Ceiling light ground/breeaker issue

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  #1  
Old 02-10-07, 08:06 AM
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Cool Ceiling light ground/breeaker issue

Hello All,

I offered to help my friend from Church (who is a wonderful Special Education teacher) with a light problem she said she is having in her closet. I went over yesterday and this is what I found:

She lives in a 5 year old home built by a small, local custom home builder.

The light is in her closet.

The fixture is dangling by the still attached black and white wires coming into the ceiling fixture, from 12/2. It appears the screws which hold the fixture to the plastic ceiling box simply came loose.

BUT

The copper ground wire from the incoming 12/2 is also dangling, unattached to anything and SHOWS NO SIGN OF EVER BEING ATTACHED TO ANYTHING. The end of the copper wire is not bent/twisted/touched in any way. There is no green screw in the fixture, nor is there a grounding wire from the fixture. The fixture does not have any manufacturer markings, but does have the standard "60 watt maximum" sticker. The 2 bulbs still in the fixture are 100 watt each and my friend says these are the original bulbs (?) . When I asked how her bulbs could have lasted 5 years she said because the light has been broken and dangling and unusable.

There is no electricity in the 12/2 coming from the ceiling box into the fixture.

She said this is because if you turn the switch on (she has it taped off) it blows the breaker.

I opened up the switch plate and it has 3 sets of 12/2 cable into it. The wires show "juice" with my little meter. The blacks are all wired together, whites wired together, and 3 grounds wired together, with one black to screw on switch, one white to screw on switch, one ground properly wired to green grounding screw on switch.

So, she thinks the problem is just that this light is dangling in her closet.

I am concerned because of the no ground issue, and the fact that when I flipped the light switch, indeed, the breaker tripped to that area. I reset the breaker, and again there is no detectable electricity running into the ceiling fixture.

She says she has called the builder and no one comes to look at her "little problem".

Fixtures that visibly appear identical to this one are installed in several closets in the home. I have not looked to see if they are also not grounded.

What is my next step? I told her I would ask you all and come back over this afternoon.

Do I just replace the ceiling light with a new fixture with an appropriate grounding screw, or does the fact that switching this light on causes the breaker to trip indicate a much bigger problem?

Should I go into her accessible attic and trace the 12/2 wire and replace it?

Should I run for cover?

As always, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
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  #2  
Old 02-10-07, 08:59 AM
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I think the switch is wired wrong, and the reason the fixture is dangling is someone elses attempt to fix it. Fixtures don't just come loose.

The 2 100 watt bulb are a fire hazard. (especially for a closet)

The ground may or may not not be a problem, if the fixture was not designed for it. Please describe is the Box is metal or plastic.

I don't know your capability, so I'm hesitant to give advice - so the following is what I would do IF IT WERE MY OWN HOME.

Here is what I guess is wrong, (but please get help (a pro) if you are not sure).Maybe you could raise "heck" with the builder for your friend.

The reason there are 3 cables in the switch box may be that one is incoming, one is outgoing to the next device, and the third is for the light.

The incoming and outgoing would be tied white to white, black to black, ground to ground.

There would be a wire connected from the above blacks to one side of the switch.

The black from the "switch cable " would be connected to the other side of the switch. The white from the switch cable would be tied to the whites from the "in and out connection".

The ground would also be tied together.

I can't stress enough that I'm making some assumptions, and the right thing to do is get a pro, or make the builder fix this. It may even be illegal to do wiring on someone elses house.
 
  #3  
Old 02-10-07, 09:12 AM
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plastic ceiling box

Thank you for your response. In regard to your question, the ceiling box is plastic. I checked that one carefully, because I was really concerned about the "virgin" ground wire.

I will check the wiring in the switch again at her house.

I am still hung up on this no ground business... wouldn't a five year old house have all light fixtures grounded?

This fixture LOOKS new... do they make ceiling light fixtures that don't have a ground wire or screw? All the ones I've put in have certainly had one. I guess I'm getting suspicious of the builder, and I'm now worried about what could be lurking in her other closets.

THANK YOU!!!!!!!
 
  #4  
Old 02-10-07, 09:53 AM
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I have never seen a metal fixture that did not have a ground.

Again - please be careful - because I think you are dealing with not only the original problem, but someone else's attempt to fix it. People do stupid things. Do not trust that there is no power present -even with the breaker off. Check it with your tester.

The person who left the light dangling would fall into the stupid category.
 
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Old 02-10-07, 12:20 PM
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Do I just replace the ceiling light with a new fixture with an appropriate grounding screw, or does the fact that switching this light on causes the breaker to trip indicate a much bigger problem?
==========================

there is obviously a short circuit somewhere whether it be the switch wired incorrectly or a inadvertantly grounded hot conductor is yet to be determined.

Actually if i understand how the switch box is arranged, it is a miswired switch.



If there is only one NM cable in the box at the fixture, I would have to believe it goes directly to the switch box. You need to determine which cable it is in the switch box. Have a continuity light or ohm meter? With the power off, disconnect all the wires in the box (be sure to mark clearly how they were connected). Using a continuity light or ohm meter, check between any one color of wire in the light box and check to the same color wire in the switch box. Mark the one with continuity to the light box. Make sure each of the colors of that cable have continuity with the same color wire from the switch box to the light box.

Now, you need to determine what the other wires are. Since there is only one switch, one of the should be an incoming feed and the other a feed to other devices.

The easiest way for me to check is make all the wires safe, turn on the breaker and check each cable for power. If you have an actual meter, check for power using the black and white wires of that cable. Hopefully you have a hot and a neutral in this cable. The remaining cable is to the overhead light or a switched recep.

Now to wiring. If everything is as I have stated and believe, wee ready to go.

First, all the grounds get connected including a pigtail from the switch and the box (if metal). Then all the whites get connected. Now, connect a pigtailed from the black on the hot cable, which is also connected to the third black wire, to one of the screws on each of the switches. On the other screw of each switch would be one of the remaining black wires (the ones that go to the lights.) Remount the switches.


Now, at the light fixture. If it is metal, it needs a ground wire attachment. Either a small (8-32) screw and nut and internal star llock washer or for them moment (only for the moment) any means of attachment to a metal part of the fixture.

Attach the black wire to the brass screw on the fixture and the white wire to the silver screw.



Screw the fixture to the box.

Before turning the light on, replace the bulbs with bulbs of the appropriate size (appaently 60 watts max).

If any of the wiring is different than I have considered it to be, come back as soon as you discover this and before going any further. Make note of everything you find and we'll help you "come into the light"

Be sure to replace the switch plate.

I edited my post to reflect the fact there is only one switch.
 

Last edited by nap; 02-10-07 at 01:58 PM.
  #6  
Old 02-10-07, 12:24 PM
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If the light fixture is plastic then it needs no ground.

I agree with tribe_fan's suggestion for the wiring. Try it and see.

When you do this, remember that it is your friend who is doing this, and you are providing advice. It would be foolish for you to do work for yoyur friend, since you have not license and no insurance.
 
  #7  
Old 02-10-07, 01:49 PM
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Ground Wire

Thank you all.

The light FIXTURE is metal.... DOESN'T IT NEED A GROUND??

I am still worried about that "virgin" copper ground wire from the incoming 12/2 that has obviously never been attached to anything.

The ceiling BOX is plastic.

There is only one switch in the switch box.

THANK YOU THANK YOU....

If I don't hear anymore ideas today, I will go over to her house after Church tomorrow and try the above mentioned wiring of the switch.

So Appreciate it!

Regina
 
  #8  
Old 02-10-07, 01:54 PM
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yes, the fixture needs a ground, especially since it is attached to a plastic box.

sounds like you may have a non-UL listed fixture (read: illegal per Nat'l Elect Code). It should have a ground attachment.

Personally I would simply make sure there is a ground attached to the body of the thing.
 
  #9  
Old 02-10-07, 05:26 PM
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The OP hasn't said if there is a glass cover, or did I miss that, or how big the closet is. Since the fixture doesn't seem to be UL approved this might be the time to install a fluorescent fixture rather then jerry-rig.

Blondeeee, some closets are too small for light fixtures, especially incandescent, because of the potential fire hazard. All incandescent ffixtures must have a globe/cover to prevent contact with clothes. Fluorescent lights are generally safer because of their lower operating temperature.
 
  #10  
Old 02-10-07, 07:13 PM
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fixture

There is a glass cover on the light fixture.

The closet is.... about 4 x 5 feet? There is a twin closet (guess a his & hers) in this same room about 12 feet away. It has the same dimensions and the SAME light fixture but I haven't checked it's wiring/ground status yet. Then I looked in the rest of her house and this light fixture is also in the other closets, guest room & hall.

She is the first owner of the house, it was built by a small custom home builder outside of San Antonio, Texas. She bought it 5 years ago during construction. She stated it was the original light, and I think so too because there was paint overspray on it from the original sloppy paint job.

Anymore thoughts? The more I think about how other things might be wired and the possible consequences, I'm really getting steamed. I think tomorrow I should check another light and if there is a problem... call the City Inspector? Who would you sugest as a judicial agency?

THANK YOU, you all are so great and might be angels!!!!!!


Regina
 
  #11  
Old 02-11-07, 08:12 AM
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Don't be getting too worked up. It isn;t a good frame of mind to be in when working with electricity.

What I would do is call the local electrical inspector and ask him to come and check out the situation. he is the one, locally, that would make the determination as to the legality.

Simply tell him the scenario as you have here.

Be forewarned though, as another poster stated, it may be illegal for you to do any electrical work in anothers house, such as you are.

The inspector may also charge a fee. Different areas have different procedures.

THEN, IF the inspector does determine there is improper wiring or illegal fixtures, I would try to discover how extensive a problem it is and begin to weigh the cost of litigation compared to a self funded remedy.

If the repairs are great enough, contact the seller and inform them of the newly discovered illegal situations and simply request they remedy it.

What happens next could go from "ok, Ill be there is 5 minutes" to " it's going to take a court order and twelve large men before I even think about YOUR problem" to "I don't have any responsiility to fix that"

If there is a attorney friend you can run this by IF IT GETS to this point, they may be able to direct you to the best action. If not, you may have to sit down with an attorney and shell out a couple bucks to get the best assistance.
 
  #12  
Old 02-11-07, 04:23 PM
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While calling the inspector in is not a bad idea I'd suggest he make preparations for worst case scenario. Inspector red tags the house and po-co pulls the meter.
 
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