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Old 09-20-2013, 07:10 PM   #1
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please help - outdoor light turns itself off


I consider myself pretty handy but I have the following problem and am a bit perplexed. If anyone could offer any advice about what's going on I would really appreciate it.

I have an outdoor light (see pic attached) that when I switch on from the standard switch indoors, goes on and stays on for about 10 seconds. Then after that 10 seconds or so the light goes off and won't go back on again using the switch. If I go away let it sit for a few hours and go back later then the light switch will work again with the light going on 10 seconds or so and then shutting off (not sure how long this interval needs to be for the light to "reset" and allow me to turn it back on again for 10 seconds).

I have tried switching a couple different bulbs just to be sure it wasn't that. Could this be some sort of reverse motion sensor? If you look to the right of the light you will see there is some little device that maybe is a motion sensor??? I've heard of motion sensors turning on lights though never turning them off. I've also tried this during the day and night to be sure that isn't a brightness sensor. Is there any way to troubleshoot this besides just going out and buying a new outdoor light or testing the voltage on the line?

Any advice or tips on how to troubleshoot would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance
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Old 09-20-2013, 07:30 PM   #2
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please help - outdoor light turns itself off


The thing on top of the fixture is a photo cell.
Does the light come on at dark and go out at dawn?

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Old 09-20-2013, 07:45 PM   #3
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please help - outdoor light turns itself off


Thanks for the response.

I wonder if the photo cell is going bad? And by the way, it looks like the "reset" interval is actually pretty short -- like 10 mins later it was working again (but goes out after 10 seconds), not multiple hours or anything like that.

The light is not automatic going on when it gets dark and turning itself off when it's light...it's controlled by a switch indoors. Even if it was controlled by this switch and then supposed to use that photo cell to only turn on when it's dark, it doesn't seem to do that. As a matter of fact it's pitch dark outside right now and when I go over to turn on the light it will stay on 10 seconds and then go off again. Strange behavior. Do you think the photo cell has gone bad and is telling the light to turn itself off? I guess replacing the light fixture would potentially be a lot easier than having to deal with a bad wiring issue.
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Old 09-20-2013, 08:11 PM   #4
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please help - outdoor light turns itself off


i belive the photo cell is the culprit hear. if they go bad they can act like this. if you want to control the light with just the switch in the house i would elimnate the photo cell all together, but if ya want to leave it to turn on at dark & off at day then i would change it. these things will leave a load on in the day for a few seconds & then go off. but if it is dark & not staying on then the photo cell is at fault.
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Old 09-20-2013, 08:14 PM   #5
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please help - outdoor light turns itself off


it also could be wired wrong causing this trouble , black & white should hook to the photo cell from the switch, then the red wire should tie to one side of the light & the other side of the light pigtailed to the white wire.
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Old 09-20-2013, 08:45 PM   #6
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please help - outdoor light turns itself off


Thanks for your response as well. I appreciate your guys' help.

I've lived in the house for a few years and I'm pretty sure the light was working fine previously and staying on. So I'm fairly certain it's not bad wiring as I haven't changed this wiring since it was working previously.

Given your response, I want to try to test by eliminating the photo cell from the equation. Is it pretty easy to remove the photo cell from this light fixture?
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Old 09-21-2013, 01:54 PM   #7
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please help - outdoor light turns itself off


yeap! all you would have to do is remove the three wires from the photo cell the one that hooks to the red wire on the cell would go to the black or brass screw on the light socket , then leave the white wire tied to the silver screw or white wire & you should be good to go!keep us updated!
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Old 09-21-2013, 01:58 PM   #8
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please help - outdoor light turns itself off


meant to say the wire from the light that was tied to the red on the photo cell would go back to the black coming form the switch, then it would be controlled only by the switch.
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Old 09-21-2013, 04:12 PM   #9
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please help - outdoor light turns itself off


Thanks again for the help. I uploaded two photos, a "before" and "after". The before shows how it was wired up when I got in there (the photo cell was indeed connected as we suspected). In the after photo I have removed all 3 wires coming from the photo cell and now I'm just trying to see how it should be wired properly from here. Let me know if you have any guidance on that... I want to be sure it's wired correctly, etc. Thanks!
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Old 09-21-2013, 04:31 PM   #10
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please help - outdoor light turns itself off


I got it working. I have confirmed that the photo cell was the problem as I can now switch on the light and get it to stay on. I don't wish to replace the photo cell and prefer to just use the switch from now on.

My only questions is, are you able to verify that I wired this up correctly looking at the attached photo? I just want to be sure I have this wired correctly and it's safe. I'm not sure if the fact that I have it working also means I've done it properly/safely so any help to make sure of that would be greatly appreciated
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Old 09-22-2013, 12:22 PM   #11
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please help - outdoor light turns itself off


where do the wires go after they leave this box?looks like there are some extras that shouldn't be there. other wise looks like ya good to go.
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Old 09-22-2013, 12:24 PM   #12
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please help - outdoor light turns itself off


the wire i am talking about is the extra black one?
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Old 09-22-2013, 12:55 PM   #13
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please help - outdoor light turns itself off


Thanks for the response. I didn't understand about the extra black (coming in from the metal tube on top) one as well ??? Should I just disconnect it and leave it disconnected? I'm not sure which of the black wires is the "hot" wire or if they both are. What would be the safest? Does it hurt anything leaving the extra black one connected? I don't get why there are two black wires coming in from the top anyway. This is a 90 yr old house with some of the wiring updated, so needless to say I have inherited someone's else's work from who knows how long ago.

As you can see from my post #1, it looks like the tube below the wiring leads to the light switch which is in that brick wall on the other side in my kitchen. The tube above the wiring housing goes up and then around and down into my basement near where the power box is.

What do you think is the most prudent approach from here? Try to remove one of the black wires? If both black wires are "hot" should they both be left connected or should one be removed and left disconnected?

Is it also correct that the black wire from above is connected to the white wire from below?

Let me know what you think would be the safest/best to do in this situation.
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Old 09-22-2013, 01:00 PM   #14
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please help - outdoor light turns itself off


I also have this multimeter. Should I use the DCV setting on this device to try to see if one or both of the black wires is "hot"? I'm assuming I would be looking for 120V on each wire respectively?
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Old 09-22-2013, 01:13 PM   #15
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please help - outdoor light turns itself off


Also, sorry for one more post but forgetting for the minute that we have one extra black wire:

Is it correct that the BLACK wire from the pipe/tube coming into the light housing from above connects to the WHITE pipe/tube wire from below the housing?

I thought the black wires were the power source and the white wires were the return. Should black be connected to black, and white be connected to white? Or is it correct that they cross-over here?

Please pardon my electrical knowledge ignorance. Thanks

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