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Old 01-08-2007, 04:21 PM   #1
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Old house, new light fixture, too many wires


Hi,

I'm installing a new Ikea chandelier fixture into a bedroom (http://www.ikea.com/webapp/wcs/store...umber=30092475). The old fixture was a simple two bulb fixture. It was controlled successfully by a wall switch.

After taking off the old fixture, I tried to take careful note of two things: the previous wiring arrangement and the other surrounding wires

There are a total of seven wires coming from the ceiling:

-newish black wire
-newish white wire with black electrical tape on it (as a marking?)
-ground wire (bare)
-dingy fabric and insulation covered wire #1
-dingy fabric and insulation covered wire #2
-old white wire
-old black wire

The old fixture was successfully attached to the newish white wire (with electrical tape on it), dingy fabric wire #1, and the bare ground wire.

I needed to buy some new bolts with nuts to attach the Ikea fixture. While at the hardware store, the folks told me to test the other wires. I used a small "test bulb" pigtail (?) tester.

The combination of new white (with black tape) plus fabric wire #1 plus ground does light up the tester--but only dimly. A much stronger test light results from old white wire and old black wire (which were never used in the old fixture).

Here are my questions:

1) Why did the wall switch control the old fixture, but now the test bulb seems unaffected by wall switch?

2) Why does the test bulb appear weak for some pairs, stronger for others?

3) What do fabric-covered wires indicate?

4) Why would there be black electrical tape on a white wire? Did someone try to indicate that it was really acting as the black wire?

5) My Ikea fixture is marked with two wires plus ground. One of the wires is positive, the other neutral. Am I correct assuming positive should go to the white ceiling wire? And that that neutral should go to the black? (n.b. the old fixture was connected white fixture wire to fabric wire #1 and black fixture wire to newish white wire (w/ black tape).

Thanks so much for any insight!

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Old 01-08-2007, 04:58 PM   #2
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Old house, new light fixture, too many wires


Persephonee,

It is common for so many wires to be in the ceiling fixture box. Code requires that all connections be accessible. Placing auxiliary connections in the fixture box avoids having another dummy box with a ceiling or wall plate.
Quote:
1) Why did the wall switch control the old fixture, but now the test bulb seems unaffected by wall switch?
Because you have not connected the test light the same as the old fixture (my assumption).

Quote:
2) Why does the test bulb appear weak for some pairs, stronger for others?
The test light will light dim when connected to one live wire and one dead wire.
The test light will light bright when connected to one live wire and one neutral/ground wire.

Quote:
3) What do fabric-covered wires indicate?
Their age - these wires predate modern wires with plastic insulation (before the 1950's).

Quote:
4) Why would there be black electrical tape on a white wire? Did someone try to indicate that it was really acting as the black wire?
Because a cable running off to a light switch requires two non-white wires. No such cable is made. So the National Electric Code permits the relabeling of wires with colored tape. The presence of such tape indicates that the electrician was very thorough.

Quote:
5) My Ikea fixture is marked with two wires plus ground. One of the wires is positive, the other neutral. Am I correct assuming positive should go to the white ceiling wire? And that neutral should go to the black? (n.b. the old fixture was connected white fixture wire to fabric wire #1 and black fixture wire to newish white wire (w/ black tape).
No. Connect new fixture same as old fixture.

...Christopher

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Old 01-09-2007, 08:43 AM   #3
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Old house, new light fixture, too many wires


Is there two switches that control this light? Could be it has a three way switch system.
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Old 01-15-2007, 09:58 AM   #4
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Old house, new light fixture, too many wires


Robert Wilber
Licensed Philadelphia Electrician
Philadelphia License # 3516 - 16765
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If it worked, why did you let these dopes at the hardware store convince you to test ANYTHING?
What you have is PROBABLY an old constant hot light outlet that had a pullchain.
Someone pulled another outlet off that one and then added a switch leg.
If there is a load on the alternate hot out, then you could get all sorts of screwy readings.
I hope you can put it back the way it was.
I had a customer once who put in a "new back door light" "but it doesn't work"
It turned out that he had just installed a new, first-time at this location switch and light fed from the hall light. He didn't think the splices made sense, so he REDID them, along with a few others, at various locations throughout the downstairs of his house [receptacles, switches, lights ...]. It took almost a day to trace the wires and remake the splices so the place would work right.
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