Having trouble with a basic light fixture change

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Old 06-02-14, 02:27 AM
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Question Having trouble with a basic light fixture change

Greetings! I am a complete newbie to the wonderful world of electricity. I bought a chandelier a while ago and finally decided, how hard can it be to switch out the existing one?

I read the directions, and it appeared fairly straightforward. The chandelier has two hot (?) wires and one bare copper grounding wire. I took the old chandelier out and stupidly did not check the set up very carefully. It corresponded to what I expected: I have three wires coming out of my ceiling, two of which appear to be "hot" and one neutral (or ground? Not sure). My old chandelier has the same wiring as my new one: two insulated wires and one grounding wire.

I should note that this is an old building, so there are no markings of any kind indicating which wire is which. They are all insulated with crumbling black material. Similarly, the chandeliers don't seem to have "hot" versus "neutral" wires. I'm sure you've seen these types of wires, they are attached in two transparent tubes, and you cut the tubes apart when you want to attach the wires.

I should also note that I've tried to install both chandeliers at this point, and seem to be having the same problem with both. I connect my two "normal" chandelier wires to the two "hot" ceiling wires. I connect the ground wire to what appears to be the ceiling ground wire.

The chandelier turns on, BUT it's on the circuit for my kitchen light. Rather than having a kitchen light with one switch, and a chandelier with another (dimmer, if that makes a difference), I have both lights controlled by my kitchen switch. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get the chandelier switch back into the mix.

Again, the building is very old and all the wire insulation is crumbly. From what I can see, there are eight wires. Two are connected and run my kitchen appliances (not the light). Then THREE are connected... not sure what they do, afraid to find out. Those wires appear to have been in place a long time. Then there are these two "hot" wires that control my kitchen light, that are not held together well... and this one other random wire.

I can't find any permutation of wires that allows me to use the dimmer switch. It was definitely working before I started messing with it. Also, are these chandelier wires really "hot" and "neutral"? They seem exactly the same and I can flip the connections to the "hot" kitchen switch wires without a problem.

Does that make any sense? Thanks very much for reading this, this took me a lot longer to explain than I thought it would. I feel like I must be missing something really simple.
 
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Old 06-02-14, 03:52 AM
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Welcome to the forums! If the wires from your chandelier are brown, it is zip cord and there will be one wire that has ridges on it. That one is neutral, and the other will be hot. From your ceiling box, if you didn't disturb any of the wiring connections, you should have a white, black and grounding wire. If you can't discern which is hot, you will need to secure an inexpensive analog multimeter and test each of the coated wires to ground to see. Posting a picture of the ceiling box wiring would also help us tremendously. There may be something you overlooked and a picture will tell all. http://www.doityourself.com/forum/el...your-post.html
 
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Old 06-02-14, 09:35 AM
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http://i.imgur.com/LbSWtZk.jpg

http://i.imgur.com/Y5p6ws8.jpg


Here you go. The first is the ceiling wiring. To the left, you can see two wires that are barely hooked together. When those wires are connected, my kitchen light can be switched on and off. The third wire on the right, I don't know what to do with.

I've also included a picture of the old chandelier's wires for reference. Based on your description, the one on the left is neutral. What I don't understand though, is if I separate the two wires for my kitchen light and attach my chandelier's wires to them, it doesn't matter which wire is attached. The light turns on either way. I've explicitly flipped them to make sure.

Again, I don't want to disturb my kitchen light wiring -- I want to connect my chandelier to a separate dimmer switch. At first I thought I must be missing another wire from the electrical box, but I'm pretty sure I'm not. Of eight wires, there are two pairs, one triple connection, and one single. Do you know why two are in pairs and one is a triplet? This confuses me.

Thanks again.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 06-02-14 at 10:46 AM. Reason: Add Images
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Old 06-02-14, 10:50 AM
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What is the wiring at the switch? http://www.doityourself.com/forum/li...-pictures.html
 
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Old 06-02-14, 02:15 PM
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When you say the switch, do you mean behind the plate on the wall, where a person switches the light on and off? I'm not sure. I've only looked at what's happening behind the chandelier mount.

Again, I'm not at all experienced with this stuff. I've been trying to read other sources, and I saw some stuff about how sometimes a box can have two hot wires, rather than one neutral? I feel like originally, at least one of the chandelier wires was attached to the two wires forming the kitchen switch circuit. There were two "pigtails" when I originally detached the wiring, though again, I didn't look closely.

Is it possible that the dimmer switch is somehow piggybacking off the kitchen light circuit?
 
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Old 06-02-14, 02:47 PM
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When you say the switch, do you mean behind the plate on the wall, where a person switches the light on and off? I'm not sure.
Yes. Only half the circuit is at the light. The other half is at the switch. You need to look at and understand the whole circuit to know how to wire the light. There is no single way to wire a light or switch. Each depends on the other.
 
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Old 06-02-14, 02:58 PM
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I see. I would prefer not to take the plates off the wall if it's not absolutely necessary. Is there any way to guess at the wiring based off what I can see now? I've tried a whole bunch of permutations already. Process of elimination??
 
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Old 06-02-14, 04:26 PM
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If you don't want to do the work you should call an electrician.
 
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Old 06-02-14, 04:53 PM
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It's not that I'm not willing to do the work. I've spent quite a bit of time trying to connect either chandelier correctly, and a fair amount of time looking online for a setup that looks like mine. My concern is cosmetic damage to the face plate or the wall. As I stated, the original wiring seemed straightforward, so my hope is that I can replicate it without removing other fixtures.

Is there an explanation for why the ceiling wires are combined as they are? I am still unclear why these eight wires are combined in different numbers, with one wire left as a singleton.
 
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Old 06-02-14, 05:24 PM
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Is there an explanation for why the ceiling wires are combined as they are?
No because there should be two or four not three.
My concern is cosmetic damage to the face plate or the wall
Cut around the plate with a utility knife if it is painted on. Replacement plates cost less than a dollar. It is routine to remove the plate.

Your house appears to be wired with cable. Cables never contain less than 2 wires. That is called a 2-conductor cable (black and white) and is the one you are most likely to see. The second most common cable is 3-conductor. It contains a red, white, and black. While it could be a 3-conductor cable at the light there is no reason two wires of a 3-conductor would be connected together.

However if your house has knob and tube wiring there could be 3-wires at the ceiling box but all bets are off how it is wired. They did some very strange things back then. Look in the attic. if you see individual wires on ceramic posts and running through ceramic tubes you have K&T (knob and tube).
 
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Old 06-02-14, 06:40 PM
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Sorry, it looks like I missed the second half of your post originally.

--------------

There is definitely a triple in the ceiling, and they are bound together by electrical tape, so it's not a coincidence. I've lived in this place for ten years and never adjusted this wiring (no attic, sadly -- it's an apartment). If there can't be a triple, I am wondering if the single wire got knocked loose from that bundle? I would be surprised, because I had to pull that combo out of the ceiling, and the singleton was already sticking out.

If this combination can't ever work, I am wondering if it makes sense to continue on my own, since it would appear that something is fundamentally wrong with the current setup. Should I / can I address this first before looking behind the dimmer plate?

Looking at the ceiling wires further, I think only one of the wires is "hot". The other wire it's connected to completes the kitchen light circuit. Since the insulation is poor, I can test two other pairs and one of the wires in the triple. All of those can successfully connect to the "hot" wire. However, none of those are controlled by the dimmer switch. The only wire that doesn't successfully connect is the singleton wire that was already sticking out. I am starting to think that perhaps this is the dimmer wire, and it detached from the electric box when I took off the original chandelier?

I am probably not describing this well.
 
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Old 06-02-14, 08:23 PM
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If I were called to the job this is the point where I tell the customer the whole circuit needs to be replaced all the way to the breaker box. If the wiring was not as deteriorated I might continue but the insulation on the wires is falling off. Call an electrician and have the wiring in the whole house evaluated in addition to installing the light.
 
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Old 06-02-14, 11:45 PM
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It has been brought to my attention in the first post it says:
I should note that this is an old building,
That indicates an apartment. Tenants should never do electrical work on apartments even with the owners permission. I am closing this thread.
 
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