubleshooting work done by someone else.

I was taught Western Union (among others) a long time ago and still use it for repairing auto, communication and control wiring.:cool:

JLMCDANIEL
Re: Was the negative side ever switched?

I've always hear it called a "Lineman's splice" and if you look you will still see it being used on power lines.
Jack

Pages

TV Listings

Find TV listings for This Old House and Ask This Old House in your area.