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Electrical Wiring in the Home/switched receptacle rewiring problem


Hi, thanks so much for volunteering here, I really appreciate it! I've got a family room circuit on a 15amp breaker.  There are 6 receptacles.  The were previously wired so that the top half of each receptacle was controlled by a switch at the end of the run.  There is a 14-2 carrying power to the 1st receptacle.  After that, all cables are 14-3.  So 14-2 coming into #1, 14-3 going out w/ both whites on the white side (tab installed), both blacks on the bottom half and one red on the upper half (tab removed).  At #2 it was two whites on white side (tab installed), two blacks on the bottom, and two reds on the top (tab removed).  This continued around the room thru the last receptacle.  At the switch at the end, one red to the top of the switch, one black on the bottom, and one white capped off.  If nothing was plugged into the last receptacle (top or bottom), the red at the switch would read 120V in ON position, or 40V in OFF position (first problem)?  If a lamp was plugged into the last receptacle (top I think), the red would read 0V in OFF position.
 So, my goal was to install two sconces off of two of the middle receptacles in the room.  I figured I would rewire all receptacles as a standard run, new receptacles, tabs installed, switch at the end.  I'd use only black and white wires for the receptacles, w/ one black running into the bottom of the switch, white coming out, red capped off.  At the last receptacle I'd hook the white from the switch to the red leading to the previous switch, and at the previous switch, the red would connect to the black to the sconce, other red to the white from the sconce, and work back that way the other sconce white tying back into the white side of the respective receptacle.  
 I started w/ the 1st recpt. and removed the plug and fanned out the wires, turned on the breaker and checked that the 14-2 was hot, 14-3 not hot.  Wired in new receptacle, capped off the red.  Next recpt. same thing, but now I'm showing 4V in one of the reds, 0V in the other?  3rd recept. (no wires connected to anything, recpt. removed) shows 30~V on one red???
I'm now at a loss - where is this phantom voltage coming from?  If I shut off the breaker, I get no voltage on anything, so I don't think it's tied into a 2nd breaker.  I'm just stumped and don't know how to proceed.  Appreciate any help, thanks!

Robert Wilber
Licensed Philadelphia Electrician
Philadelphia License # 3516 - 16765
Electricity is dangerous!
You can be injured or killed!
Improper installations can cause fire, injury and death!
Are you qualified to do this work?
National Electrical Code definition, NFPA 70 2008 Article 100: Qualified Person. "One who has skills and knowledge related to the construction and operation of the electrical equipment and installations and has received safety training to recognize and avoid the hazards involved."
Electricity is fire in a box!
Always check with the local “Authority Having Jurisdiction” for an official interpretation before making installation decisions.
In Philadelphia, it is unlawful for anyone except an individual licensed by the City of Philadelphia to install electrical equipment and wiring.
Homeowners are not allowed to install wiring.
The owner of any property wherein any such installation is discovered shall be issued a violation by the Department of Licenses and Inspections.
The limited exceptions include replacing devices and fixtures at existing outlets.
Contact the Department of Licenses and Inspections for more information.
You are more likely to be killed by 120 volts than any other voltage [120 volts creates the PERFECT fatal current through the human body's electrical resistance!]
This information is provided for the use of parties as they see fit!
I am not responsible for the application of this information by any party, including those lacking sufficient skill or knowledge to perform these steps safely and any hazard created is the SOLE responsibility of the user.
I don't understand what you were thinking.

Eliminate the red from the receptacle, perhaps. Black hot feed. Why change the white from the red at the switch? You have created a non-standard, illegal installation. If anything, you would feed the hot to the switch on the white, return the black. White is NEVER the switch controlled wire.

Leave the black as feed, red as load. Splice the red thru all the outlets as the switched wire.

Controlled black "hot" for sconce attaches to red at local receptacle source. White remains neutral throughout. Black remains constant hot throughout.

Your inability to apply basic circuit logic makes me uncomfortable that you are installing the sconce wiring according to NEC and standard industry practice. I encourage you to have your work inspected to ensure safety. I mean, you do plan on having your children sleep there, right?
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Electrical Wiring in the Home

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Robert Wilber


Licensed Philadelphia electrician serving Delaware, Chester, Montgomery and Philadelphia County in Pennsylvania. I install and repair residential, commercial and industrial wiring and lighting. Troubleshooting and repair of problems that stump other people is my favorite. I am willing to help people figure out why things don`t work. I understand motor controls, transformers and machine wiring. I do not teach basics to novices or do free design work.


Experience in the area I have 44 years experience in residential, commercial and industrial electrical construction and repair, 480 volts and below. This is not to be confused with one week repeated two thousand times.

44 years experience in residential, commercial and industrial electrical construction and repair

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