I noticed at the switch box of my ceiling fixture, there are 2 black
wires ( no painted white wire) and
I get a light lit up on my light tester.. i took a look again at the
ceiling 2 red wires (no painted white wire there either) and I cannot
get a reading on either wire by ground. How is this possible? I did
have a fixture there before.
Aha! _THERE_ is a switch as surmised but previously undisclosed! :)
What bam said -- is one (or more) of the reds hot if the switch is on?
Is this a single pole switch or a three (or even a four) way (is there
more than one location that controlled this fixture before or only the
one, iow)? If the latter, then also need to check w/ that other switch
(switches) in the other position.
All that is now revealed is that you know you have a supply to the
switch and that the others aren't at this point being fed. Still not
enough information to trace the wiring remotely. As noted, still don't
know if this is a single switch or one of two or more, whether these
red wires are part of a three-conductor cable (which would be pretty
indicative of a three-way or more arrangement and so might be
"travelers", not actual feedthroughs, etc., etc.).
Can only reiterate that at this point when you don't know for absolute
certain the original connections any longer, I think your only real
hope is to get somebody who can diagnose the situation and figure out
what was the original configuration.
This is a single switch ..the 2 red wires are the only ones shown in
the ceiling and the 2 black are the only ones on the switch. None other
are shown. It is not the only one on the circuit, but that switch is
only good for that ceiling fixture, which worked perfectly before under
those conditions. I just didn't like the globe look, so I myself, took
it off and no one has messed with any of the wiring. Its not as
complicated as u made it sound. I'm just confused the way those 2reds
and 2 blacks were setup. Apparently, it worked just fine. With the
power on and I get a light when testing those 2 switch black wires and
don't get any when I check those 2 red wires.. where will the power
come from, if not from the switch, is my question.
I'm not making it sound complicated, I'm trying to figure out what
you're describing -- until the last post, you hadn't even confirmed for
sure there being a switch as best I can recall. I was simply trying to
elicit sufficient information if possible to understand what might be
the situation and red isn't a very common wire color for two-wire Romex
cable, so simply was asking to make sure that there weren't yet more
factors at play.
Still can't really tell for sure, but seems as though one of the blacks
must be the feed. But, still not clear whether you're talking of two
separate black wires at the switch or the two ends of the same black
wire landed on the switch. The connections at the switch really
shouldn't have come into play. IIRC, there was also an adjacent
outlet? I'd suspect the feed came from that direction and then went to
the light and on to the whatever the others power w/ one sidetrack to
the switch for the light. But, if the reds are dead, something else
must not be working, too???? If not, that still makes me wonder their
real purpose might be undiscovered and something different than you're
thinking...like another switch.
I don't have any further ideas on how to diagnose this from afar,
sorry...maybe someone else lurking will take a stab at it. Good luck,
I'm sorry, my intentions were not to offend. Yes, those 2 black wires
seem to be 2 separate black wires as far as i can see, unless i rip up
the jamb where its installed, and the same goes for the red wires.
There are adjacent outlets on this circuit in the kitchen ( 2 ) and
they work perfectly and check out fine with the light tester. Thanks
for your input, and Happy New Year:)
Thinking about this some more last night... :)
Had two thoughts--
First, have you checked to make sure you didn't trip a breaker when you
previously hooked the white to one of the colored wires? (I don't
recall now for absolute certain, but seems you had first noted
connecting a white to either a red or black which really sounds wrong
unless it was the switch return but then it should be the hot side of
the light, not a feed). If so, perhaps the feed isn't hot while you're
testing because the breaker is still off. That's one thing to at least
Second, in general, the feed should be hot irrespective of the position
of any switch(es). So, first step is to probe until you find it, then
work logically to what the other wires must serve and discern the
layout. At the switch, if it is indeed only a single-throw, there
should be only two terminals and typically, a two-conductor romex would
come from the light. That's where the "white as hot that should be
marked" comes from--the black hot on one terminal and the white as the
hot return (should be marked as hot at the ends by code). It still
isn't possible to tell unequivocally whether that or some other
configuration is what you have at the switch. If the feed were from
the switch itself, then the hot would be "broken" by the switch and two
ends of the same conductor would be on the terminals and the white
would go straight through to the fixture. But, in that case, that
would have to be the terminus feed for that circuit branch as anything
beyond that point will be switched. So in this case, the feed has to
be from somewhere else.
If there is a second unbroken black through this box, that would be a
likely candidate as a feed, certainly. But, both of those blacks
should have their corresponding neutrals or whites with them and you're
not clear about that.
Hopefully those will be some things to use to help you work through it
logically and figure out what was done. Of course, it is also possible
if improbable you might have had some coincident failure or in messing
around with the wiring caused a existing loose connection somewhere to
finally open and that the actual source of the confusion/consternation
I keep coming back to the unpowered reds that have to be hooked to
something else that's not working that should be a useful clue...
Again, if you have a hand B-I-L or neighbor or other buddy, might be
time to try to call in some favors... :)
If these overhead reds are not hot, then whatever they're feeding (or
fed from) isn't
This is an old house and romex wasn't available at the time. its the
old BX cable. I did nothing to either area of those wires...just
exposed the the wires so I could test them with a light tester. There
are definitely no other wires in view either in the switch area or the
ceiling...2 reds there and 2 blacks at the switch. Maybe when it was
setup originally, whoever did it either forgot to paint one of those
wires white or did not know about it. It could of been done by a
previous owner who may of been limited in knowledge of this. With the
power on, I do get a light, on the black wire at the switch, but not at
the 2 reds in ceiling. Maybe something has to be hooked up to those 2
red wires ( such as the globe that was there before ) in order to make
contact...after all it worked before with this setup.
As Goedjin says, there must be intermediate junction between switch
and fixture. Possible you pulled a wire loose from its other terminus
when you removed old fixture. But if you're sure _both_ black wires at
switch have power in on position (indicating switch is good) , then
you're going to have to find that other junction- possibly feed
through at nearby recep.
If this is old BX, you may also have broken a brittle wire within
the cable- not a pleasant possibility.
Eureeka! It is working just fine. I do not know why I didn't think of
this sooner, but today I decided to attach a bulb with 2 plain wires to
the 2 red wires in the ceiling, turned on the power, than the switch,
and it lit up like i said it had in the past...so all the doubts of
that were mentioned in this thread, although welcomed, were for naught.
I don't really know if any who responded to my original post were
experience electricians or just guessing...I was hoping it would be the
I am an experienced electrician and what you may have there is a Carter
system three way switch set. It's use in new construction is a code
violation because it reverses the polarity of the Edison based socket
during normal use. Use care when changing the bulbs in those lights as
the screw shell of the fixture and the screw threads of any bulb being
screwed into or out of it may be hot at 120 volts relative to the
exterior metal parts of that same fixture with the switches in two of
their four possible settings. That means that with any part of your
body in contact with both the light bulb threads and some other part of
the fixture you could receive a painful and dangerous shock.
Well we aren\'t no thin blue heroes and yet we aren\'t no blackguards to.
in my original post...I had a kitchen globe fixture that came with the house and
i disliked. At that time, it did work flawlessly, with the switch being the
"pushbutton type". I personally removed the fixture with the power off. The
globe was a hanging one with its 2 wires attached to the 2 red wires of the
ceiling, encompasses in ornamental chains. Now, when I removed the pushbutton
switch, it only exposed those 2 black wires...no others in sight and its from a
BX cable. Like I said prior, the ceiling only showed 2 red wires. I recently
took that same fixture without the globe and the chains and put another bulb in
the socket and attached it to the 2 red wires. Put the power on and it worked as
before. Would it not be obvious in the switch box show some indication that it
was, as you called it a "Carter system 3 way switch other than the 2 exposed
black wires? Also, as you suggested, the risk would still come into play with
the power off ...touching the light bulb threads?
For it to be a Carter System the switches would have to be what north
Americans call three way and our UK brethren call two way. These have
three terminals on the body of the switch in addition to any ground
terminals that are on the mounting yoke or strap. How many terminals
are on each switch?
When you ask "Also, as you suggested, the risk would still come into
play with the power off ...touching the light bulb threads?" the answer
depends on what you mean by "with the power off". If you remove the
fuse or operate the circuit breaker to it's off position AND the circuit
is not cross connected to another circuit then no there is no hazard.
But if you mean to manipulate the switches until the light is out then
yes there is a hazard because in two of the four possible settings of
the two three way switches of a carter system two point switching system
the screw threads of the light socket are hot at 120 volts to ground.
Since the only reason that you would be unscrewing the light bulb is
that the bulb is not functioning you will have no way of knowing which
switch position of the four is likely to leave the socket deenergized on
both it's screw threads and its center contact.
"This alternating current stuff is just a fad. It is much too dangerous
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