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Situation: installing new switches for 3-in-1 heater/fan/light fixture. Old custom switch set (broken) had three switches and an indicator light. New generic set has three switches and an outlet. Unfortunately as my dad attempted to install, and then as I troubleshot, exact identities of wires were lost. However, I did identify one wire which had no load and therefore tripped the breaker whenever connected to a closed switch. I connected that one to the outlet, and now the outlet works. However, in the process something happened which disabled the rest of the system.

So, currently: the fan/heater/light have been tested and verified to work (by a separate power source). The junction box has about a 110 VAC drop across each switch. Each switch is verified to work. None of the switches cause the fan, heater, or light to turn on, yet the outlet in the same junction box works. What could the problem be? I learned electricity on cargo ships so I am not used to troubleshooting residential circuits. Would there still be a voltage drop across the switches (when opened) if the cable going up to the unit burned through at some point? I inspected all of the cable that I could get to from the attic, and there was no evidence of burning/shorting, but there is a portion that I can't get to in the wall to inspect. I am looking for the next best troubleshooting or repair step.

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  • the fan/heater/light have been tested and verified to work (by a separate power source) .... has it even occurred to you to use the outlet that came with the switches? – jsotola Dec 29 '17 at 6:47
  • A diagram of the wiring would be helpful. You may have some switch legs in that setup where a white wire is a hot it sounds like that may have caused your breaker trip. If the correct size wire/ breaker was used it would be very rare to burn a wire open except at a splice or junction. – Ed Beal Dec 29 '17 at 15:02
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    Can you post photos of the insides of the boxes involved? – ThreePhaseEel Dec 29 '17 at 21:35
  • Jsotola, the outlet that came with the switches works - but in what sense should I consider using it to troubleshoot? Ed and Three Phase - unfortuantely the issue is in my parent's house, a six hour drive from where I live. When I go down next, I will update with that info or post as a new question. Thanks for the responses. – Robert Dunn Dec 30 '17 at 3:47
  • We're going to need a diagram or photos. Do you realize most of these wires are color-coded, and the colors usually mean something? It also matters how the individual wires are grouped into cables. – Harper Dec 30 '17 at 9:34

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