Need help with exposed wiring.
March 25, 2012 12:10 PM   Subscribe

Light install went bad. We have a positive negative and ground wire dangling from the wall. Is it safe to turn the breaker back on if we put a wire nut on the end of each wire (separately)? More, does the ground wire need a nut?

we have an electrician coming this week to do what we cannot--hang a light fixture. Until then we have wires that are exposed. As I type this the circuit breaker is off, but we can't go without power in the bathroom until the electrician comes on Tues or Weds.

What can we safely do to these wires so we can turn the power back on? (They're high up so they won't be touched even accidentally but don't want to cause a short or a fire)
posted by arniec to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
You can do it, but it's not really safe. Anything that bridges those two wires will cause a nasty shock and short the line. If I were going to do it, I would be extremely paranoid, I would put the nut on and then wrap electrical tape around the nut so that there is no possibility whatsoever of touching any wire. It still wouldn't be "safe" in the sense of meeting code, but it would satisfy me.
posted by zug at 12:24 PM on March 25, 2012

Sure. Cap the wires, don't worry about the ground wire. You're in business.
posted by found missing at 12:29 PM on March 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

It's not a generally acceptable permanent repair, but for 48 hours, I've done it more than once. Just make 100% sure the nuts are firmly attached, no copper is exposed, and the wires are bent so as not to touch even if they fell off. No, there's no point in capping the ground wire.
posted by tyllwin at 12:39 PM on March 25, 2012

Use the caps on all 3 and tape each of the 3 an inch or more apart on a piece of stiff cardboard so there is zero chance they will touch.
posted by caclwmr4 at 12:59 PM on March 25, 2012

You answerers do realize that wires are capped and stuffed into boxes as a matter of course, right? And, capping a ground wire? Really?
posted by found missing at 1:03 PM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

I agree with the others that you simply need to cap the positive and negative wires; ground can stay the way it is. However, all of this is assuming you didn't alter the wiring in any way and there was a previous fixture there that was functioning properly (or, if it was functioning improperly, it was due to a fault of the fixture and not the wiring). If there's an issue with the wiring that you can't see (in the wall, for example), then you might want to keep that breaker off.
posted by puritycontrol at 1:11 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

"And, capping a ground wire? Really?"

It's fine to be a bit sarcastic about people suggesting the ground wire be capped. After all, it doesn't really need to be - if you're absolutely sure there's no possible way it could be live under any circumstances.

Since the OP can't hang a light fitting without help*, I wouldn't be so sure on that. Cap it and wrap it, being very careful to make sure everything is separated.

(*No offence meant, OP - I'm 100% sure there's things you can do that I'm hopeless at. Writing without offending people, for one ;-)
posted by Pinback at 1:30 PM on March 25, 2012 [5 favorites]

Well, if you put it that way--agreed. (But, if the ground wire is an uninsulated bare copper wire, then capping it won't do any good even if it somehow is live.)
posted by found missing at 1:50 PM on March 25, 2012

Cap the ground too. There's very little cost in doing it and a lot of cost if it turns out to not be as grounded as you think.

After all this is an install that "went bad". There's no point on betting against how badly it went.
posted by Ookseer at 1:52 PM on March 25, 2012

Cap them (solidly), fold them up into the box in such a way that they won't touch if the nuts come off and breathe easy. If you really want to do it properly, go buy a cover for a couple bucks and screw it on to the box (then you are code compliant).
posted by ssg at 2:20 PM on March 25, 2012

Tyllwin has it. Cap the black and white wire. If it's a plastic box and they're capped tight, bend them back in the box. If it's a metal box, keep them out and capped in case the wires are nicked, which might be the cause of some of your problems, wrap them with tape as far as you can reach into the box, and stay away from them until you have a light on them. Turn the breaker back on. If it holds, you're golden until your electrician shows up. If it trips, your problems go beyond the part of the wire you can see.
posted by skyl1n3 at 3:05 PM on March 25, 2012

Also, even with the breaker off, do the work with one hand and the other behind your back.
posted by MonsieurBon at 3:17 PM on March 25, 2012

Cap all three wires, then wrap the caps in tape to be sure. You should cover the ground wire only because of the incredibly unlikely case that you could be touching or close enough for an arc to reach you if something else grounds accidentally or is already shorting to ground. There are no second chances with electricity.

Um, doing this with one hand behind your back will be pretty much impossible. If you aren't certain that the wires are dead with the breaker off, then you have much bigger problems than installing a light fitting.
posted by dg at 6:15 PM on March 25, 2012

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