I am a little baffled. I have flood lights that used to work. They stopped
working so I replaced the bulbs with indoor/outdoor type flood lights. This
did not fix the problem. I checked the sockets with my little $6 voltage
detector and there is power. In fact, there is power in the sockets whether
the switch is on or off.
Now could it not be working because I need a special 'Outdoor' bulb? Or,
since I get a power reading with the switch on or off, is there something
wrong in the wiring?
Any suggestions would be great!
I'bet you are seeing a "phantom" voltage being capacitively coupled past
an open circuit.
Screw in just ONE bulb and see if you still find "power" there with your
voltage detector. Betcha dont anymore!
Then, as a previous poster suggested, find a way to learn more about
what you need to know to diagnose and fix the problem, it sounds like
it'd be pretty hard to bring you far enough up the learning curve via a
What type is your tester? Is it an inexpensive volt-meter or a neon-
bulb or similar? If the former w/ a needle indicator it's quite
possible as Jeff says the voltage is phantom. If it is a indicator
light type, and the light is being lit, then the voltage is real and
the problem is twofold...
If you don't find the problem first, post the answer to the question
and I'll not start a tome on what else to look for... :)
Although I will ask -- is there more than one location from which to
turn the lights on/off from? It's possible the other switch is the
problem of voltage.
Also, if there is real (not phantom) voltage, and the light doesn't
light, then the problem almost certainly has to be in the base--either
dirt/corrosion or perhaps the base tab has become flattened to where
the bottom of the bulb isn't making contact.
But, I'd say first guess of reading a impressed voltage is probably
the most likely culprit...
Any voltage you can measure is a real one ("phantom" doesn't make
sense here, meters measure real voltages only). What's different is
the source impedance (the effective resistance of the source, which
determines how much the voltage drops with load). When dealing with
power, you want a LOW source impedance, so the load causes very little
voltage drop. With a very high source impedance, the load causes the
voltage to drop too low to light the bulb.
I'd have said nothing further had previous poster not felt obligated
to make cheapshot remark initially...at that point I indeed, had
something to say which was I didn't appreciate it nor your even
If you want to correct the rudeness, start w/ the prior poster (or
yourself), not me... :(
likely cause is that the fixture has crapped out, being out in the weather
year round and all. Postive test for that, is to remove fixture, and hang a
3-dollar pigtail socket with a bulb from the wires. The 3 bucks is well
invested- even if you only use it every couple years, a pigtail is a handy
thing to have around. Outdoor fixtures are cheap. Made cheaply and far away,
A disconnected wire (such as this one, with the switch off and no bulb
in the socket) running close to a wire carrying AC current will form a
transformer and you'll get some voltage. Circuit impedance will be
high, and any significant load will drop it to near zero.
It may not be the fact that anything is wrong with the OPs tester. It
may be picking up a voltage quite normally capacitively 'induced'
through the proximity of various wires even though the switch is
One of the best testers is a regular lamp bulb.
Apart from something stupid like the replacement bulb/s not having a
long enough base to screw in and touch the terminals of the lamp
socket; very unlikely IMO, it is most probably a switch that has gone
defective, or something broken or corroded in the wiring or lamp
Accordingly it would be best from a family safety and insurance
viewpoint to get someone knowledgeable to fix or at least assist.
One problem with misunderstood repairs is that an improper one may
'seem to work'! "Hey look I fixed it".
However next time a bulb is to be replaced the switch is in the wrong
wire "How come I have a white wire connected to a black wire. That's
not what my cousin, neighbour, friend local mechanic told me?" Or
something is not properly grounded "What's this yellow/green wire
for??" and a person on a ladder gets a shock and falls. Or a wire
connected incorrectly "I thought that's where the black wire went
before I disconnected it!", gets hot within a wall or fixture or
switch box and "FIRE".
Insurance cos. many of whom are just looking for a reason NOT to pay
out, are not very sympathetic!
So be very careful you know what you are doing.
Pretty sure knowledgeable people reading this item could come up with
anywhere from 9 to 15 'possible' reasons any of which would be
plausible and simple to repair But be careful!.
Therefore mention this anecdote: The car of a non mechanically
inclined young lady driving some distance away from home had been
dripping coolant slowly on the ground, which she had ignored. It had
now lost most of it and overheated.
She called home and discussed it with her father who said "Let it cool
down for an hour or so then refill with water and drive slowly to the
nearest service station you can find. Then call me, collect, from
there and I'll speak to the mechanic for you. After waiting the young
lady lifted the hood; took off the oil filler cap and filled up the
engine crankcase etc. with water. naturally she never made to the
service station and the engine was ruined!
So the moral; like electrical wiring, know what you are doing. One
little mistake and could be costly!
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.