Troubleshooting new ceiling fixture

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Old 07-15-15, 11:59 AM
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Troubleshooting new ceiling fixture

Hi all, hoping to get some advice from any of you on a new wiring setup in an upstairs guest room. The room did not originally have an overhead light, just two switches -- one to control a wall receptacle, and the other two control the attic light which is accessed via this room. I have some very basic wiring knowledge, and have previously installed an overhead fixture in another guest room which was not set up which works fine.

In this room, rather than expanding to a 3-gang switchbox and going through the trouble of fishing new wire behind the wall, I opted to install a second switch between the attic light and its original switch, up in the attic. I installed a single gang box and switch along the original wire (house is wired with standard 2-wire & ground Romex). At this switchbox, I also ties in a new section to run to the newly installed ceiling junction box. I wired the hot wire for this new section with the hot coming from the guest room switch, and wired all neutrals and ground wires in this new switch box accordingly.

The attic light works fine. Of course I have to have both switches "on" to turn on the attic light, but that's not really a hassle to me.

We installed a brand new light fixture, and when testing it out the bulb blew. I checked all my wiring and that the proper bulb rating was used, which was all fine. To try and "double-check" my work, I wired a receptacle to the new ceiling box, to which I plugged in a lamp which works fine with the switch. We assumed the light fixture may have been flawed so the company replaced it for us.

When installing the replacement fixture it had the same issue and blew out the bulb, so I'm at a loss of what may be wrong. The attic light works fine; a receptacle wired to the new ceiling box seems to work fine (at least with a floor lamp), and I don't think two brand new fixtures from this company would have an issue. I only have a simple voltage tester which lights up at 120V when testing the current at the new ceiling box, attic switch, bedroom switch, etc. Any suggestions? I'm at the point where I'm about to call in a professional to check behind what I've done, but I just don't see where there could be an issue here.

Thanks in advance for any input.
 
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Old 07-15-15, 12:06 PM
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I only have a simple voltage tester which lights up at 120V when testing the current at the new ceiling box
If you mean a non contact tester it is useless for this but since the lamp works we can assume the voltage is correct. Please give us a detailed description of the light fixture. Does it use a standard Edison base bulb?
 
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Old 07-15-15, 12:20 PM
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Ray, it's a standard pendant light fixture from Pottery Barn. Has two wires (smooth casing for hot, ridged for neutral) and ground wire, standard bulb socket (from what I know at least) that can handle standard bulbs up to 60W or 13W equivalent CFL. Thanks.
 
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Old 07-15-15, 01:36 PM
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Your wiring at the two gang switch doesn't sound correct but I'm confused by your description. There should be a 2-conductor cable that when disconnected measures 120 volts white to black. (A non contact tester won't work. You need a multimeter, preferably analog.) Is that cable at the two gang switch box?

If you don't have a multimeter connect each cable in the switch box to a receptacle and test with a lamp. I suspect you may have only had switch loops at the switch box.
 
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Old 07-15-15, 01:46 PM
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I didn't make any changes at the original two gang switch box (which I know doesn't invalidate your thought that the issue may be there, this is a neighborhood of houses built quickly and not with great quality back in the mid-90s). The 2-conductor cable leaving that switch box in the bedroom goes up to the attic to power the light that has been installed there. I cut in to that in the attic and installed a new single gang box to control the attic light up there, and ran a new 2-conductor cable tied in to the new single gang box to feed in to the new ceiling box I installed.

I have a contact tester, just not one that provides specific readings (just lights up at 120, 240, etc.). At the new ceiling box, that 2-conductor cable does light up at 120V when the tester is used both on white to black and ground to black.

I plan to go pick up a basic analog multimeter at the big box later tonight or tomorrow, as all I can figure is that more than 120V is passing through the new cable. Still doesn't make sense to me that a floor lamp plugged in to a receptacle wired to the new box works fine but a hard-wired fixture will not.

Thanks again for your advice and time.
 
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Old 07-15-15, 03:23 PM
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I opted to install a second switch between the attic light and its original switch, up in the attic.
This may have been your mistake. People see a white and black wire at switch and assume this is hot and neutral. Not true.

I suspect you may have only had switch loops at the switch box.
Ray's response above. The white and black wires may both be "hot".

Let me explain a simple switch loop, may not be exactly as your layout:

- Power comes into a simple ceiling fixture, hot and neutral
- If you connect wires to fixture, it will be on constantly. If you want to switch the fixture, a switch must be added. You will interrupt the hot wire and never the neutral
How to interrupt (switch) the hot:
- At the ceiling box, neutral will be directly attached to the fixture neutral
- The source hot wire will go down to the switch via the white wire, then come back up via the black wire. These wires are in a standard 2 conductor cable such as romex, because that cable is widely available and there is no NM cable specifically designed just for a loop

Once you get your meter, you will probably see that both white and black wires leading to attic test ~120 volts to ground (with switch on)
 
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Old 07-15-15, 03:49 PM
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Thanks. I think I tested both white and black originally going to the attic from the existing switch and only the black was hot. But can't be positive. I'm still not clear in how the attic light (which now goes through the second switch as well) works fine, as does the ceiling box when a respectable is wired to it rather than a direct fixture.
 
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Old 07-15-15, 04:08 PM
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Thanks. I think I tested both white and black originally going to the attic from the existing switch and only the black was hot.
If you used a non contact tester you really didn't.
 
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Old 07-15-15, 04:12 PM
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I have a contact tester (where I physically held probes to bare wires), it just only provides basic readings for 120, 240, etc.
 
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Old 07-15-15, 04:40 PM
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Perhaps I can pose this differently too. I have an existing switch in a bedroom, which powers a utility light up in my attic. Is there an acceptable way to tap into that circuit to branch off to a new light fixture and also have an additional switch in the attic itself to control the utility light. I was hoping to do this without adding another switch in the bedroom which necessitates running a new cable behind the wall.

So when bedroom switch is on, the new light fixture is on. But the attic light is only on if an additional switch in the attic is flipped on. Make any sense?
 
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Old 07-15-15, 05:31 PM
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As a rule of thumb..... when you open a switch box up and ONLY see two wires on the switch. Then you have a switch loop and cannot connect to it.

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Old 07-15-15, 06:19 PM
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The original switch box in the bedroom has more than one 2-wire cable coming in. There is a hot line coming in from downstairs that can only be turned off at the appropriate breaker. That hot feeds in to a switch there, which feeds power through a 2-wire cable up in to the attic and originally on to the existing attic light. The neutral coming back down from the attic light ties in with the other neutrals in the switch box in the bedroom as would (I think) be expected. So by your diagram and explanations I don't think there was an existing switch loop.

The cable running from the bedroom switch to the existing attic light is what I've attempted to tap in to to run a new ceiling box in that same room. I added a single gang box in the attic, with the offshoot cable's black wire connected at the source terminal of the new switch so that it received power as long as the bedroom switch is on. The new switch in the attic, when turned on, powers the existing attic light. All three neutrals (one from the existing switch in the bedroom, one from the existing attic light and one from the new ceiling box) in that switch box are wired together which (I think) completed the circuit back down the line.

Wish I could draft up a diagram but don't really have an easy way to do so.
 
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Old 07-15-15, 06:42 PM
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I went back and reread all you posted. Everything sounds fine. Is your only problem the bulb burning out ?
 
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Old 07-15-15, 06:55 PM
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We need to know if power comes in at the switch nothing so far confirms that. You can't guess.

Was this how your wiring was before you started? If not tell us what the differences are.

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Old 07-15-15, 06:58 PM
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Yep, it is as far as I can tell. With the first go-round, the bulb didn't blow bit tripped the breaker. Next day I rechecked all my wiring, then tried again with a different bulb. This one didn't trip the breaker bit blew the bulb (with sparks and all). That was when my father-in-law (industrial electrician) advised me to try wiring a receptacle to the ceiling box and plugging something in. I did and tried one of our desk lamps and everything worked fine. That's when we decided the new light may be the issue and got it replaced from the company. The new light blew another bulb though, which has brought me to here. I was thinking surely two new lights couldn't both be faulty!

I think my last step before giving up (unless anyone else has a suggestion!) is to try wiring the new fixture to another ceiling box in a room that is already wired and see what happens.
 
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Old 07-15-15, 07:02 PM
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try wiring the new fixture to another ceiling box in a room that is already wired and see what happens
Actually I was going to just suggest adding a cord and plug to it and plugging it in. If it still blows the bulb I'd take it back to the seller and show them.
 
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Old 07-15-15, 08:02 PM
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The attachment won't open (at least not on my phone), but I definitely realize my method probably isn't the best way. I was going for the safest way that didn't involve making the bedroom have a 3-gang switch box instead of 2, and I don't think I could re-do things in the existing 2-gang box as it's pretty full. The original builder has other receptacles in the bedroom wiring through the switch box (though only one of the receptacles is actually switched).

Your original diagram below is generally correct for the room. 2-gang box with one power source coming in and powering the two switches. One switch powers the existing attic light, the other controls one receptacle on the room. There was no ceiling box in the room, and is why we started all this, as we're prepping to turn it in to another in-use bedroom.

If the most compliant, effective and safe way is to re- do things, then so be it I suppose. Assume I could leave the new switch in the attic and tie it's source black in with the main power coming in the bedroom switch box. That way I could use one switch for the new ceiling box, and the other remains in control an outlet?
 
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Old 07-15-15, 10:02 PM
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Why not make the receptacle always hot. Then you only need two switches.

The first diagram is for always hot receptacles but if you want to continue switching the receptacle it would be how to do that. Then the center cable would go to the switch you added for the attic. See second diagram. There should be room in a 2 gang box.

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Actually putting the attic light in a different location is generally a good idea to prevent it being accidentally turned on.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 07-15-15 at 10:29 PM.
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Old 07-25-15, 06:49 PM
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Ray (and others),
Thanks for all the input and advice. Today I was finally able to take the time and re-wire everything, and so far everything appears to be in order. I removed the old switch box using a hacksaw on the nails, then ran a new piece of Romex from the new ceiling box through the wall and pulled everything in a new 2-gang box. Bundled everything together in to what appears a much neater configuration, and used your second diagram as my guide. The attic light is now controlled by the new switch in the attic, one bedroom switch controls the new ceiling fixture, and the other still controls one of the receptacles in the bedroom. Here's a pic with a bulb that isn't being blown out! Thanks again folks.

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Old 07-25-15, 08:01 PM
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A shining example of good work. Thanks for letting us see the outcome.
 
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