Ceiling light with NO ground

Old 03-03-03, 12:05 PM
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Question Ceiling light with NO ground


I wanted to replace some old recessed lites in our church ( wiring done in the 60s ) with newer flush mounted fixtures - but have old wires w/o a ground.

I have a white and an Orange wire going into each existing heavy-duty existing fixture via a 1/2" flexible metal conduit..but no gound.

Can I just push the existing recessed fixtures out of the way ( they are large square things I can't get out of the existing hole ) and install a hanger w/ a box and attach the new fixture to that? And what about the missing ground? I read all the postings about grounds and BX vs conduit -- but I'm not sure what my options are with this. It sounds like the existing flexible metal conduit isn't good enough to use as ground.

Any ideas/suggestions? I would usually ask our town's elec. inspector - but he's out for 2 weeks and I'd like to ge this done soon.

Thanks in advance,
Old 03-03-03, 12:26 PM
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You say you have a white and an orange wire? Check the voltage on these, they could be 277v in which you cannot replace with a 120v rated light. Also, you will need to remove those old lights. The building probably does not have a ground, many built in the 50's didn't, that isn't so much a problem as the rest.
Old 03-04-03, 08:50 AM
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As lestrician said, you very well may have 277V fixtures. Yellow, orange and brown are the colors of the "hot" wires in such a system. You will have to use new fixtures rated for 277 volts. Then again, but unlikely, orange may have been used simply because the electrician that wired the church had some on hand and wanted to get rid of it (not following proper code procedures).

If the wiring in the church is done with conduit, then the conduit itself may provide a grounding path. If the existing fixtures are wired with "flex", then the flex probably goes to a nearby junction box. If the J-box is connected with metal conduit or even with "BX" (flexible metal cable) all the way back to the panel, then the conduit can serve as a ground.

If there are J-boxes above the ceiling are they accessible? If so, can you remove the old fixtures from above. You don't have to remove the old fixtures if you can remove the wiring and get them out of the way. If they cannot be accessed from above and they cannot be removed without tearing up the ceiling, I would leave them up there.

As far as grounding the new fixtures, you need to figure out exactly what you have. If you are reading 120 (277) volts between the hot wire and the flexible conduit, then I would be inclined to use the conduit as a ground. If your circuitry is run in EMT (metal tubing) to a junction box, and from the box to the fixture in flex, and the J-box is accessible (which it should be), then put a ground screw in the back of the J-box and pull a green conductor in the flex for your ground.

If you're unsure about the voltage to your fixtures and don't want to get up there with a tester, then go to the electrical panel where the circuits originate and look at the rating of the panel. It will read something like 480/277 if your circuits are 277 and 208/120 or 240/120 if the fixtures are 120 volt fixtures.

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