Tried to install dimmer, now hall light doesn't work!


Old 02-16-13, 08:08 AM
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Lightbulb Tried to install dimmer, now hall light doesn't work!

Hi all,

I'm no electrician but have installed a dimmer in our house before. It was a while ago, and in a different room. This time around my wife tried to install one in our bedroom. It's a 1950's home, all electrical feeds into a breaker panel.

I'm not sure how she set it up, but the dimmer wouldn't work at all. It wouldn't turn on or dim. And then it was noticed the hall light wouldn't work now either even though it wasn't touched. They were on the same breaker along with another separate outlet (which still worked/works). And yes I tried switching the bulbs on the hall light.

I went in to see what we were dealing with on the switch she tried to change and there was two same color wires (brown/black sheath) and one black sheath wire. I figured the black was the ground wire. Anyways I tried setting up the dimmer and no luck. So I switched back to the original switch and it worked. But now the hall light still doesn't work! Even flipping the breaker on and off won't bring it back. I'm really not sure how this happened, what could be wrong now or how to fix it.

But I did go back to the switch that I had put a dimmer on before (completely different room / breaker switch). And it looks like a previous owner had merged a black wire and a brown/black wire (taped together) - that's the only difference on that one. And the dimmer works there.

Any ideas what I'm dealing with here? Figure I will call in an electrician but curious to know if there's an easy fix or what could be happening here before making that call.

Thanks a bunch!
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Old 02-16-13, 08:36 AM
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First black is never a ground.

Check the connections and see if a wire has a loose or missing connection.

Wire nuts shouldbe used to hold splices together, not tape.
Old 02-16-13, 08:49 AM
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Normally no brown wires in Canada or the US. Could you post pictures from a couple of angles please with the wires pulled out.
Old 02-18-13, 01:18 PM
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One likely scenario is that all three of the black and brown/black wires function to carry ungrounded current. One should be the line from the panel, one would go to the light from the switch, and the third would feed the power out to additional loads - in this case, to the light in the hall.

The surest way to determine this is to turn the power off, disconnect, straighten and separate the three wires. Then turn the power back on and use an analog multimeter to test fo 120V between each of the three wires and the ground or neutral wires in the box. When you find the hot wire, tag it with a bit of tape back on the insulated part of the wire.

Turn the power off and use a wire nut to temporarily connect either of the other two wires to the hot wire. One of the lights should come on. You can label the wire you just identified if you want to, either "Hall Light" or "Bedroom Light."

Just for grins, you should kill the power and change the wire connected to the hot wire, just to make sure that it goes to the other light.

Once you have the three wires identified, splice three wires together: the incoming power feed, the hall light feed and a pigtail. Attach the bedroom light feed and the pigtail to the switch.
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