Please help; exterior light just lost power source

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Old 12-23-13, 02:25 PM
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Unhappy Please help; exterior light just lost power source

Please help me repair the wiring that feeds an exterior security light fixture? Long story boring; several years ago, a licensed electrician installed motion sensor light on underside of second story deck, which worked fine for several years. I recently tried to add another fixture by connecting black to black, white to white, ground to ground; 14/2 NM Romex. Both fixtures worked fine for few days; the sensors operated independently for each. Then both lights failed. I removed the newly added fixture, leaving the original; but a light tester found there was no current feeding the fixture; I connected black probe to black wire, red probe to white wire; no light. Original feed is off of a two gang box, with two receptacles on one gang, two switches on the other gang. Toggle on One of the switches was covered with electrical tape in one position, homeowner was warned to NEVER move that toggle. The other switch operates the interior lighting of the outdoor storage area; it's not insulated, but it's weathertight. Removing both gangs shows three romex conduits clamped into the box. The romex feeding the exterior light that has failed, has its white wire pigtailed with all whites, and its black is wound to one of the screws on the switch that should never have its toggle moved. It must have been added later to this gang wiring. I'm not certain that I might have thrown the toggle from original position, as the tape cover became loose. Can't get an electrician out for such a little job this time of year. (Why would a licensed electrician leave electrical tape to keep a toggle in place?, instead of fixing a problem?)
Any ideas? To my knowledge, I don't see any GFCI outlets near...the house is 90 years old. There are some gfci's elsewhere around the basement and exterior. Also, the original security light never had a toggle switch installed to allow for manual vs. auto mode; it was always powered. thanks!
 
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Old 12-23-13, 03:55 PM
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The romex feeding the exterior light that has failed, has its white wire pigtailed with all whites, and its black is wound to one of the screws on the switch...
All exterior security lights need to be fed from an operable switch, so the wiring in the switch box sounds correct.

I recently tried to add another fixture by connecting black to black, white to white, ground to ground; 14/2 NM Romex... The romex feeding the exterior light that has failed...
Romex® is the copyrighted brand name of the Type NM (Non-Metallic) cable made by the Southwire corporation. It is not conduit.

Type NM is approved for installation in interior walls. It is not approved for installation outdoors. If any of these lights are wired with Type NM that's outdoors, that may be part of the problem.

Check your breakers. If all of them appear to be working properly, turn the one for this circuit off. Remove all of the wires from the duplex switch and separate them, and take the wire nut off the neutral splice. Use a multimeter, preferably analog, to test for 120V between each of the black wires and the set of neutrals.

Ideally, you'll find that there is 120V potential between one black wire and the set of neutrals. If not, post back with what you find.

I recently tried to add another fixture by connecting black to black, white to white, ground to ground; 14/2 NM Romex. Both fixtures worked fine for few days; the sensors operated independently for each. Then both lights failed. I removed the newly added fixture, leaving the original; but a light tester found there was no current feeding the fixture; I connected black probe to black wire, red probe to white wire; no light.
No Type NM outdoors.

Not sure what you mean by "probe," bur connecting color-to-color should be correct. Most exterior security lights with photocells, motion detectors, or both need power in on the black fixture wire and send power out on a red wire to the light bulbs. The white wires function as neutrals and should be spliced together. Grounds are spliced together and bonded to metal housings.

A copy of Wiring Simplified will probably help you understand this better. Look for it in the electrical aisle at home improvement centers.
 
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Old 12-24-13, 08:01 AM
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I think the OP was talking about meter "probes" when they were testing.
 
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Old 12-26-13, 04:56 PM
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using voltmeter

dumb question, but when I check with voltmeter each black and the white bundle, I keep the circuit breaker thrown OFF? didn't know I'd get a voltage reading if so. thanks for Wiring Simplified, have purchased and should receive it by Tuesday.
 
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Old 12-26-13, 05:27 PM
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Power must be on to check voltage. For extra safety you can get alligator clips for the probes. Clip the probes on with the breaker off then turn the breaker. It can make checking slow but if your not comfortable doing it hot it is a safer way.

Note those aren't bundles. They are cables.
 
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Old 12-29-13, 09:29 AM
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Thanks for help! it's working now

thanks for suggestions, very useful! Voltmeter found the one hot black feed, wiring was correct; the problem was the duplex switch was in OFF position, which I must have inadvertenly thrown while re-wiring to dual master. Will replace the NM with outdoor rated cable.
Motion detected by either sensor turns both fixtures on; total wattage of the four lamps is 288, within the 300W fixture rating. I've connected black-black, white-white and red-red. However throwing the power off and on doesn't seem to put in Manual mode, allowing the lights to stay on indefinitely; they shut off per the Auto mode setting. any ideas?
One option I have is separating the fixtures between two different circuits (I found a second feed capped; must have fed an exterior fixture in the past) to see if that allows for both Auto and Manual modes.
thanks!
 
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Old 12-30-13, 08:50 PM
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the white bundle
A set of conductors twisted into contact with each other and protected with a wire nut is a splice. A bundle, which is usually something to avoid, is several conductors or cables running parallel to each other which are mechanically tied together.

Will replace the NM with outdoor rated cable.
Is your wiring in the open, in conduit, or direct buried? Type UF cable may be run in conduit outdoors but is difficult to pull through and to work with. It is designed for direct burial. Better practice in conduit is to use individual THHN/THWN conductors.

I've connected black-black, white-white and red-red. However throwing the power off and on doesn't seem to put in Manual mode, allowing the lights to stay on indefinitely; they shut off per the Auto mode setting. any ideas?
A link to the installation instructions for your units would help us understand the intended function of each color. The red-red part is particularly confusing.
Originally Posted by Nashkat1
Most exterior security lights with photocells, motion detectors, or both need power in on the black fixture wire and send power out on a red wire to the light bulbs.
However throwing the power off and on doesn't seem to put in Manual mode, allowing the lights to stay on indefinitely; they shut off per the Auto mode setting. any ideas?
Make sure the sensor isn't set to "TEST."
 
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