Light switch failure?


Old 04-08-19, 11:58 AM
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Light switch failure?

Hello, I am inexperienced in this area but just looking for advice before calling an electrician if necessary. I would be grateful for any insight.

We have a single light switch on the porch that turns on 5 outside lights along both sides of our backyard. The lines to these go through the dirt/behind raised beds of brick that have trees and ivy growing in them. The light switch is fed with power from a box below the porch. Another line on the same breaker in our fuse box powers a backyard fountain.

Chain of events:
-The last/furthest light fixture's light bulb had been burnt out for several months. I finally changed it, I believe on Wednesday almost two weeks ago. All the lights worked after I changed the light bulb. I changed it from a 100W incandescent to a 100W-equivalent LED.

-That Friday (two days later) we had a scheduled power outage from the city. About 30-45 minutes before the power to the house went out, I noticed that all of the backyard lights were out and wouldn't turn back on. I can't remember if the switch had been on or off when I noticed. Power came back on in the morning, and the fountain started up but the lights still wouldn't work.

-My husband thought the first/easiest possibility to check, since the power to the fountain worked fine, was that the light switch itself was bad. He took it out and hooked it back up with a new one we had picked up at Lowe's. In the process, 1/2" of the copper ground wire snapped off and now it is too short to connect to the back of the switch.

-Upon reconnecting the wires to the new switch, but not screwing it back into the wall (so it's hanging off and none of the wires are improperly touching), we turn the power back on to the backyard @ the breaker, and when he flips the switch to the lights, it trips the breaker back off again.

-He reconnected the old switch back to the wires (except the ground wire which as mentioned is now too short). Flips the switch on, and it doesn't trip the breaker, but doesn't turn on the lights either.

Do we have a faulty switch? The wrong kind of switch? What's the next thing to check?

Thanks in advance!
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Old 04-08-19, 03:12 PM
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Welcome to the forums.

You have two wires on the new switch and when you turn it on the breaker trips. I severely doubt it's the switch. The problem is more likely to be in one of the outside lights.

The old switch sounds like it's bad.
Old 04-08-19, 05:35 PM
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Are you sure there is no GFCI between the outside lights and their switch? You can verify the outside bulbs work by removing them and testing on a working lamp. While the outside bulb is removed, verify no moisture is in the lamp socket. If any and with the breaker off, wipe socket with a wooden pencil with cloth wrapped around end (don't touch socket with bare hand). Reinsert the bulbs and repower the outside lights. If breaker trips, there is a short in the wiring and most likely will require an electrician to find/fix. If breaker doesn't trip, a electrical connection (hot and/or neutral) is loose in a junction box(s) between the outside light switch and and the first outside lamp (may be two if separate feeds to each side of the back yard). Ground connection to switch in box can be made by wire nutting a short piece of #14 gage insulated copper wire to the ground wire in the box. Make sure it is long enough to attach to the switch grounding terminal while the switch is outside the box.
Old 04-10-19, 07:49 AM
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Thank you both for your responses! It is possible there is a GFCI, that does seem to make sense. Will try reconnecting the ground wire and see if that fixes it. Need to go to the hardware store for some wire first - I'll let you know!
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