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Old 11-19-2008, 12:45 PM   #1
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Need help installing a dimmer switch { PICTURE }


Several years ago when we purchased this house I removed the ceiling fan in the office and put in a standard light. I removed the fan switch and put in a standard light switch. And everything worked fine.

A few weeks ago I decided I'd like to change out the light switch and install a dimmer. I disconnected the wires and installed the new dimmer. Everything worked fine for a couple of weeks. Then one night I hit the switch, heard a pop from inside the switch and that was that.

So now I'm trying to replace the dimmer with another one. And since it popped before I thought I better start from scratch and make sure the wiring is correct. This is also because the previous owner had done a lot of funky electrical work I've inherited as well.

I've included a pic to help visualize the situation.

There are two cables coming into the box. Four strands each, red, black, white and ground. The neutrals (white) and grounds are tied together.

The left cable has two hot wires, red and black going towards the top in the pic. The cable (red and black) to the right of it has no juice.

Now what do I need to do to install the dimmer switch?
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Old 11-19-2008, 01:23 PM   #2
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Need help installing a dimmer switch { PICTURE }


See what color wire you have wired to the light. You should have a white and either a red or black connected to the light. So, if you have a white and black connected to the light, to stay consistent, run the hot black to the in side of the dimmer and the non hot black to the out side of the dimmer.

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Old 11-19-2008, 01:53 PM   #3
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Well I'm not sure what hot wire (red or black) I used to the light since it was installed a couple of years ago. I would assume I used black to begin with to maintain some sort of standard. I thought the red was only used because of the ceiling fan and controlled the fan speed and the black to control the light. Is this thinking wrong?

Right now I'm using a standard switch so I don't keep burning out $25 dimmer switches. I tried the two black wires and it blew the breaker when turned on.

Now previously there were one or two piggy-back cables but can't remember what. Any idea on what they may of been or better yet how it should be if necessary?

I think the cable to the left is my incoming hot and the one to the right goes to the lights or perhaps another circuit.

Thanks!
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Old 11-19-2008, 03:34 PM   #4
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Sounds like you need to pull the light fixture down and check your wiring. You may have a short in the light or the light wiring. If the white/red/black was used to run the fan as you suggest, you should have all three wires at the light box. If you hooked up the red at the light and didn't wire nut the black wire then it could be shorting out against the box and blowing the breaker.

The key to electricity... don't assume anything.
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Old 11-19-2008, 05:34 PM   #5
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You're right, it was the light fixture. After pulling it down the neutral wire leading from the ceiling appears to of shorted out and burned through the plastic. It looks like it was resting against the metal cross bracket the fixture was supported by.

The red and black wires from the ceiling are connected to the black wire for the fixture. After I taped up the neutral wire I ran the juice again. This time I got a power signal from all wires except ground.

Also, both pairs of red and black wires in the switch box are showing power.

So I still need to see what wire to use in the switch box. And a new development, none of the wall outlets on the same circuit work. They show juice when tested, but nothing runs. I have a feeling something got screwed up with the neutral wire now. Which incidentally was the one that appears to of burned through the plastic sheathing (about an 8th of an inch).
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Old 11-19-2008, 11:23 PM   #6
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Problem solved. I ended up calling in an electrician. He's done work for us before so I felt confident in calling him if I couldn't figure it out myself. And it's a good thing I did. Come to find out it had nothing to do with the light fixture or the switch. A neutral wire had come separated from a wall outlet on the same circuit. Yes the ceiling light and outlets are on the same circuit from the previous owner's work on this house. What's amazing is it was an outlet that was behind a file cabinet that is never used. It appears as though the wire was not inserted all the way in to begin with and was just barely making contact. And the one night I throw the light switch it blew.

Neither I nor anyone else here would of figured that out based on what was stated above. Only bringing in a pro did it get resolved. Granted it was $140. If there's any solace, at least it wasn't my doing that caused it.

Next time if this ever happens I'll know to go beyond the switch and fixture to check everything.
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Old 11-20-2008, 09:35 AM   #7
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Good idea to call a pro. I'm hoping he only used either the red or black wire on the light as having both of them connected gave you the potential of running 220v to the light which would have made for some nice fireworks.

Glad you got it worked out.
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Old 11-20-2008, 09:44 AM   #8
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Exactly, we didn't use the red. Thanks!
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Old 11-20-2008, 12:25 PM   #9
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Need help installing a dimmer switch { PICTURE }


Quote:
Originally Posted by bradnailer View Post
Good idea to call a pro. I'm hoping he only used either the red or black wire on the light as having both of them connected gave you the potential of running 220v to the light which would have made for some nice fireworks.

Glad you got it worked out.
Actually if they were tied together at the light and both connected to the fixture black wire, it would have simply tripped the breaker. It would be different if it was black to black and red to white at the fixture (and if there really are/were 2 separate circuits in the switch box). In any case, leaving both of the wires connected would not only be a safety issue but a code violation.

Its good to hear that the Op has the problem resolved, sometimes you just need to bite the dust and call someone more experienced and more knowledgable than you to get the job done.

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