Red wire in the electrical panel---YIKES!!!!

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Old 05-30-11, 11:31 AM
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Red wire in the electrical panel---YIKES!!!!

OMG, Memorial Day should be about fun stuff......and it's been a couple hours and hubby and I cannot for the life of us figure out how to install these 2 new kitchen lights! I've even scoured the forums here for similar posts but no matter what I find, nothing is working. We have an older home (1973) and are replacing 2 kitchen lights with updated fixtures. Both lights are connected by the same basically flip switch.

Here's what we are facing:

LIGHT ONE

* 2 white wires from the ceiling
* 2 black wired from the ceiling
* 1 red wire from the ceiling
* 1 coiled ground wire

LIGHT TWO

* 3 white wires from the ceiling
* 3 black wires from the ceiling
* 1 red wire from the ceiling
* 1 coiled ground wire

NEW LIGHT FIXTURE (contains two 60 watt bulbs)

* 2 white wires
* 2 black wires
* 1 copper ground wire


We've tried the following connection, per my research online:

--- White wires from the ceiling connected with white wires in the lights
---Red wire from the ceiling connected to BOTH black wires in the new fixture
---Cap off all the black wires from the ceiling
---Only connected the ground wire from the FIXTURE to the green screw, but didn't do anything with the ground wire from the ceiling.

With this sort of connection, only ONE of the bulbs from each light would work (not the second bulb), and the lights would NOT turn off by the light switch.

Any idea what we're doing wrong??? Suggestions??

Please help us enjoy the rest of Memorial Day! LOL

P.S. Silly fools we are to have not noted in more detail which wires were connected when we removed the old ones!!!
 
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Old 05-30-11, 12:03 PM
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* 2 white wires from the ceiling
* 2 black wired from the ceiling
* 1 red wire from the ceiling
So you probably have a 2-conductor cable and a three conductor cable. Determine which wires are from which cable. Using a test light (not a non-contact tester) or a multimeter determine if you have 120v between the black and white of the 2-conductor cable.

Open the switch box. Is there a single 3-conductor cable? How is it wired? Or are there one 3-conductor cable and one or more 2-conductor cables? How are the cables connected.
 
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Old 05-30-11, 12:12 PM
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WOW.....you're completely losing me! I know nothing about 2-conductor or 3-conductor cables. I just did a quick Google search, and I think the reason for this cable is because there are 2 lights wired to the same light switch.....? And if I go to Home Depot, do I just ask for a "test light" or "multimeter?" Is that even something I buy????

And when you say to open the switch box, do you mean behind the light switch cover? And how would I know if there is a "single 3-conductor cable?" How would I know how its wired.

Thanks for the clarification. I'm totally clueless about this. Just from what I can gather from Google and DIY!

Thanks!
 
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Old 05-30-11, 12:43 PM
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Originally Posted by diymilf View Post
P.S. Silly fools we are to have not noted in more detail which wires were connected when we removed the old ones!!!
No, it means you are totally normal. I could not count the number of posters where Ray has patiently guided them through the process when they forgot to take a picture or write down the wiring configuration.

Go slow and answer all his questions. Be patient as it may take more than one posting.
 
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Old 05-30-11, 12:54 PM
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In most newer houses (after circa 1950) they are wired with cables that consist of two or more wires (conductors) inside a plastic or metallic sheath. There may or may not also be a bare ground wire depending on the age and type of cable.

Houses as new as yours will probably have plastic cables. A 2-conductor cable contains a black and white wire (and maybe a ground). A 3-conductor cable contains white, red, black (and maybe a ground).

when you say to open the switch box, do you mean behind the light switch cover?
Yes.
And how would I know if there is a "single 3-conductor cable?
If you only had a red white and black wire.
How would I know how its wired.
By looking and telling us how it is wired.
And if I go to Home Depot, do I just ask for a "test light" or "multimeter?" Is that even something I buy
Yes. I would suggest a cheap analog multimeter. The HD rep may try to sell you a digital multimeter but for a beginner analog is better. In this case you may need to measure continuity so I don't recommend a test light. Do not get a non-contact tester. They just won't give you the readings you need for this.

Also pick up a copy of Wiring Simplified at Home Depot so you can at least learn the basics before continuing.
 
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Old 05-30-11, 01:42 PM
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Okay, I did several things-- Looked behind the light switch cover, and this is what I saw:

IMG_6892.jpg picture by diymilf - Photobucket

The switch had a black wire and white wire connected to it only. I think there was a ground wire on the other side of it:

IMG_6888.jpg picture by diymilf - Photobucket

What does this mean?

Here are some pics of the light, and the wiring. Please disregard the current connection, as we were trying several options with the black wires (i.e capping them off versus trying to connect them). Remember, both of these lights are wired to a single switch that would turn them both on.

IMG_6896.jpg picture by diymilf - Photobucket

LIGHT #1: Has 2 sets of white wires, black wires, and one red.

IMG_6893.jpg picture by diymilf - Photobucket

LIGHT #2: Has 3 sets of white wires, black wires, and one red.

IMG_6894.jpg picture by diymilf - Photobucket


IMG_6895.jpg picture by diymilf - Photobucket


Keep in mind when we connected all the whites with the white, and the red with all the new fixtures' blacks, only ONE of the 2 bulbs on the new fixture would work, and it would not turn off by the switch.

So, at Home Dept, when I get the multimeter, how do I use it? What's it really for anyhow?

Thanks, guys!!!
 
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Old 05-30-11, 01:44 PM
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The way you initially wired the lights would have been my first guess. Were all the connections tight? Sometimes the one stranded wire is not making a good connection.



All the greens or bares need to connect together and to the mounting bracket and the box if metallic.
 
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Old 05-30-11, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by pcboss View Post
The way you initially wired the lights would have been my first guess. Were all the connections tight? Sometimes the one stranded wire is not making a good connection.



All the greens or bares need to connect together and to the mounting bracket and the box if metallic.
I **think** the connections were tight, but we're going to try again and see what happens.......... Other than the way I described the wiring, I have no idea which way to wire these babies. Grrrr......
 
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Old 05-30-11, 02:00 PM
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Looking at the switch picture is that the red wire on the left? If so is it just capped off? We really need to see with the switch pulled out.
 
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Old 05-30-11, 02:18 PM
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Just pulled the switch plate off again to check to see if it was a red wire. Nope, not on that switch. In the back, there are a bundle of white and a bundle of black wired off separately, but no red wire associated with that switch.
 
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Old 05-30-11, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by diymilf View Post
Just pulled the switch plate off again to check to see if it was a red wire. Nope, not on that switch. In the back, there are a bundle of white and a bundle of black wired off separately, but no red wire associated with that switch.
So are you saying there is a cable separate from the ones in the bundle that goes to the switch, that there is a black and white wire on the switch? Can we have some pictures?
 
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Old 05-30-11, 03:19 PM
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What do you mean by a cable separation? Yes, there is black and white wiring on the switch only. What would you like more pictures of?

Feeling so frustrated, because we thought this would take about 1 hour to do, but it's taken allllll day, and I feel sorry for my kids, who should be outside having some fun this Memorial Day! But I hate to think of leaving raw lighting just hanging from the ceiling. Grrrrrr.......
 
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Old 05-30-11, 03:41 PM
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What do you mean by a cable separation?
Below is a quick diagram of your lights and cables to your lights as I understand it. Does that help? I need to have info so I can do a similar diagram for the switch.



Feeling so frustrated, because we thought this would take about 1 hour to do, but it's taken allllll day,
Best to call it a day and start fresh in the morning. After sleeping on it you may decide to just call an electrician.

I could begin to understand this if we knew where the other end of the 3-conductor cable was but it isn't in the switch box or at light 2 as I understand it. Are these lights controlled by switches at two different locations? Are both lights controlled by the same switch? The ceilings seem to be different colors meaning different rooms, different switches.
 
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Old 05-30-11, 05:52 PM
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It sounds like she has a switch loop at the switch Ray.

OP, when you made you connections on the whites, did you make one connection with both fixture wires or two?

I also think the fixture black on the blk/red bundle is causing the fixture to stay on all the time.
 
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Old 05-30-11, 06:52 PM
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Originally Posted by ray2047 View Post
Below is a quick diagram of your lights and cables to your lights as I understand it. Does that help? I need to have info so I can do a similar diagram for the switch.

My understanding of the situation says you need to add a third cable (3 conductor) to the right hand switch in your drawing because in the original post it says it has 3 whites, 3 blacks and 1 red.

I certainly agree with you that with the red wires it seems like it must be a three way switch situation but they haven't indicated that and the switch they pulled out only had 3 connections to it.
 
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Old 05-30-11, 07:09 PM
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Ray,
I wasn't sure of your drawing, so I did my own, and hope that it explains it a little better. See below. BTW, I stopped at Home Depot tonight and (I'm sure the guy didn't know what he was talking about), but he said that I should just connect white to white, and black to black, and cap off the red. He said I would cap off the red because, unless it's a light(s) that are operated by two switches, then we probably don't need the red wire. However, everything I read about red wires say that red wires usually goes to black. And I think in our case, the red wires were going to black in the old lights. Dag....if only we had taken pics and labeled the wires before unhooking them!! UGH.... LOL

Okay, here's my little diagram:

wiring.png picture by diymilf - Photobucket
 
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Old 05-30-11, 07:10 PM
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Ok, saw your diagram that helped a lot. So you do probably have a 3-conductor cable between the boxes, good.

With breaker off connect one of the two conductor cables at the light 1 to a light. Turn the breaker on. Does it light up? If so mark the cable hot. If not mark it SL1a?. Repeat with the other 2-conductor cable at light 1 and mark it as SL1b? or hot. Repeat with light 2 If you don't end up with 2 SL? cables and a hot cable post back. Ignore the 3-conductor cable for now.

Your really need a multimeter to determine if SL1 or SL2 is a switch loop but we can work around that with educated guess if you want.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 05-30-11 at 07:46 PM.
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Old 05-30-11, 07:33 PM
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I think part of the problem is shown in pic #3. The multiple whites looks incorrect.

A further complication: Do the lights have a warning about using them with only 90 degree rated wiring? Your wiring looks like 60 degree rated wiring.
 
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Old 05-30-11, 07:48 PM
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I want to do your suggestions tonight, but hubby says he's tired and doesn't want to deal with it anymore tonight. I would soooooo do it myself, but I am 3.5 months pregnant and playing with lead-based wires probably isn't the best idea. LOL Then again, if I wear gloves, and make sure the breaker is off, I should be fine. Might we worth a shot. This mystery is BOTHERING me, and I MUST get these lights to work!!

Now, let me clarify what you're instructing me to do: See this diagram. Are you proposing I go cable by cable and connect a part of the light to see if it lights up? For example, like in the diagram where the orange arrows are, connect that black and white wire to the black and white wire in the new light fixture?

What does SL stand for?

And when marking one HOT and the other SL, I'm still not sure how I would determine that. So, if I connect one cable's black and white wires, and it lights up, are those 2 wires considered HOT?

wiring2.png picture by diymilf - Photobucket
 
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Old 05-30-11, 07:50 PM
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Originally Posted by pcboss View Post
It sounds like she has a switch loop at the switch Ray.
I agree. I was also misunderstanding the O/P's explanation of what cables where.
 
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Old 05-30-11, 08:04 PM
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SL was an abbreviation for switch leg.

Did you buy a multimeter or another tester?
 
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Old 05-30-11, 08:18 PM
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No lead in the wires but the frustration could sure lead to a cranky baby later.

Are you proposing I go cable by cable and connect a part of the light to see if it lights up?
Yes. See diagram blow. I have indicated both blacks of the light and both whites but as long as you can tell which pair of black and white go to a socket you could use only one pair and one bulb. Ignore the 3-conductor cable.

For example, like in the diagram where the orange arrows are, connect that black and white wire to the black and white wire in the new light fixture?
Yes, that is correct.

What does SL stand for?
It will stand for Switch Loop later in testing but for now just a cable that doesn't light the light.

And when marking one HOT and the other SL, I'm still not sure how I would determine that. So, if I connect one cable's black and white wires, and it lights up, are those 2 wires considered HOT?
Yes. They are actually a cable, the hot cable.

Warning always turn off the breaker before connecting or disconnecting a wire.

 
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Old 05-30-11, 08:51 PM
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I'm going to get one tomorrow. Totally forgotten since I had the kiddos with me, and at this age, they're super distracted and you can't shop with them around. LOL
 

Last edited by diymilf; 05-30-11 at 09:08 PM.
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Old 05-31-11, 10:20 AM
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Originally Posted by diymilf View Post
I'm going to get one tomorrow. Totally forgotten since I had the kiddos with me, and at this age, they're super distracted and you can't shop with them around. LOL
If you get the analog multimeter before your tests begin we can instruct you on much quicker and simpler testing then using one of your lights.
 
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Old 06-01-11, 07:54 PM
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Ray, thanks for the diagram!! I didn't even get around to trying it, because we called in an electrician! If you can believe it, even HE was stumped for a while! But $160 later.......sigh.......the lights are installed and working!!!! Thanks for all of your advice and help! I was at work when the electrician was here, and hubby didn't get a chance to see what the final connections were I really wanted to know!!!! But, what I have learned is this: TAKE PICTURES before removing wires, and LABEL THEM!!!!! Maybe I'll "see" you again when we've moved on to the 2 ceiling fans we need to replace ;-) LOL

DIYMILF
 
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Old 06-01-11, 09:27 PM
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Glad it worked out. The main thing to remember next time only touch the wires of the device you are removing. Never undo any other connections.
 
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Old 06-02-11, 06:05 AM
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Connections

I have been on the sidelines watching this thread. I have a theory about the red wire but only a theory.

I would add one suggestion. When making photos, shoot one straight up into the ceiling box so we can see how the cables enter the ceiling box.

Good luck on your future projects.
 
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Old 06-02-11, 08:20 AM
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I have been on the sidelines watching this thread. I have a theory about the red wire but only a theory.
My theory was power came in at one box and the switch loop at the other. The white of the 3-cond carried the neutral to the switch loop box's light, black or red carried power to the switch loop in the other box and black or red carried return power back to the light in the box where power originated.
 
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Old 06-02-11, 09:09 PM
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Thanks, guys!!!!! Next time I will take better pictures, and as Ray suggested, won't disturb any other wires!!!
 
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