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Old 01-16-2013, 11:21 AM   #1
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adding lights in basement - Problem hooking up to switch


Hello there,

I just joined this forum today to ask a question that I can't figure out.

I enjoy fixing things and figuring them out on my own, but I am a super noob when it comes to electrical work. Be aware, there are likely some stupid questions ahead :P


I am adding recessed lighting to my basement.

There was already a ceiling light fixture that was controlled off of a switch. As I wanted the recessed lights to go off the same switch, I was planning on cannibalizing that ceiling light (no longer needed) and using its wires for my potlights.

However, my problems grew when I removed the ceiling light to discover the octogonal box behind it had 4 wires coming into it. 3 coming from the direction of the switch, with the 4th going off in the other direction.

Here is a picture:




Of the 4 wires, one of them is always hot (the one with the green tape) and is on its own breaker. But none of them turn off and on with the switch (other 3 are always cold).

This leads me to believe that the wires need to be connected together somehow to allow the switch to function.

Also, yes I am an idiot for not noting the connections to the ceiling light before undoing them. Lesson learned!


When I looked at the switch, I noticed something else weird (at least to me). I am accustomed to seeing the switch being used as the break for the black wire, with the white wire directly connected from the supply to the fixture. However, for the switch in question, the white and black wires are connected to the switch. Why would the previous owner have done it this way???

Here is a picture:




I am hoping some of you will be able to shed some light on this issue. I have the wire run for my recessed lighting already, I have been held up by this issue for several days now.

Thanks in advance,

Canehdianman

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Old 01-16-2013, 11:27 AM   #2
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adding lights in basement - Problem hooking up to switch


seeing as if you have a black and white wire attached to the switch, I will assume you have a switch loop. See below.

Wires "A" and "B" in your photo most likely correspond to A and B in the diagram.
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adding lights in basement - Problem hooking up to switch-enimage1358310713950.jpg   adding lights in basement - Problem hooking up to switch-switch-loop.jpg  


Last edited by hammerlane; 01-16-2013 at 11:30 AM.
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Old 01-16-2013, 11:29 AM   #3
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adding lights in basement - Problem hooking up to switch


Thanks Hammerlane!

I basically need to treat the white wire coming in off the switch as a black, correct?

Then it will just be trial and error between the two possible wires (the one you marked A/B and the other one) coming from that direction that could be the switch wire?
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Old 01-16-2013, 11:31 AM   #4
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adding lights in basement - Problem hooking up to switch


Use a meter and check continuity between wires "A" amd "B" at the light location and the wires attached to the switch.

See if "A" at the light locations other end is at "A" at the switch location. Do the same for wire "B". Make sure power is off first.
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Old 01-16-2013, 11:33 AM   #5
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adding lights in basement - Problem hooking up to switch


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Originally Posted by canehdianman View Post
Thanks Hammerlane!

I basically need to treat the white wire coming in off the switch as a black, correct?
The white wire coming to the switch is bringing power to the switch. The black wire at the switch is taking power back to the device. In your case the device is lights. The black wire would be considered a switch leg.
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Old 01-16-2013, 11:35 AM   #6
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adding lights in basement - Problem hooking up to switch


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Originally Posted by canehdianman View Post
Thanks Hammerlane!

I basically need to treat the white wire coming in off the switch as a black, correct?

Then it will just be trial and error between the two possible wires (the one you marked A/B and the other one) coming from that direction that could be the switch wire?
Take an ohmmeter to that pair and turn the switch on and off to confirm open/close. Then tie the black into the hot and the white into the lights.
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Old 01-16-2013, 11:41 AM   #7
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adding lights in basement - Problem hooking up to switch


If it is a switch loop, In the diagram below

then "A" and "B" get wire nutted together. "B" brings power into the circuit, "A" takes power to the switch.

"C", "D" and "E" get wire nutted together. "C" brings power back from the switch and "D" and "E" take it to the lights.

Does this make sense??
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Old 01-16-2013, 11:44 AM   #8
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Thanks a ton guys!

I believe I can get these wired up tonight now!!
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Old 01-18-2013, 10:23 AM   #9
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adding lights in basement - Problem hooking up to switch


Thanks a ton to everyone who helped me out earlier.

I only had about 30 minutes to play around with this last night and thought I had things figured out.

It was indeed a "switch loop" and I had the wires done up as Hammerlane indicated in the post two above mine.


Then I wired up the first potlight.....

When the switch was off, the light was on.

When I turned the switch on, it tripped the breaker.

I'm guessing I mixed up the wires somehow.... I'll have more time to figure it out this weekend, but given how quickly I got fantastic help on here last time, I figured I'd ask again.
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Old 01-18-2013, 01:31 PM   #10
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adding lights in basement - Problem hooking up to switch


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Originally Posted by 64pvolvo1800 View Post
Take an ohmmeter to that pair and turn the switch on and off to confirm open/close. Then tie the black into the hot and the white into the lights.
This is wrong. Tie the white of the switch loop to the hot. Tie the black to the light. Remark the white with a piece of black tape. It will work either way but his suggestion is not code compliant.
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Old 01-18-2013, 04:14 PM   #11
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This is wrong. Tie the white of the switch loop to the hot. Tie the black to the light. Remark the white with a piece of black tape. It will work either way but his suggestion is not code compliant.
My mistake on code and color but OP rest assured the problem you now have isn't related to the color issue. Something else is wired wrong or shorted in the pot light wiring. The current flows to and from the switch regardless of color and since the one light works correctly, it's downwind of that.
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Old 01-18-2013, 07:49 PM   #12
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adding lights in basement - Problem hooking up to switch


Woohoo! It works!


Thanks a ton everyone!

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