Ceiling lights will not turn on


Old 05-29-14, 01:14 PM
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Ceiling lights will not turn on

I'm helping my mother in law with an electric problem in her home. There are multiple light switches in the master bath controlling ceiling lights and fans. They are all controlled by a single 15 amp circuit (part of a double-breaker).

Recently, at the same time, all the lights/fans failed to turn on. I first checked the breaker, it was not flipped. Next I attached a tester to the hot line out of the breaker, it's okay -- turns on and off depending on the position of the breaker switch. All the other breakers test correctly as well.

I removed two of the bulbs from problem ceiling fixtures and tested them in a table lamp plugged into a bathroom outlet and both bulbs worked fine.

Next, I removed the switches from the walls (with the breaker off), removed the wires, and tested them for continuity -- all were fine. With the power back on, I identified which wires were the hot lines and which were the loads (I tested with the ground wire not the neutral). After re-attaching the switches, I tested to make sure that the load sides were dead when switched off and hot when switched on, and they were - almost. My tester is not digital but has a needle. When switched off all the load sides showed a very small amount of voltage going through.

I'm stumped. I can see that if one light fixture died out, it might effect the others on the same switch. But I can't figure why all the fixture would not work on that circuit when the switches seem to check out fine.

This is 1/2 hour later. I just discovered something that may be helpful. There are actually 9 switches on this circuit. I had tested 5 of the switches and was starting on the next two double boxes. With the circuit power on, I tested the two switches and found that whether the switch was on or off, both the line and load showed 110 volts going through. On further examination, it appears that if any one of the 9 switches is turned on, then all the other switches (which are turned off), will show power going through the load side.

Thank you for any help.


Last edited by virusur; 05-29-14 at 01:40 PM.
Old 05-29-14, 03:10 PM
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Marty, welcome to the forums! You first state it is part of a "double" breaker. It may be a tandem breaker, but not a handle-tied double breaker. Verify that, please.

Of the 9 switches, how many of them are three or four way switches, controlling the same light/fan? From what you are saying you are using a multimeter rather than a tick tracer (non contact) which is good.
Old 05-29-14, 04:30 PM
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Thank you for responding Chandler.

It is a tandem breaker. All are single-pole switches. I'm using a multi-meter.

Everything is working now, but I don't exactly know why.

I decided to check the wiring on the bath fans, took the cover off one and unplugged the standard two-prong plug from the outlet within the fan unit.

On my way back to the breaker panel I found a 10th switch outside the bathroom, but opposite wall from one of the bath switches. I removed the cover plate and screws holding the switch to the switch-box, moving the switch a little. It appears to be the first switch in the light circuit. When I turned the power back on, everything worked. The fan even worked with I plugged it back in.

Was the slight movement of the 10th switch enough to fix things? or perhaps unplugging the fan had something to do with it.

Whatever, after a number of hours of my brother-in-laws time and 6 hours of mine, everything works.
Old 05-29-14, 04:38 PM
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With the results you were getting..... you have a neutral issue. It may come down to a wire nutted splice that is loose.

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