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Mabou 10-27-2007 04:41 PM

Nest-o-wires and a switch-loop
Hi All,

I have a 1906 Craftsman style home. I am trying to renovate the stairway to the basement. I thought a simple replacement of a light switch, and the addition of a new light circuit to the switch would take a few minutes... wrong.

So here is what I have discovered,
1) The existing light switch is wired with a switch loop, no neutral or ground exist in the box. This is my first experience with a switch loop. After several minutes with a puzzled look on my face, I started researching online, which has led me to this forum.
2) There are five light fixtures in the basement, most of which have a red wire running to them in addition to the black and white.
3) Whoever had done the wiring on the basement lights did not know what they were doing and they never worked correctly.

Although electricity is dangerous, this is not brain surgery. I need someone to spell out for me how to think about the red wire, as well as how to understand the switch loop (i.e. how it should be integrated into the nest-o-mess).

I have no problem cracking into the junction boxes and making sure everything is routed properly, but I really need a wiring diagram to make sense of this.

Can anyone help?

Thanks in advance,

Andy in ATL 10-27-2007 05:16 PM

Go to the light closest to the switch and tell us what is in this box...What the black and white from the switch attached to? What is the red attached to?

You are right, this ain't rocket science. We'll figure it out for you.:thumbsup:

Speedy Petey 10-27-2007 05:17 PM

NO, it's not "rocket science", but it can burn down your house or kill you.

Ask us to explain the "red wire" is kind of impossible without telling us what other wires there are and how they are all connected. Sorry, my telepathic diagnoser is on the fritz.

There is no stock diagram on how to wire basement lights.

Can you give us some more detail?

Stubbie 10-27-2007 07:01 PM

Hello Mabou

Speedy is right we can't really help without more detailed information. Andy has begun the process of getting the right formation and eventually we will get there and be able to give you the right advice.

It is very important that we know what wires are in each light box and how they are connected by color.. It is also important that we know which fixture is receiving the incoming power.

Posting a few pics of the box with incoming power would be a great help. Do not disconnect anything till we get an idea of what you have going on. Since this has never worked correctly can you tell us what that incorrectness would be? What are the lights not doing?....I'm assuming that they have some problem like not all coming on when you turn the switch on or some are dim or all dim that sort of thing...

Are these lights single location operated or are they 3 way 2 location?

Mabou 10-28-2007 12:36 AM

Hey guys, thanks anyway.

I got my answer....
If you are curious, here is the post I found on another forum...
It worked perfectly.

Run power into the first fixture with 14-2. From there to the next fixture and all the way to the last fixture, you'll need 14-3.

Connect the black wire in the 14-2 feed to black in the cable going to the next light. Black to black again at next light, and so on until the last one. The blacks just connect through, they don't connect to the fixture ballasts, ever, anywhere.

Inside the last light, black in the 14-3 goes to WHITE in the 14-2 switchloop (tape or paint both ends of the white wire in the switchloop cable black, because it's not a neutral any more).
Black in the switchloop goes to the RED wire in the 14-3, AND is pigtailed to the fixture's ballast's black hot wire. Same at all the other lights - reds in the 14-3 are all pigtailed together and also go to the fixture's ballast's hot wire.
To word it a bit more generally, black carries power through the whole mess of fixtures to the switch, then red brings the power back from the switch and powers the light fixtures.
White goes to all the fixture neutrals (pigtailed in each fixture). It does not go beyond the last fixture; no need for it in the switchloop.

Andy in ATL 10-28-2007 05:37 AM

Awww, now all our feelings are hurt:(

Just kidding.

Stubbie 10-28-2007 12:38 PM

Glad you got it working. I didn't realize you were asking how to wire in a new circuit for all the lights. My impression was the entire circuit wasn't accessible and we were trying to figure out what was there. I think you would have been happier with a three way circuit for the lights since a stairway is involved. At any rate at least you have a light circuit that is working correctly.


Speedy Petey 10-28-2007 01:45 PM


Originally Posted by Stubbie (Post 70321)
I didn't realize you were asking how to wire in a new circuit for all the lights. My impression was the entire circuit wasn't accessible and we were trying to figure out what was there.

Yeah, me too.

Mabou 10-28-2007 07:46 PM

Thanks anyway gents... I'm sure there will be more to come. This is a great forum and I feel very fortunate to have found it.

Take care,

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