I'm in the process of ripping up old tile from a house we just bought, and started to take out our old dishwasher today. During the process I noticed it's hardwired from the wall.

I went and flipped every breaker in the panel (we haven't had a chance to verify the labels just yet), and went back to the dishwasher. It's at this point I decided to be paranoid (which happens a lot when I'm dealing with stuff I know very little about), and drove back to our current home to grab my voltage detector. Seemed overkill, but it's only a couple minutes away, and I'd prefer to not die.

I come back, place the detector at the dishwasher, and to my surprise the detector goes off like crazy. The wires are still hot.

What do I do now? How can I kill the power to this cord? Do I need to call in an electrician to.. "fix" this somehow?

  • Can you provide more detail on the voltage detector? Is it a non-contact one, or a regular multimeter? Are the batteries fresh? If you turn off the main power disconnect, does it still alert? Commented May 17, 2015 at 4:06
  • Yeah it's a non contact, with fresh batteries. I checked other sources like outlets and light switches, which were not live.
    – ctote
    Commented May 17, 2015 at 15:13
  • Sounds like the answer below is the key, but I can say that even a good non contact (mine's a Fluke) will sometimes false positive and drive me to use a real multimeter. The cause of the false positive is apparently induction from another live wire, though this doesn't seem likely in your case with all other circuits off. Commented May 17, 2015 at 15:17
  • 1
    Did you turn off the main disconnect as well (main breaker(s))?
    – Tester101
    Commented May 17, 2015 at 21:02
  • What type of panel is it (who is the manufacturer)?
    – Tester101
    Commented May 17, 2015 at 21:03

3 Answers 3


Here are a couple of ideas. Usually there is a service panel on the outside of the house, this is where the main service line connects to the home. There should be a few breakers in there, but they are typically only for the bigger circuits. At my house for example, there are breakers in the outside panel for the range/oven, dryer, air conditioner, and one that goes to my main circuit panel inside. The inside breaker box is where all the breakers for lights and outlets inside are. Some homes get a second panel added inside when they run out of space on the primary panel. So I'd try to see if you have another circuit panel inside, or check in your outside panel to see if there is a circuit there that will shutoff the dishwasher circuit.

  • ...and many homes have no exterior panel at all. While they may be common in your area, they are not common in all areas.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented May 17, 2015 at 21:30

Its hard to determine with certainty if your voltaic is giving you a false positive. The only way to actually check wires and be certain they are dead is with a proper volt meter that you put on bare conductors.

Kind of an annoying answer since you don't have one i understand.

I am pretty sure you had all the breakers in the main house panel off at the same time? In which case thats basically the same as the main breaker being off, when you tested for power on this circuit. If thats so than I agree with what the last poster said.

If however you flicked each breaker off one at a time, tested it AND TURNED IT BACK ON to proceed with testing the next breaker and the circuit never seemed to be dead, than it could be something else. You could have two circuits hots tied together. I know you might be thinking that if you put two hot wires together they should short out and spark, well thats half true. A panel has two main hot wires, sometimes called phase A and phase B. Those are your main black and red wires coming into your panel. Phase A and B travel down buss bars to your breakers. So each breaker is either fed with Phase A (black) or Phase B (red). Anytime I take Phase A and touch it with Phase B (with no load in-between like a baseboard heater) you get a short circuit. Sparks and a breaker should trip. But if you touch a Phase A with another Phase A with no load in-between than they WILL NOT short out! NO sparks and NO breaker tripping.

What happens in some junction boxes (such as a light or a plug box or anywhere wires are connected to each other), a person might accidentally tie two circuits of the same phase together. The circuits individually can both still work like they are supposed to, and the ammature person who hooked up the circuits doesn't see sparks, everything works, and they assume they now know how to wire circuits! (You are never supposed to run multiple circuits in the same box without something to warn people and dividers etc.. in the box to separate the circuits, but people still do it.)

So thats a long answer but a way you can test to see if this is going on is-

When you test each circuit individually and turn the circuits back on after testing each one (so only one breaker is off in the panel at a time) and your circuit never went dead, BUT if you shut off the main breaker for the panel you are testing breakers out of and the circuit is now off, than it's probably two hots on the same phase tied together. Now you must try combinations of two breakers off at the same time to get your circuit off!

  • 1
    In a single split phase system, the two ungrounded (hot) conductors are know as "legs", not "phases". It's a single phase system, so referring to them as "phases" is confusing.
    – Tester101
    Commented May 17, 2015 at 21:00

I don't think if you need an electrician to turn off the power, because in your breaker box must be something related to the kitchen wish you will be able to figure it out from there.

  • Questioner states that every breaker was shut off, so this answer isn't paying attention to the question.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented May 17, 2015 at 21:27

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