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Old 02-16-2010, 09:28 AM   #1
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ugh, very simple electrical question - installing ceiling light




seriously, I don't understand why we can't do it. Then again, we know practically nothing about electrical....... sometimes, I seriously underwhelm myself with my DIY'er skills.

We have a ceiling box. It has 3 white wires (twisted together and capped), 3 black wires (once again, capped), and one red wire (also capped). There is obviously a light switch to turn on/off any light attached to this box.

Our fixture has a white wire, a black wire, and a green.

So, from my understanding, the green is the ground, and should be attached first, to a screw in the box (we used a pigtail). Then we should attach the black to the black wires and cap, and finally the white to the white wires and cap.

so, we did that..... we then switched back on the breaker and the light was on even though the light switch was off What a humbling moment.

We also realized that the wires were hot even though the light switch was off (obviously, prior to the breaker being switched off). Should that be?

We weren't paying too much attention to the wire configuration of the prior light... but we vaguely recall it just being installed using the black and white wires... no ground. (it was installed in the mid 70's by an electrician...)

What are we doing wrong? Please help. We're on the cusp of hiring an electrician becuase we don't want to accidentally start a fire!

thanks for your input
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Old 02-16-2010, 09:41 AM   #2
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ugh, very simple electrical question - installing ceiling light


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We weren't paying too much attention to the wire configuration of the prior light...
#1 FAIL in DIY work.

White to whites.
Fixture black to red.

Forget the old "white-to-white, black-to-black" cliche.
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Old 02-16-2010, 09:44 AM   #3
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ugh, very simple electrical question - installing ceiling light


The red is likely the 'runner' for the switch. If I'm correct, that should go to the black wire on your fixture, white to white bundle and do add the ground. That should do it. If I'm wrong, it'll blow up all of the houses for miles around you, and the guys here will all laugh at me.

*edit* darn you and your fast typing Petey.... ya beat me.

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Old 02-16-2010, 09:51 AM   #4
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ugh, very simple electrical question - installing ceiling light




ok, I won't ask the logic behind it...... black to red it is! thanks for not letting us blow up the neighborhood.

just to confirm, then.... the order of operations is:

green connected first. then white.... then black to red....
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Old 02-16-2010, 09:56 AM   #5
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ugh, very simple electrical question - installing ceiling light


with the power OFF, of course, yup.
then the switch will work just fine.

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Old 02-16-2010, 10:17 AM   #6
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ugh, very simple electrical question - installing ceiling light


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ok, I won't ask the logic behind it......
The logic is that the blacks are constant hot carrying power to other areas, making the ceiling box more or less a junction point. The red is coming from the switch along with the black and white as a switch leg to turn the light on and off.
This was a very common way of wiring in the past to save wire.
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Old 02-16-2010, 10:23 AM   #7
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ugh, very simple electrical question - installing ceiling light


My house has a lot of this kind of wiring. It is easy to install plus less wire.
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