Replacing lights controlled with a switch loop

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Old 09-15-13, 07:47 PM
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Replacing lights controlled with a switch loop

Separated from Unhooking power outlet from dual light switch

I am working in a spare bedroom and wanting to replace the single light fixture with two recessed lights. There is a single switch, the light, three receptacles and a closet light on the circuit. I killed the breaker and removed the old light. Exposed the box. There were 4 cables running into the ceiling box. From one cable, the black wire had been connected to the light. A white pigtail was dropped from another cluster of wires in a wirenut also supplying the fixture. There was a switch leg in another 3 or 4 wire group. I made a diagram and tried to reconnect them exactly but have had odd results.
 

Last edited by Nashkat1; 09-15-13 at 09:29 PM.
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Old 09-15-13, 08:03 PM
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Correction

Where I said switch leg, I think it is switch loop. The wiring is white, black and bare copper throughout.
 
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Old 09-15-13, 08:59 PM
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Welcome to the forums.

Good.....you used the proper terminology. You have four cables in the ceiling box. The cables are all two wire with ground.

With four cables you have a feed in, two feeds out and a switch loop. If you do indeed have a switch loop then you'll have white and black on the switch. If that's the case.....you should re-color that white wire at both ends a different color like blue or red so that it's not confused as a neutral in the future.

So that would mean that at the ceiling box you would have three whites and the light/white connected in one splice. The second splice would be three blacks and your newly colored white wire. The black coming back from the switch would connect to the light.

Since you have 4 cables you may be confused as to which is which. It's easiest to identify the switch loop. Then you don't care what the other are since they all get connected together.
 
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Old 09-15-13, 09:23 PM
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Welcome to the forums!

The short answer is "Connect the recessed fixture for this location the way the fixture you removed was connected: black from the switch to the fixture black and white from the fixture to the neutral splice."

Here's the longer answer. I've edited your wording to standard terminology because I think that will help clarify what you have and how to do the work:

I want to replace an existing light fixture with two recessed lights. There is a single switch, the light, three receptacles and a closet light on the circuit. I killed the breaker and removed the old light. Exposed the box. There are 4 cables in the ceiling box. One is a switch loop, with the black wire connected to the hot feed for old light fixture. A white pigtail connects the neutral of the old fixture to the neutral splice. The white wire in the switch loop is spliced to the remaining 3 black wires.

I made a diagram and tried to reconnect them exactly but have had odd results.
The four cables in the ceiling box are the feed from your panel, two cables that supply other loads such as the receptacles and the closet light, and the switch loop.

You didn't say where you wanted to put your new fixtures. I'll assume one replaces the box where the old fixture was mounted and the other is a few feet away.

Run a new xx-2/G cable from the existing location to the new location. For the existing location, feed all five cables into the J-box attached to the new fixture. Splice all the ground wires together and create or leave a way to connect the ground from the new recessed light to them. Bond the box to the grounds. Mark the white wire in the switch cable with a bit of electrical tape or a permanent marker in any color except gray, green or white to show that it is carrying ungrounded current. Splice that wire and the black wires from the other three cables together and cap the splice with a wire nut.

Splice the three remaining older white wires and the white wire in the new cable together. Connect the neutral of the new fixture for this location to that splice. Use a pigtail if necessary. Cap the splice. Splice the black wire from the switch and the black wire in the new cable together, and add the hot feed for the new fixture to that splice. Use a pigtail if necessary.

At the second fixture, connect the wires color-to-color. Bond the box to ground.

PJ types faster than I do.
 
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Old 09-16-13, 04:56 PM
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Now the light is working fine with the switch but the receptacles are dead. They are not switched receptacles.
 
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Old 09-16-13, 05:56 PM
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Update!! Have power to light and receptacles now BUT. The light was on without the switch be flipped on.
 
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Old 09-16-13, 06:09 PM
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the light is working fine with the switch but the receptacles are dead
At the original ceiling box location, in the J-box attached to the new recessed fixture, you should have:
  • All ground wires spliced together and connected to the ground for the fixture,
  • The three ORIGINAL black wires that DO NOT go to the switch and the tagged white wire that DOES go to the switch spliced together,
  • The other four white wires (that do not go to the switch) spliced together and connected to the neutral for the fixture,
  • The black wire that goes to the switch, the black wire in the cable you added, and the hot feed for the fixture spliced together.
If that is what you have, one of the black wires in the 3-black-1-white splice or one of the original white wires in the 4-white-plus-fixture-neutral splice is not properly spliced. It is not making good contact with the others.
 
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Old 09-16-13, 06:12 PM
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Have power to light and receptacles now BUT. The light was on without the switch be flipped on.
Then either you didn't properly identify the switch cable or you didn't connect the wires in it the way they need to be.

Check what you have against the list in my last post.
 
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Old 09-16-13, 06:41 PM
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I am an experienced DIYer and I even have a little electrical experience but this one is whipping me. I will probably punt and call an electrician. I drew out exactly how it was in the box before I cut it all loose. Gave each cable a number and used a Sharpee to mark each cable with its number. My sketch had each black and each white labeled and to where it went. Thanks to all of you who took the time and energy to respond.
 
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Old 09-16-13, 11:15 PM
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You're welcome.

Did you check the connections in the two splices for the unswitched hots and the neutrals? What are you using to test for power at the receptacles?

If you're willing, we'd like to hear how it turns out, whether you do it yourself or hire someone to do it.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 09-17-13 at 05:24 AM. Reason: Typo
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Old 09-17-13, 08:35 PM
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I used a mulitmeter and a non-contact tester. I have held up on the electrician for now. I am hard headed but not stupid. I have traced the individual wires and made a diagram of that now. The switch has b/w/c. The receptacles each have wire in and wire out. The closet light has a wire in that I have yet to find its source. The closet light does not have a switch and I think it was chain switched. I am learning and I would really like to DIY this successfully. I ran all of the wires into a nice large junction box that has plenty of room for those big splices. How do people put so much in a light fixture box?

The white on the switch did not have any black tape on it nor was there any black tape that went into the wirenut with all the black wires(one black was direct to the fixture, not in the wirenut.)
 
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Old 09-17-13, 09:45 PM
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I am learning and I would really like to DIY this successfully.
Yes, you are, and we can help you do that. You might enjoy having a copy of the text for our ongoing seminar here. It's called Wiring Simplified. it's inexpensive, authoritative and readable, and you can often pick it up in the electrical aisle at your local home improvement center.

I ran all of the wires into a nice large junction box that has plenty of room for those big splices.
Five pieces of 14AWG doesn't seem big to me, but then I do a fair amount of this. This J-box you made - it's both covered and accessible, right?

How do people put so much in a light fixture box?
By carefully shaping the wires before trimming and stripping them, and by folding them into the box after the splices are made.

The white on the switch did not have any black tape on it nor was there any black tape that went into the wirenut with all the black wires
So you corrected that?

(one black was direct to the fixture, not in the wirenut.)
Yes, that should be the black wire from the switch.
 
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Old 09-17-13, 09:53 PM
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The J-box is definitely accessible and is covered. There were several places the had open splices that I enclosed in new junction boxes. I have yet to mark that wire with tape but I will. If I ever sell this place, I don't want the next guy having surprises.
 
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Old 09-18-13, 08:21 PM
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Three more fruitless hours in a hot southeast Texas attic. I admit failure. Once again everything was energized but the light was on without flipping the switch. All outlets, etc. One try I got the light to work with the switch but the outlets were dead. So close but so far.
 
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Old 09-18-13, 09:39 PM
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Three more fruitless hours in a hot southeast Texas attic.
That does sound frustrating. Maybe this will help.

If i understand what you have and what you've done, you started with a ceiling box that had four 2-conductor cables coming into it. One is the always-hot circuit from the panel, one is a switch loop and the other two feed other loads not controlled by this switch, including some receptacles.

You are replacing the ceiling box with a recessed fixture and adding an additional recessed fixture, both to be controlled by the switch loop. To give yourself more room for connections, you've installed a junction box to make the splices in, with a whip going to the nearest fixture.

OK so far?

If so, the only thing you need to do to wire everything correctly is to identify the cable going to the switch. To do that, kill the power, separate all of the wires in the J-box and turn the switch on. Make sure nothing is plugged into any of the receptacles on this circuit.

Turn the switch on. At the J-box, test the pair of insulated wires in each of the original cables for continuity. Only the wires in one of the cables should show continuity. That's the switch-loop cable. Tag the white wire in that cable to identify it.

Push the black wire in the switch-loop cable out of the way. Splice all of the ground wires together and bond the box to ground. Splice the neutrals - the untagged white wires - together. All 4 or 5 of them. Trim and cap that splice. Splice the three black wires that were original together with the tagged white wire. 4 wires. Trim and cap that splice. Splice the black wire from the switch to the black wire(s) in your new whip(s). Trim and cap that splice. Fold everything into the J-box and cover it.

Connect the wires at each fixture color-to-color. Close the fixture J-boxes. Turn the switch off. Plug in a couple of loads. Check the light bulbs. Turn the power on. Test.
 
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Old 09-19-13, 12:30 PM
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You have patiently given me more information than I have gleened from two books and a dozen or more websites. It is much cooler this afternoon and I am off so I may head back with this set of instructions.
 
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Old 09-19-13, 07:53 PM
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Success!!!!!

Nashkat1.

I followed your last post to a tee. Well, almost. I got it on the second try. Testing the continuity got me on the switch loop. This has been worth the effort to learn. You wrote about a publication in an earlier reply. More info please.

Thank you very much because we will be having a lady staying with us who will be returning to Ecuador in a few months as a missionary and she would have needed the lights. Now she has it.

I will connect the whip to the new can light, etc. and will wrap this up. I cannot say thank you enough.
 
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