wall light won't work after turning off all power

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  #1  
Old 01-29-06, 12:05 PM
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wall light won't work after turning off all power

Hello there
First time question asker, several time user. I know little to nothing about electric wiring. recently i needed to split an outlet...make it so that the top was switch controlled and the bottom remained always hot. i succeeded, which was surprising, but another problem arose. while doing this i was often turning off and on the main power breaker. at one point after re-turning all the power on, i noticed an electrical smell. i then noticed a light in my basement stairway no longer worked. it seemed to have that smell around it. i found the bulb had blown and replaced it, but the light still won't work. it is a wall light (very basic 60 watt) that is controlled by 2 switches, one at the top of the stairs and one at the bottom. neither of the switches will turn on the light even though the bulb has been replaced. i can't see how any of the wiring seems wrong. what could have happened here? it seems to have been a result of the main power breaker being turned on and off, but i guess it might have had something to do w/the work i was doing upstairs...i'd doubt it as none of the same switches control anything, but i guess it's possible. i'd hate to call someone out to fix it having just completed my outlet project....could this be something simple? thanks very much.
 
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  #2  
Old 01-29-06, 12:11 PM
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Turn off and back on all of the individual breakers. One of them may have tripped, even if it doesn't look like it.

You only need to do the 15-amp and 20-amp breakers, since lighting would not be on anything higher.

It is also possible that you created a short circuit, in which case the breaker will just trip again.

It is also possible that you created an open circuit.

It is also possible, although unlikely, that you tripped a GFCI.

If turning the breakers off and on doesn't fix it, then you'll need to give us all the gory details of your project.

It makes me nervous to hear someone say that they have little or no knowledge of electrical wiring but that they were working on it. That should make you nervous too. I have to trot out my mantra: Not everything that works is safe.
 
  #3  
Old 01-29-06, 01:02 PM
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hey john:
thanks for your response. yes, i do know very little and perhaps i should just call someone in...or should have....but right now, to be honest, i am w/o money, so i figured i'd give it a go. that being said, it is increasingly possible that this current problem is related to the work i did splitting that other outlet.
so i tried switching off and on each individual breaker....no good. nothing happened. i believe and hope that i've created an open circuit and that is the problem. what i did worked for that outlet (the splitting) but i may have messed up this hall light doing so. here was the situation in the outlet that i split:
first i'd tried to simply break off the metal tab connecting the two inlets, but that didn't work. at that point there were 2 white wires and a red connected. there were 2 black wires hidden back in the recess that were capped...not attached to the outlet. i undid the cap and tried one of the back wires in the outlet as the bottom plug of the outlet was now getting NO power at all after breaking off the metal connector. one black wire did nothing...provided no power. i tried the other, and it worked. plugging in that black wire made the bottom plug always hot. HOWEVER, in doing so, did i leave an open circuit somewhere? i didn't know what to do what the remaining black wire so i recapped it. i know i'm an idiot for even trying, but can i fix it? thanks again.

by the way, the light itself that doesn't work has 1 black wire and 1 white wire connected to it. that's it. no red or anything. again, it was controlled by 2 switches, so i was surprised this was all that was in there. there is also the bare wire, but that's not connected. that's for the light, but i'm guess i need to look into re-rewiring the outlet i'd split???
 
  #4  
Old 01-29-06, 01:17 PM
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When you disconnected the two black wires, what did you do with the other one? if you left it unconnected then yes you did create an open. Whatever that black wire feeds will no longer work.

At the receptacle, connect the red wire to one of the brass screws. Break the brass tab between the brass screws. Connect BOTH black wires to the other brass screw. To do this you will need a wire nut AND a pigtail. The black wires must be connected together and to one of the brass screws. The white wires can be connected one per sliver screw, as long as you didn't break off the tab between the silver screws.
 
  #5  
Old 01-29-06, 01:23 PM
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ok, thanks very much bob. that is exactly what i was thinking. yes, i was naive enough to leave one black wire on it's own, capped but unconnected. exactly what must i do to PROPERLY connect both black wires to that single screw?? i have wire nuts (they are the caps i'm referring to, yes?) but i am unfamiliar w/pigtails. again, i'm stupid when it comes to electric, but i'm learning. how do i connect them both safely to the single screw? thanks ahead of time.
jeff
 
  #6  
Old 01-29-06, 01:29 PM
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just double checking on this: the outlet i'd bought has little holes on the back where the wires go. you then screw the screws to tighten the grip on the wires....don't suppose i can just put the other black wire in the hole w/the black wire that's in there now, retighten it, and that will work...can't be that easy right?
 
  #7  
Old 01-29-06, 01:36 PM
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Jeff, a pigtail is a short piece of wire. It needs to be the same size (thickness) as the other wires. It should be about six inches long. Strip both ends of the pigtail.

Put the two black wires and one end of the pigtail in the wire nut. Place the other end of the pigtail around the brass screw of the receptacle.

There are two type of receptacles that have holes in the back. One type has what are called back stabs. These are holes that you insert the wire into and a spring holds the wire in place. These are notorious for failing and should not be used.

The other type are called back wire. Here a screw holds a metal plate against the wire and secures it. These are fine.

If you bought a back wire receptacle (the second type I described) then you won't need the pigtail. Place both of the black wires in the two holes for one half of the receptacle and tighten the screw to hold the plate against it.
 
  #8  
Old 01-29-06, 01:40 PM
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well, i may be in good shape here then. i do indeed have a back wire receptacle. i'm gonna switch off the power, give this a whirl, and hopefully owe you many thanks....actually, i'll owe you the thanks regardless.
jeff
 
  #9  
Old 01-29-06, 02:13 PM
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thanks very much racraft and John. I know that seemed very obvious to you, as it does now to me, but i really appreciate you taking the time. that fixed everything right up. i simply left that black wire w/o a home. thanks once again.
jeff
 
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