Overhead lights

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Old 02-11-12, 09:50 AM
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Question Overhead lights

I have a drop ceiling in my basement. Currently the light switch is connected to an outlet. I would like to connect it to some overhead lights.

While scouting locations in the ceiling I noticed there was some existing wiring (a pair of white and black wires) that just ended about where I would put the lights. I traced the wiring back to the ceiling directly above the light switch. I opened up the light switch and discovered the following:

Two black wires (A) connected to the switch itself labeled outlet with masking tape.
A pair white and black wires (B) connected to nothing labeled 'provision for overhead light' with masking tape.
A second pair of white and black (C) wires connected to nothing labeled 'provision for overhead light' with masking tape.
A white wire (D) connected to nothing labeled 'pull wire'.

I figured what I needed was to disconnect the two black wires (A) from the switch and connect them directly. This would allow the outlet to work without the switch. I accomplished this without issue.

I then figured that either B or C led to the wires I had found and the other would be connected to the source. So I connected the white wires directly and tested the two black wires. The tester did not indicate there was any power.

Next I thought that perhaps there were two sets of wires going to the ceiling, not connected to anything, i.e. B and C. And that I would need to pull power from A and return it via D. However when I tested either wire from A with D I did not get any power reading. (Should I have tried testing with the black A wires already connected? I'm wary of that.)

So I am somewhat flummoxed. Someone obviously started to wire up for overhead lights but I cannot figure out what they were thinking. I would appreciate any insight or advice.

Ray
 
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Old 02-11-12, 10:57 AM
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and tested the two black wires. The tester did not indicate there was any power.
DEscribe the test and what you mean by tester. If by tester you mean a non-contact tester your test is meaningless. One of the blacks when tested to the whites with a multimeter or test light should show 120v. That black goes to one side of the switch.

From your description that is one of the blacks you took off the switch. Simplest way to wire this is connect a pigtail to the two black wires you took off the switch and connect the pigtail to one side of the switch. The black from the light goes to the other side of the switch. All whites together as you have already done.
 
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Old 02-11-12, 11:02 AM
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What wiring method are we talking about here? Cables? (MC, AC, BX, NM/NM-b) or conduit?

Disconnect the wires in the switch box marked "provision for overhead light" keeping them separate but the pair black and white together. Double check to make sure they are dead and strip and connect the black and white pair together with a wirenut up in the ceiling. Take a meter set to Ohms and connect one lead each to the black and white wires pairs in the switch box. IF you get nothing, move on to another pair. If you still get nothing the pairs may have been mislabeled and you will need to go between the black and all the other "spare" wires. Leave the wires that are/were being used now. When you get continuity between two wires, remove the wirenut from the wires in the ceiling and double check that the you have lost the continuity. That will be your pair your looking for.

When you find the pair connect the white to the neutral in the switch box and the black will go to the other screw on the switch. With the switch on you should get 120v between the black and white in the ceiling.
 
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Old 02-11-12, 12:54 PM
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What wiring method are we talking about here? Cables? (MC, AC, BX, NM/NM-b) or conduit?

I'm afraid I don't have the knowledge to answer that one. We are talking about a house built in the 50s.

DEscribe the test and what you mean by tester. If by tester you mean a non-contact tester your test is meaningless.

I have a circuit tester rated for 90-500V AC. It has two contacts and an indicator light.

Well, using your advice I pigtailed the two blacks originally on the switch and connected the three whites together. At that point both loose blacks tested positive when connected to the pigtail. Regardless of whether the wires in the ceiling were connected or not. I tried connecting the each black to the pigtail and then testing the ceiling wires but never got any power up in the ceiling.

So I am assuming at this point I must have backtracked the wires in the ceiling incorrectly. Unless I have made some sort of mistake. I have no idea where the wires in the switch box actually go.

If you have any more thoughts, I'd appreciate it.
 
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Old 02-11-12, 01:07 PM
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At that point both loose blacks tested positive when connected to the pigtail.
I don't understand. The loose black to the cable you are using for the light should be connected to the switch. You do have a light on the other end of the cable don't you or are testing for power between the black and white on the other end?
 
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Old 02-11-12, 01:29 PM
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I don't understand. The loose black to the cable you are using for the light should be connected to the switch. You do have a light on the other end of the cable don't you or are testing for power between the black and white on the other end?
I did not install any of these wires, I found them when I opened up my light switch. Let me start from the beginning. The switch controls an outlet on the wall, I would like to have overhead lights instead. I removed the tiles from my drop ceiling and found some disconnected wiring. I traced it back to the point of the ceiling directly above the light switch. I figured great somebody already did most of the work. Then I opened up the light switch and found what I described in my first post.
 
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Old 02-11-12, 01:59 PM
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I'd suggest you run a continuity test to determine which cable goes to the switch if any. Choose whichever cable you plan to use for the light. At the end opposite the switch check it for voltage and if dead connect the black and white. Then with breaker off check each pair of wires for continuity. When you find that pair verify by disconnecting the black and white and checking that it is now open. Use that pair for your new switched light(s).
 
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Old 02-11-12, 04:00 PM
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Thanks to everybody for your advice. It turns out that there was a second white wire coming out of the ceiling on the opposite side of the wall. When I tested that against the black wire in the ceiling it worked. So whoever original wired the ceiling paired the wrong wires.

ray2047 - how do you check the wires for continuity with the breaker off? Is there a tool for that? I have been turning the breaker off, arranging the test I want to do, then turning it on and testing with the circuit tester.
 
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Old 02-11-12, 04:58 PM
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Now that your are getting this figured out, I have a question and a comment. Are the wires above the drop ceiling stapled to the underside of the floor joists or are they run through holes drilled in the joists? If they aren't run through holes in the joists, now would be a good time to do it right.
 
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Old 02-11-12, 05:16 PM
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ray2047 - how do you check the wires for continuity with the breaker off?
You use the resistance scale on your multimeter set at the lowest range. Zero or near zero indicates continuity. Infinity indicates open. On a solenoid tester the buzzer indicates continuity.
 
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Old 02-12-12, 12:32 PM
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@CasualJoe, thanks for the heads up there.

OK, I got everything hooked up, but now it appears that there is not enough power to run a light bulb. What I mean is, my circuit tester indicates I have power but when I hook up a simple light socket I get nothing. I took the switch out of the circuit to see if that was the issue but I still have the same problem. I don't understand how the circuit has enough power for the outlet (which has supported a lamp and a vacuum simultaneously) but not the additional light on this line. I'm very discouraged right now.

Forgot to mention I tried multiple fixtures and tested the bulbs of course.
 
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Old 02-12-12, 01:49 PM
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OK, I got everything hooked up, but now it appears that there is not enough power to run a light bulb. What I mean is, my circuit tester indicates I have power but when I hook up a simple light socket I get nothing
Is it is a non contact tester. They are really useless for most testing purposes. You need a test light, multimeter, or solenoid tester. Note if you buy a multimeter either get a cheap analog meter or a brand name digital. Cheap digital meters can give false positives.
 
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Old 02-12-12, 01:59 PM
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Is it is a non contact tester?
No, it is a contact tester, similar to this one:

http://www.amazon.com/Cooper-Wiring-...083855&sr=1-17
 
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Old 02-12-12, 02:08 PM
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Well that is a test light but maybe it doesn't put enough load on the circuit to be accurate.

Please tell us exactly step by step how you wired it. A picture might help also. http://www.doityourself.com/forum/li...-pictures.html
 
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Old 02-12-12, 03:22 PM
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I suggest getting a analog multimeter and doing the testing I posted earlier. Sounds to me like it is wired in series with something on the circuit rather then parallel.
 
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Old 02-26-12, 02:32 PM
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Thumbs up Fixed!

Finally got back to this project this weekend. It turns out the 'pull wire' in the switch box was not connected to the circuit. I wired it in and all is well. Thanks to everyone who helped me out.
 
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Old 02-26-12, 03:38 PM
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Glad you got it. Thanks for letting us no.
 
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