Ceiling lamp won't turn on!


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Old 02-26-11, 01:27 PM
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Ceiling lamp won't turn on!

I live in a a very new apartment complex and I put up a simple ceiling lamp in the living room. I have done this a number of times at other places, but this is the first time I have had any problem. I connected the black with the black, the white and the white, and then the ground to the green screw, and capped the red wire, but the lamp doesn't light up. I returned the lamp, got a different model, still won't turn on. A simple voltmeter (its a cheap one) detects power when the light switch is thrown. Shows power down through the bulb socket. What am I doing wrong? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
 
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Old 02-26-11, 01:33 PM
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Welcome to the forums!! Don't yell at me, but did you try the bulb in a known good fixture? If your bulb is bad it won't light up
If it were an older fixture, I would say the tab in the bottom of the socket is compressed and needs to be pulled out slightly so it will contact the pin on the bulb.
Also, be cautious. Your key word was "apartment", and you are limited by contract as to what you can and cannot do in the place. Do something wrong and it is your liability.
 
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Old 02-26-11, 01:37 PM
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Yep, I tried more than one bulb from different lamps in the house, and they still work. Pulled the tab in the socket up too, but that didn't help. We are allowed to put a ceiling lamp or fan up in the apartment. In fact, our two bedrooms have ceiling fans/lights in the them, but I didn't put those up.
 
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Old 02-26-11, 05:27 PM
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Did you remove a properly operating fixture before you installed your lamp? Is there a 3-way switch that controlled the light fixture...before you started?
 
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Old 02-26-11, 08:53 PM
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No, there was just a faceplate in the ceiling. I pulled that off revealing the four wires, which looks just like every other place I have lived in. There are three switches on the wall together. One controls an outlet which does work, the middle one presumably would control the ceiling fan (there is a red wire attached to it) and the last one, which should control the light. I took the wires of the lamp, and connected them to a plug and the light bulb lit with no problem, so that has to be okay. Could I be getting some sort of phantom voltage reading? I also thought maybe it could be the switch, but wouldn't that mean the light would stay on?
 
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Old 02-26-11, 10:07 PM
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I pulled that off revealing the four wires, which looks just like every other place I have lived in.
So you have two 2-conductor cables or is this conduit? Color of the wires and how did you connect them.
 
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Old 02-27-11, 10:49 AM
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I don't know all the correct terminology, so bear with me. In the ceiling, there is a a spot for a ceiling fan. There are four wires, white, red, black and a copper ground wire. I attached the lamp's white to white, the black to black, and the ground to the ground (and green screw). This has never failed to work in any other place I have lived including in this complex (just moved to different apartment in same complex). It blows my mind that this isn't working.
 
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Old 02-27-11, 12:09 PM
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Make sure the wires have a good connection at the switch. If they are tight, replace the switch.
 
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Old 02-27-11, 01:17 PM
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the middle one presumably would control the ceiling fan (there is a red wire attached to it)
But, you said you capped off the red wire at the ceiling box. Maybe you are just using the wrong wire to your ceiling lamp.

I connected the black with the black, the white and the white, and then the ground to the green screw, and capped the red wire, but the lamp doesn't light up.
 
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Old 02-27-11, 01:18 PM
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Checking out the switch, they are the push in kind, and they don't want to come out at all. Is that what you mean by tight?
 

Last edited by starlord99; 02-27-11 at 02:01 PM.
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Old 02-27-11, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by CasualJoe View Post
But, you said you capped off the red wire at the ceiling box. Maybe you are just using the wrong wire to your ceiling lamp.
The red wire should be for the fan, but I did try to connect the red wire to the black, and that didn't work either. But it did show voltage when the switch was flipped.
 
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Old 02-27-11, 02:29 PM
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I went ahead and replaced the light switch, same thing! The voltmeter shows power when the switch is flipped, but no the bulb won't light!
 
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Old 02-27-11, 02:48 PM
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What type volt meter are you using and how are you achieving the readings? You need a neutral or ground to read voltage from a hot wire. It could be a problem with the neutral in the ceiling box as well, so there's something else to check for continuity to the panel.
 
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Old 02-27-11, 03:18 PM
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Its a cheap one. It just lights up when it detects voltage, no gauge or anything. I thought about getting a better one, but if its in the wiring, which I suspect, theres probably nothing I can do. I don't have the experience, nor can I open the ceiling. I just wanted to rule out anything might be a simple fix!
 
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Old 02-27-11, 04:28 PM
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Its a cheap one. It just lights up when it detects voltage, no gauge or anything
If you mean a non-contact tester it doesn't actually measure voltage just the presence of an electromagnetic field. It is prone to false positives. You need a test light, multimeter or solenoid tester.
 
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Old 02-27-11, 06:19 PM
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Yes, its a non contact tester, a cheap one, though it claims to detect voltage. Sounds like something is wrong with the wiring, not much I will be able to do about it. I thought I wouldn't be able to detect anything when the switch was flipped if there was no power, so its probably getting power but just can't complete the circuit somewhere.
 
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Old 02-27-11, 07:04 PM
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It's probably an open neutral (white wire) since you were able to detect voltage at the light. Is there a neutral junction in the switch box? If so remove the wire nut at this junction and make sure all wires are lined up good and reinstall the wire nut. You really need a proper meter to troubleshoot your problem.
 
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Old 02-27-11, 09:53 PM
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Yes, its a non contact tester, a cheap one, though it claims to detect voltage.
You need a real voltage tester.

I thought I wouldn't be able to detect anything when the switch was flipped
You may be reading phantom voltage.

To test for open neutral once you get a reliable tester with switch on measure from the black to ground and red to ground. You should have 120v on at least one.

Back stab connections on switches aren't reliable. They need to be moved to the screws. If you can't get the wires out cut as close to the switch as you can and replace the switch.

In the ceiling, there is a a spot for a ceiling fan. There are four wires, white, red, black and a copper ground wire.
Nope that is three wires. The ground isn't counted. This is actually only one of several common configurations of wires.
 
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Old 02-28-11, 10:45 AM
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Got a different tester, shows 120 on the red and the white, but nothing on the black. Would that mean the black is neutral? Hooked the lamp that way, still didn't work. I also flipped the black and white on the switch, to no avail.
 
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Old 02-28-11, 03:03 PM
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Hold it, quit switching wires. If you are getting 120 volts between the red and white, then the red must be switched somewhere. Is it? If it is, then use that switch and cap off the black, install your light. It should work. Black is NEVER neutral.
 
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Old 02-28-11, 03:42 PM
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You originally connected black to black, white to white, capped the red, and grounded the ground. So far so good. It doesn't work. Uncap the house red and connect it to the fixture black, and cap the house black. Leave the white and the ground alone.
 
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Old 02-28-11, 07:03 PM
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Originally Posted by chandler View Post
If you are getting 120 volts between the red and white, then the red must be switched somewhere. Is it? If it is, then use that switch and cap off the black, install your light. It should work. Black is NEVER neutral.
When the black to black didn't work I did try red to black, and that didn't work either. Here is what I tried:

Black to fixture black, white to fixture white, and ground to ground
Red to fixture black, white to fixture white, and ground to ground

White to fixture black, black to fixture white, and ground to ground
Red to fixture black, black to fixture white, and ground to ground

In all cases, I capped off the remaining wire.
 

Last edited by starlord99; 02-28-11 at 07:22 PM.
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Old 03-01-11, 05:00 AM
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With your volt meter, set it to ohms. De energize the circuit. Disconnect all the wiring in the ceiling box from the light fixture. This should leave you with a red, black, white and ground. Test the white wire to ground. Give us the reading.
 
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Old 03-01-11, 09:30 AM
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I'm confused. You say you are getting 120v between red and white. Does the light light up when you hook it to red and white? Is your problem it won't switch off? Tell us all of the wires in the switch box. Are you sure this wasn't a connection for a smoke alarm?

I really think it is time to get on building mismanagement to install the light or hire an electrician.

If you can take pictures of the two boxes that might help. Also one of the blank cover you took down. http://forum.doityourself.com/electr...your-post.html
 
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Old 03-01-11, 12:17 PM
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I agree. I think, at this point, its way beyond my ability to fix. The light won't light in any combination. But if I attach the light's wires to a plug, it lights up fine. In the ceiling, the black doesn't get a reading at all, but the white reads 120, just like the red. However, on the switch, the black reads 120, and so did the black with white markings.
 
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Old 03-01-11, 01:25 PM
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I'm totality lost. If you really have 120v, not phantom voltage, between the red and white at the light it would light up.

You confuse the issue somewhat by saying you have a black and black/white at the switch. If this isn't a remarked white but is the factory color then it is a color not normally found there. Other even more confusing reasons why what you are saying doesn't make sense. Yes, get a pro and let us know what he says. Still like to see the pictures though.
 
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Old 03-01-11, 04:26 PM
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ImageShack Album - 2 images

Try this.
 

Last edited by starlord99; 03-01-11 at 04:45 PM.
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Old 03-01-11, 05:04 PM
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Have you confirmed that the neutral junction (white wires bundled in a wire nut) in the switch box have a good connection to all the wires in that junction? If not make sure the breaker is off and remove the wire nut at this junction. Make sure all the wires are clean and lined up evenly and reinstall the wire nut. Do the same with the black wire junction. Make sure the wiring in the box is not live with your non contact tester before you do this.
 
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Old 03-01-11, 05:25 PM
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No, I have not. It was enough for me to put the switch in, I didn't want to be pulling wires out and creating new, more serious problems. But I think I know what you are saying. Shut off the breaker, pull each bundle out, unscrew them, clean them and reattach them using the screw. I can do that, it does make me a little nervous though. But I will try it tomorrow.
 
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Old 03-01-11, 05:37 PM
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Re the pictures: The center switch has the red wire. That is the one that should turn power on and off to the red wire at the light. You said the red was hot to neutral at the light. After you have checked the connections connect the light white to white and black of light to red see what happens? There is more I can suggest and add but please do this test first after you check the conections.

The wire you called black and white is black with accidental paint spatters.
 
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Old 03-01-11, 05:57 PM
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Is the switch supposed to be hooked up to two black wires then? I assumed it would be just like the ceiling. On a page about hooking up a light switch, it called the one wire "black coded white." Note, all I did was snip the old switch out, and put the wires to the screws in the same configuration.
 
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Old 03-01-11, 08:47 PM
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On a page about hooking up a light switch, it called the one wire "black coded white.
That is only one of several ways. The way you have is different. This was wired for a traditional ceiling fan where you have two switches. One for the fan and one for the light. Power comes in at the switch box. the black of power in is connected to both switches. A three conductor cable carries power to the ceiling box. Red goes to one switch black to the other switch. All neutrals are tied together. When you install a light only you only need to use one switch. It can be either one.

 

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Old 03-01-11, 09:13 PM
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Thank you. That actually explains a lot to me. That would seem to say that maybe the black junction may not be entirely secure. I will check them tomorrow.
 
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Old 03-01-11, 09:23 PM
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I added a diagram to my last post.
 
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Old 03-02-11, 10:58 AM
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Okay, all the junctions looked okay. Here is a pic of what I saw when I removed the caps. After putting it all back together, I still have the exact same problem. The lamp won't light. With the middle switch flipped, the ceiling red wire reads 120, the other two wires read 0. With the right switch flipped, the ceiling white wire reads 120, the other two wires read 0. I think I have reached the limits of my limited ability here. The thing is, just 6 months ago, I put up a light in another apartment within this same complex with no problem whatsoever. I think I am going to give up at this point, unless one of you sees something in the photos.

ImageShack Album - 2 images
 

Last edited by starlord99; 03-02-11 at 11:33 AM.
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Old 03-02-11, 11:33 AM
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You keep saying you have a 120v at the ceiling. If that is at the red and white then the light should work. What happens when the light is hooked to the red and white? That is one question you haven't yet answered or did I miss your answer?
 
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Old 03-02-11, 11:34 AM
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Let me try to be more clear one more time.

I hooked the red to the fixture black, the white to the fixture white, and then the ground. No effect.
I hooked the black to the fixture black, the white to fixture white and then the ground. No effect

I even tried red to fixture black, black to fixture white, and then ground. No effect.
 
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Old 03-02-11, 11:41 AM
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Originally Posted by starlord99 View Post
I tried that too, and that didn't work either.
You mean it didn't light up? Do you have less then 10v between white and ground. If so just for a test hook the light white to ground and light black to red. How did you get 120v at the ceiling?
 
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Old 03-02-11, 11:46 AM
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Using a voltmeter (better than my original one) I touched one end to red and the other to ground, got 120. Touched black and the other to ground got zero. Touched white and the other to ground got 120.
 
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Old 03-04-11, 09:21 AM
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Does moving your wall switch to off change these readings (assuming these were taken with switch in on position)?
 
 

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