Odd Light fixture problem...need help.

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Old 10-09-14, 09:47 AM
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Odd Light fixture problem...need help.

I am not an electrician. I have installed plenty of electrical appliances. Just for background, I have installed a dishwasher, 4 ceiling fans, 2 vanity bathroom light fixtures, 2 semi-flush mount lights, a chandelier and have replaced fuses in my box. And I have been replacing all the plumbing fixtures. Long story short, I am not a babe in the woods. And of course I switch off the main while working on all this. The lights in question work off of a 15 (volt/amp?) breaker. So I could just switch that breaker to work on the lights. I still turn off the main, to be safe.

I was replacing all of my downstairs flush mount fixtures. I got the same wattage equivalent (except in CFL). I replaced three, fine. Two are on the same switch (no problems) and one is on the same switch as three other lights (spanning three floors). No problems with the prior two setups. The last light downstairs is giving me grief. It's simple black to black, red to red (or white) and ground to ground, just like all the others.

This is the issue. I installed this particular flush mount and when I flip the switch, it trips the breaker (15). Odd thing is that the poles on the light switch that services that light seems to have switched. Off is on and on is off. I am 99% sure I hooked it back up right. The 1% doubt is because it doesn't work. The only difference in the wiring that I can see, is that there is a four strand wire in the mix. I dont know what it is called (I'll call it the control wire for lack of a better term) and it is hooked up hot to hot. It's not the fixture as I bought a smaller one thinking I was overloading the circuit. Could it be the light switch itself from the first time the fuse blew???

If I disconnect the "control wire", the light switch doesn't work, but the light "faults" to on when I trip the breaker back on. Put the control wire back and when I turn the light off (even though the off is now on and vice versa) the breaker trips when turning it off. If the light is on, everything is fine until I turn if off, then pop.

I am at a complete loss as to what the problem is as I just hooked up black to black, white to red/white and ground to ground. Didn't mess with anything else, yet now the poles seem to be reversed and the fuse pops when turning it off.

I took a look at the light switch (which is where I found the other end of the "control wire", but I don't see anything odd. So this is where I am at. Black is hooked up to two other black wires (in the fixture), The ground is hooked up to two other grounds and the white is hooked up to 1 red and two whites. Seems straight forward, yet I don't understand what's happening.

Can someone explain what is going on to me???? It has to be something simple I am missing and I don't want to blow $200 for an electrician to fix a simple problem. Advice, please. If more info is needed, just ask.
 
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Old 10-09-14, 10:15 AM
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Don't have a clue what you mean by 4-strand control wire wire. Do you mean a 3-conductor cable plus ground, white, black, red, bare?

Terminology note: Strand refers to the number of uninsulated individual conductors making up a single wire.
Example of stranded wire:
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3-conductor cable:
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Old 10-09-14, 10:24 AM
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yes. Four strand wire with black, red, ground and white. the white appears to be the "control" wire going to the light switch.
 
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Old 10-09-14, 10:33 AM
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yes. Four strand wire with black, red, ground and white
No. That would be 3-conductor cable. (See edit of my previous post).

Is there a 2-conductor cable (white, black) at either the ceiling box or wall box?
white appears to be the "control" wire going to the light switch.
No such thing. It is either a neutral or an ungrounded conductor (hot) that was not remarked as required by code to indicate it is not neutral.
 
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Old 10-09-14, 10:48 AM
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At the fixture there is a 2 conductor cable and a 3. At the light switch, there are two 2 conductor cables and one 3. I don't know what that 2nd 2 conductor cable is, unless it is the wire from the fuse box. But everything (all four lights and other things) work off of that fuse.
 
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Old 10-09-14, 11:26 AM
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Are the whites of the two 2-conductor cables and the 3-conductor cable connected together and only to each other?
 
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Old 10-09-14, 11:43 AM
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At the light switch, yes. Three white cables together. The hot (red) on the 3 conductor goes to the switch. Three grounds together and the three blacks together. Only difference is the red on the 3 conductor goes directly to the switch and the three blacks go together, but there is a fourth black connected to the three that goes to the switch. So three go into the connector and one comes out. Not sure why that is. I think the light switch is fine as it was always working.

I will check the light fixture.
 
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Old 10-09-14, 11:50 AM
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Oh, forgot to add that the ground is set up the same way. Three into a connector and one out to the switch.
 
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Old 10-09-14, 12:00 PM
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Okay, the light fixture is a bit odd. The 2 conductor and 3 conductor come together. With my light fixture added in it looks like this. The three grounds connected , the three blacks connected. Now the odd part. The two whites are connected, then a third white comes out (as if the contractor cut it too short) and goes to the red (3 conductor red) and the light fixture (white) wire. The red comes out (of the aforementioned 3 conductor) and connects to the (now) single white and the light fixture white.

Does that sound clear as I described it?
 
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Old 10-09-14, 01:21 PM
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Can you post a couple of pictures? http://www.doityourself.com/forum/li...rt-images.html
 
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Old 10-09-14, 02:22 PM
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Here is the picture. But now another issue has popped up. I replaced another and now it appears a circuit is out. None of the breakers have tripped, but there is no power to a circuit. I checked the GFI's and that isn't it.

I don't get it. I have been replacing lights with no problem all this time for a month and today.... The house is 15 years old. Is it possible that the light switches themselves are failing? I may have to bite the bullet for an electrician.
 
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Old 10-09-14, 02:30 PM
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Is that white wire going to the bottom left to your light. Is the red just a pigtail, not comming from any cable?

I don't get it. I have been replacing lights with no problem all this time for a month
You are aware there are multiple ways to wire lights and you must use the method the existing light used. If you only disconnect the two wires connected to the light and nothing else you should be okay but if you think it looks wrong and start changing things or trying to connect it like the last light that's where you create a problem.
 
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Old 10-09-14, 02:44 PM
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I have been connecting it as I found it. I disconnect the wires and the colors match. Haven't had a problem until today. I just don't get it. Now there appears to be a different circuit out, but no breaker trip. Just no power. Could a faulty or burnt out light switch cause that? Happened after I replaced another. Flipped the switch and it quickly turned on and off. No breaker trip, no noise...nothing. Now no power.

As for the original problem...the lower left white cable is going to the light. The lowest red connector on the picture has the 3 conductor red and white, with the 2 conductor white. The red you are asking about is direct from the 3 conductor. The yellow connector connects the two whites. The red connector on the left has all three blacks. And the red connector on the right has the three grounds.
 
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Old 10-09-14, 02:56 PM
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A red should never be connected to a white wire of a fixture. White wire of the fixture goes to neutral only.

To check a switch remove the wires and wire nut together. Turn the breaker back on. Be sure the breaker is in the full off position not the middle trip position before turning back on.
 
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Old 10-09-14, 03:49 PM
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If I do that the light stays on and the switch has no effect. Isn't that the wire that interrupts the circuit?
 
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Old 10-09-14, 04:16 PM
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I just remembered I have a multi-meter. I'll figure out the resistance on the switch and which is the power in and out. I'll let you know what happens. If you don't hear back from me then i have electrocuted myself and am dead.
 
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Old 10-09-14, 04:29 PM
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I'll figure out the resistance on the switch and which is the power in and out. I'll let you know what happens.
Why? That isn't relevant to what we are doing.
 
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Old 10-09-14, 07:07 PM
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I was trying to find out which wires were the light switch. Well, I got the circuit back on. The only problem is that the switch won't turn off the light. The switch itself is fine, as I tested the resistance switched on vs switch off.

I just can't figure out how to get the switch to work on the circuit.... I think it's a matter of where the neutral on the single pole switch goes in the light fixture. I would think that since one of the poles splices into the hot (all black) the other pole would splice into the white. But that throws the breaker.
 
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Old 10-09-14, 07:32 PM
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think it's a matter of where the neutral on the single pole switch goes in the light fixture
No neutral on a switch. If you have a white wire on the switch it is not a neutral. Do you have a 2-conductor cable (black, white) at the ceiling that shows ~120v between white and black when disconnected?
 
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Old 10-10-14, 06:48 AM
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Eureka!!

Finally figured it out. Found a diagram that reflected what I had.

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I was attaching the hot from the light fixture to the other hot wires. That's why it would stay on. Instead I attached the red wire from the switch to the light fixture hot and now it works, like it's supposed to. Black to red, that's what threw me off. I will have to pay better attention from now on.

Thanks for the help though.
 
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Old 10-10-14, 08:29 AM
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Interesting, must be a very new installation since your diagram is 2011 NEC.
 
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