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RickDel 09-08-2009 07:09 PM

HELP.. trouble adding light to single pole switch
Hello.... I'm requesting help with wiring a new wall light fixture to an existing single pole switch. The switch has three separate 12 guage wires entering into the box. Two are 12/2 and one is 12/3. The 12/3 is also a multi-circuit outlet in the living room (light switch controls two outlet).

  1. I left everything the same and pigtailed my white/neutral wire to the other whites. (I know they are NOT HOT because I tested them with my voltage detector and didn't get a reading)
  2. I then pigtailed the black with a red wire on the bottom terminal of the light switch. (also tried it with the black at the top too)

When I turn the light switch off I still get a reading on the light fixture wire with my voltage detector indicating it's remaining HOT regardless of the switch being OFF or ON.

What am I doing wrong??????? AND HELP IS GREATLY APPRECIATED (this thing has already wasted about 4 hours of my time)

wirenut1110 09-08-2009 07:19 PM

It sounds like you're wiring it right. If you're using a non-contact voltage tester, it could just be reading some phantom voltage.

I'd go ahead and hook the light up the way you have it and check it that way. Turn the breaker off first.

PS. Unless you've changed one of those switched receptacles and didn't break the tab.

Ranger31 09-08-2009 07:22 PM

Can you send a diagram of your wiring.

RickDel 09-08-2009 07:37 PM

hmmmm, not sure how to do a diagram but here's a picture (not the best but hope it helps you) The wires are pushed into the back of the outlet (just as they were before I added anything). My Hot is connected pigtailed to the red and the white is pigtailed with the neutrals. Thanks Again

RickDel 09-08-2009 08:05 PM

Wirenut1110, you might be right. (and I might not know how to use my equipment) because even though it was detecting voltage a few times, I didn't realize it was only sporadic was NOT reading EVERYTIME until I rechecked it. This time I noticed when it didn't detect power it would when I flipped the switch (STRANGE!!! because I was not near any other power source)

I guess I'll try the light and see if it works...

AllanJ 09-08-2009 10:11 PM

With an incandescent light bulb controlled by the switch you should not read any phantom voltage on the hot wire going to the light fixture when the switch is "off". (measuring hot to neutral)

OT: Something looks suspicious.

Did you damage the insulation on the pigtails to the switch when pushing the ends into the small end of the green wire nut? The wire insulation on hots and neutrals must not be subject to getting cut and bare metal must not be seen there. These green wire nuts are meant for a continuous bare ground wire to continue on to one ground screw as opposed to using one more bare pigtail. It is customary to insert all the wire ends for hot wires and neutral wires into the large end of their respective wire nuts.

Attaching wires to the screw terminals on the switch or receptacle is preferable to using push-in-and-it-sticks holes (backstab connections) in back.

220/221 09-08-2009 10:25 PM

Lord, what a mess.

Get rid of those green nuts on the hot wires and make that box up properly.


When I turn the light switch off I still get a reading on the light fixture wire with my voltage detector indicating it's remaining HOT regardless of the switch being OFF or ON.

You didn't say that the light fixture doesn't work.

A non contact tester is not a 100% test of anything.

RickDel 09-09-2009 01:33 AM

Well, I hooked up the new light and everything seems to work.... I know the 'push back' connections aren't the safest and I intent to correct that, but are the green pigtail wire nuts unsafe also? I have them very secure and thought they were a good/safe option. If not, maybe I should change them too?????? Thanks for the help!

Ranger31 09-09-2009 05:19 AM


Thanks for sending us the photo.

"One photo is worth a thousand words"

220/221 09-09-2009 01:18 PM


but are the green pigtail wire nuts unsafe also?
They are designed for ground wires. The one that comes out the top should be continuous, not a separate piece of wire.

The conical shape of a wirenut is designed to screw on to the wires, tightening and squeezing the wires together as it screws down. If you stuck a pigtail in the end, you can probaby visualize the potential problem.

Is it a "real" problem? I don't know. I've never used a ground nut in that fashion.

RickDel 09-09-2009 07:27 PM

Thanks for the lesson (that's what I come here for)..... Thanks!!!

spark plug 09-09-2009 07:57 PM

Qhich method better? Twist around or Baack stab?
Allan Jay (Poster #6) In the last paragraph you mention that twisting the wire around the screw is better than "Back Stabbing" it. Not in all cases and size of wire. Electrical contractor magazine a few years ago printed a study that was done on "Back stab". It showed that #12 does not hold as solid as #14. So the Mfrs. (Leviton and others) produced receptacles where you couldn't insert #12 in the back slots. But on toggle switches they left them intact. I was always puzzled why switches are different. (No matter what):yes::no::drink:don't drink and Drive, Ever!!!

AllanJ 09-09-2009 10:00 PM

As the wire nut is screwed onto the bundle of wires, it moves lengthwise along the wire ends a tad. If one of the separate wires of a non-ground bundle is stuck in the hole in the small end, it is tricky making sure that its end is still securely held by the screw thread portion of the wire nut after everything is tight, and bare wire is not protruding from either end of the wire nut.

Also putting one separate wire end in the small end of the wire nut does not let you have one more wire than might otherwise be accommodated. It is still possible to have one wire "in the middle of the bundle" and not dug into by the wire nut screw threads and therefore likely to slip out.

In the proper usage of the green wire nut with one ground wire much longer and coming out the small end, in effect you can have one more pigtail (the long wire end) than would be the case with all separate wires and pigtails coming out the large end of the wire nut only.

I haven't read about any situation where backstab was better than screws with the wire wrapped most the way around (as opposed to a short straight wire end held by the screw but which could twist out from under the screw).

Ranger31 09-09-2009 10:18 PM


"in the middle of the bundle"

Excellent point, on to many wires, for the wire nut. :thumbsup:

Yea, here it comes, thanks for your post.

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