Recessed Light Flickering On/Off

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Old 10-22-07, 04:24 PM
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Recessed Light Flickering On/Off

Well, it actually doesnt flicker. Sometimes it works when we turn the switch on, sometimes it doesnt light up. Used to think it was the bulb. Replaced the bulb and noticed that when I touched the housing, the bulb actually lit up.

Lights are in the kitchen ceiling.

I've been able to localize the problem to this. When I turn the switch on, and all of the bulbs except this problem bulb light up, if I tap the area of the ceiling right next to the bulb housing, it lights. I dont even have to touch the housing.

Now I know thats not good. Im assuming its some sort of connection in the ceiling, maybe where the recessed light is connected to the rest of them on the circuit?
 
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Old 10-22-07, 04:29 PM
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You have a loose connection. It may be in the junction box or it may be bad socket. Check the socket first, as that is easiest. Then check the junction box.
 
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Old 10-22-07, 04:34 PM
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Ok, Im assuming:

- junction box is the metal square box up in the ceiling that connects the wires from the circuit to the whole recessed light. Ive seen these many times in home depot.

- socket is where the bulb screws into. wires run from the ceiling (junction box?) and into it?

If so, I think i've tested the socket a few times and proven its not that. I originially hoped it was that easy, so i started there. i gently pull, tug, and move the wires into this socket and nothing. BUt, if I tap the metal housing that the bulb and socket sit in, or the ceiling next to it, i notice the light flicker on/off.

so, is it the junction box?
 
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Old 10-22-07, 04:38 PM
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It certainly sounds like a problem in the junction box.
 
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Old 10-22-07, 07:35 PM
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Figures! Since this is on the first floow ceiling, I can't easily access the box w/out cutting into the drywall in the ceiling, I guess. And Im not even sure which side the junction box is on, so Im thinking I may have to cut an extra large hole! Wife will love this (altho she's the one complaining). This probably isnt the safest thing to let go, either.
 
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Old 10-22-07, 07:42 PM
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A loose connection should never be let go, in that you are correct. However, if you examine the recessed light closely you should find a mounting screw or clip or something similar that will allow you to remove the light and access the junction box without cutting up your ceiling.
 
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Old 10-22-07, 08:08 PM
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Ah, great! My wife had just told me she forbids me to cut into the ceiling again so that meant we'd have to hire a professional. but, if I can pull this piece out, that would be great. Ok, will give it a try in the AM.

thanks
 
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Old 10-23-07, 12:22 PM
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All junction boxes are (should be) accessible without cutting into walls/ceilings. In the case of a recessed light, there's either a set of 3 clips, or 2 or 3 screws that allow the can to be removed and the junction box accessed. You likely have a loose connection in that box which needs to be addressed.

Be sure to address this problem as soon as possible. Loose connections generate heat, and in general, heat is a bad thing when dealing with wiring and wood houses.

Remember to turn off the breaker before poking around in the junction box. Even if the switch is off, there still may be power on in the box.
 
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Old 10-23-07, 06:13 PM
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ok, good help all. i was able to access the box just like you said. thanks. i checked the connections and rewired them just to be sure. however....

I noticed inside the can itself is what looks like a black plastic clip. the hot wire comes into the can (from the flexible metal sheating tube) and, before it goes to the light socket, it passes into, and out of, this black "clip" thing. the clip is connected to the inside top of the can. well, i think that might've been my real problem. while fiddling with it, it looked like it was loose and then, the hot wire coming out of it broke off at the connection.

-anyone know what this?

-i can't even open/remove the clip to see how it works inside.

- Zorfdt: thanks for the comment about making sure the breaker is off. i always debate if i should turn it off when working with devices on switches. i always do. but, to your point, how can the device still have power if the switch is turned off?

Im going to try to disconnect the entire thing from the box and take it down off the ceiling to further inspect this clip.

EDIT: ok, i actually was able to remove what was "inside" the clip - looks like some sort of resistor maybe? both hot wires were soldered into a silver metal box, about 3/4" long. one of the soldering connections has been broken. no idea what this is??
 

Last edited by bheron; 10-23-07 at 06:20 PM. Reason: update
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Old 10-23-07, 06:20 PM
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You are referring to the thermal shut off. It cuts off power when the temperature gets too high.

Power can be present at the light even with the switch off under the following circumstances:

1) When a switch loop is used from the light.

2) When a multiple switch setup (2 three way switches and zero or more four way switches) has the light in the physical middle of the wiring.

3) When three conductor cable is used to to allow power to continue beyond the light.

4) When someone incorrectly has switched the neutral instead of the hot wire.

Always shut the circuit breaker off when working on any portion of a circuit. In a residential environment there is NEVER an excuse not to do this.
 
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Old 10-23-07, 06:25 PM
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ok, thats enough for me!!!! thanks.

well, racraft, you beat me to it. just found out what this thing is. As you say, its a "thermal protector".

http://www.thermtrol.com/ThermtrolPDF/7AMSeries.pdf

ok, so i guess i need this, huh? do all recessed lighting fixtures have these?

Probably not something i can just pick up seperately and probably have to look into getting a whole new fixture?
 
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Old 10-23-07, 06:47 PM
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Yes, all recessed fixtures have thermal cutouts. Depending on the make/model of your fixture you may be able to replace the thermal cutout but I would simply change the whole fixture. The cost of just the thermal cutout may be as high as the entire fixture.

P.S. You do need to have the thermal cutout.
 
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Old 10-23-07, 10:16 PM
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ok, got it. makes sense. thanks all!
 
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Old 10-23-07, 10:36 PM
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Don't know if you solved your problem yet but you might want to check the contact in the bottom of the socket.
Make sure the power is off and stick a small screwdriver down in the socket and gently bend the tab up a little bit.
 
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Old 10-24-07, 07:55 AM
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You don't have to go through the hassle of replacing the entire fixture, but you'll probably have to buy a new one to get a replacement TCO.

You should be able to access everything without cutting into the ceiling.
 
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Old 10-25-07, 08:11 PM
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Hi all, a final update:

I wound up purchasing a whole new fixture. Its the type for existing contruction that you can just rest up on the hole on its legs. Well, I didnt think that part out b/c I soon realized that the existing fixture was put in when the house was built, so it was nailed/screwed into the joists like normal, and I wasnt getting it out! So, like CWBuff just said, I wound up removing the "TCO" and "spilcing" it back into the old can/fixture. Seems to be working just fine!

Thanks all!
 
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