how to wire multiple lights with switch at end

Hello,
I am trying to wire new lights in my basement and I'm having some difficulties. The layout is as follows: circuit power ==> light #1 ==> light #2 ==> light #3 ==> light #4 ==> switch (controls all). The lights are all fluorescents and everything is new.
To wire the lights, I ran the hot (black) from the circuit *through* all light fixture housings. That is, the hot line is not connected to the light fixture wires at all. It is simply wire nutted to the next fixture. The neutral from the power circuit is connected to the white wire of the light fixture. Then the black wire of the fixture is connected to the white wire of the next fixture, and so on. Ultimately, a hot/neutral pair ends at a switch. This setup doesn't work.
The switch does have power (which means my hot wires are ok). When i place a tester across the switch when it's in the OFF position, my tester lights up. When I turn the switch on, the tester light goes out. In the OFF position, hot to ground lights up, and in the on position, both hot and neutral to ground light up.
The circuit hasn't tripped nor has my house caught fire. :D What am I doing wrong?
Thanks, - Roberto
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You just wired all your fixtures in series. They don't work that way. Connect your power white to the white of each fixture. Run your power black straight through all the fixtures and straight to the switch. Run another wire back from the switch and connect it to the black wire of every fixture. That'll work

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To do this, you need to run 3 conductor cable (3 conductors plus ground) after you hit the first light. Use the black wire for "always hot" and the red wire for "switched hot". At each light, connect the red to the fixture hot and the white to the fixture neutral. The black wires just pass through each fixture box. At the end, you put the switch between the black and red wires.
Cheers, Wayne
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What you and RBM describe makes sense. Thanks both for the clarifications. Time for more wiring... it's getting dark.
Is there any hope of doing this with 2-conductor (plus ground) wire? Or will I have to use 3-conductor wire between the fixtures?
- Roberto
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You could run the two conductor from the power to the switch first, then two conductor from the switch to the group of fixtures
wrote:

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That's what I ended up doing. As I was wiring up the fixtures the correct way, everything seemed much simpler. Thanks for helping me out, my basement is no longer in the dark.
Thanks!! - Roberto
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wrote:

Defiantly yes how are wire it depend where are you picking power from. If you power comes to switch area first, you brake hot line and install switch there in line now you hot comes to switch and other side going to your lights, the white "common leg or neutral continued to your lights all of your lights are suppose to be hooked in parallel.
Now if you power comes first the lights your neutral is hooked up same as above and it will terminate there, however your hot leg will continued to the switch, to do that you will need separate peace of cable which you will splice hot/black to black which will continue to the switch the white wire that you will have in that separate piece of cable it will be you return from the switch to your lights that will be hooked in parallel remember this white wire coming back from the switch to raped with black electrical tape to show that it is hot wire. I hope this explanation will be of some help Tony
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wrote:
[snip]

Why rape the switch? :-)
[snip]
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You need to use 12-3 or 14-3 (depending weather it's a 15 or 20 amp circuit) cable to make it work.
Hook up the 3 conductor cable in your fusebox, white wire in the neutral buss, black wire on the breaker, and cap the red wire with a wire nut. Run the cable from the fusebox, and through all your fixtures connecting the red wire (switched hot) to the black wire in the fixture. Connect the white wire to white, and applicable grounding wires. Leave the black wire continuous through the fixtures. You may need to pigtail some connections in the fixtures.
Once you've made it to the switch, connect the ground, and cap the neutral. Connect the black wire to one side of the switch and red wire to the other. Put in your light bulbs, flip the breaker and you're in business.
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Nope.
Run a 2-conductor cable from the breaker box to the first fixture box, then 3-conductor cables between each fixture box, and finally a 2-conductor cable from the last fixture box to the switch box.

--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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Doug Miller wrote:

I agree to this point

but I'd still pull a 3-conductor cable to the switch box, that way if he decides to add a receptacle later on he can do it from either there or a ceiling box.
nate

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replace "roosters" with "cox" to reply.
http://members.cox.net/njnagel
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wrote:

Never thought of doing it that way. Thanks for the correction.
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to do exactly as you've drawn out, you need 12/3 cable from the first fixture all the way to the last fixture, then 12/2 to the switch. Take the black all the way to the switch, then bring the power back from the switch on the white, and tie it to the red in the last fixture (and the light) then continue back to the first fixture with the red being your switched hot.
s

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On Sat, 22 Sep 2007 20:29:38 -0500, "Steve Barker LT"

take the hot to the switch on the white and return on the black. You should still remark the white but by using the black for the switched leg you present the lamp holder with a white neutral and a (switched) black so the wires will match up.
200.7(C)(2)    Where a cable assembly contains an insulated conductor for single-pole, 3-way or 4-way switch loops and the conductor with white or gray insulation or a marking of three continuous white stripes is used for the supply to the switch but not as a return conductor from the switch to the switched outlet. In these applications, the conductor with white or gray insulation or with three continuous white stripes shall be permanently reidentified to indicate its use by painting or other effective means at its terminations and at each location where the conductor is visible and accessible.
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Roberto: To try and make this simple.
We have wired exactly the same set up. A continuous string of (fluorescent) lights along the ceiling. The only switch is next to door beyond the far end.
Solution. We connected the neutral white wire from the supply circuit breaker through and to each fixture. It stops at the last fixture and does not go further. (BTW a neutral is continuous and never switched. In North American domestic wiring anyway).
Also connected the ground wire through and to each fixture frame and metal ceiling boxes and to the metal box containing the wall switch in an approved manner.
We also ran a black wire from the supply from the starting point of the fixtures all the way through to the switch at the far end, without connecting to anything on the way. (In our case this third wire does in fact go physically through the fixtures because that was most convenient, but does not connect to any of them. It is the live wire from the fuse/circuit breaker that 'carries' the voltage to the switch at the far end). That live black wire connects to one side of the wall switch.
When and only when the switch is on a red wire (often called a switched live) carries the voltage back up from the other side of the switch to the fixtures and connects to all the black leads of the lights back along the string. In other words the live supply goes all the way to the switch; when the switch is on the live voltage is extended back to 'all' of the fixtures that are to controlled by that switch.
It will be found that when a switch is at the far end at least three wires are required (plus grounding). Ground to everything metal. White neutral to all light fixtures. Black live to the input side of the switch. Red or suitably marked other colour (depending on code requirements your area) from other side of switch back to the light fixtures where it connects to 'all' the black leads of the fixtures.
Any help? Terry.
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