The ceiling lights in all my house's bedroom and bathrooms suddenly
did not work. However, all the AC 110V plug outlets do work fine. I
checked the circuit breakers shutting them off then on again several
times, but that did not fix the problems. Short of hiring an
expensive electrician, what can I do to fix the problem? Also, how
much does an electrician charge and how long would it take to fix the
problem? My preferred method is to fix it myself. Any help is
It is a simple matter of testing everything and seeing where the problem is.
Some device or cable has voltage on one side and not on the other. Find
that, and you have found the problem. (I suppose a simpler first step might
be to check everything for loose wires; you might get lucky and find one.)
If this isn't clear, then you had better hire an electrician. Could take 5
minutes, could take 5 hours; depends on what the problem is and how lucky he
If you really want to do electrical work buy a simple volt meter from Radio
Shack for $40 then learn how to use it. I would also run to the borg and
pick a basic primer on home electrical wiring. You might even want to create
a mock up of a light circuit on a piece of plywood using a boxes, a switch,
a socket, 14/3 or 14/4 wiring and use a standard outlet to plug it into the
wall if you really want to visualize how a basic light circuit works. They
can be deceptivly complicated when you start adding switches additional
lights, plugs etc.
Nope. Read the OP again. His outlets work, and the lights don't. Not common
practice to wire a house so that the lights are GFCI-protected and the outlets
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
How come we choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss
Agreed. If there are a small number of lights, it seems likely to me that
there is a faulty breaker or one which has not been fully reset. Some
breakers do not reset by simply moving from off to on but require a further
movement in the off direction first.
george email@example.com (GSB) wrote in
Chances are that the lights are on a seperate curcuit and that'why
they're out but the outlets still work. You'll need to test the breakers
for a bad unit. With a voltage tester place the red probe on the screw
where the wire leading away from the breaker is connected. Be very
careful however. This is electrically hot. Place the black probe of the
tested on the neutral bar where all the white wires are hooked up. Make
sure the tester is set to VOLTAGE and not ohms. With that breaker on,
you should show around 110V. If it doesn't, you have a bad breakers.
Replace it. If it shows voltage, your problem is further down the
circuit. It could be in a junction box somewhere in the house where
perhaps some wire nuts have come loose of the wires have eroded away to
the degree that they've become disconnected. Seen that numerous times by
the way. The neutral (or white) wire can cause this too if it's
disconnected for some reason as mentioned above. But be aware that if
it's a neutral that's gone bad, you'll still have hot power feeding that
system and you can become the ground then.
The other guys are right though. Get a competant electrician in there
soon in case it is a case of a shorted or partially open line wire. I'd
rather see you do that than go too far in finding it and hurt yourself.
Electrical problems are not for amatuers. They can and have been deadly
to even the most experienced people.
The cost for a good electrician varies from one locale to another and
it's impossible to estimate the cost via the internet.
It is not uncommon for a lightbulb to burn out with a "tungsten arc"
effect which can pull enough current to throw a circuit breaker. That
usually is signaled by a blinding white flash when the bulb is switched
on, then darkness.
Are the circuit breakers in your home's panel identified as to which
circuits they control?
If not, you should have taken the time to do that long before you had a
Narrow things down by finding out what each of the breakers in your
home's panel controls. Use a radio turned up loud plugged into the
outlets all over the house and have someone observe the lights and
appliances while you flip the breakers off and on one at a time until
you've mapped your whole breaker panel and marked each breaker with its
If you establish that every single breaker is turning something in the
house off and on when it's operated, then you're in for a merry chase,
as there's a wire come disconnected somewhere between the breaker panel
and the switches for those ceiling lights which aren't working anymore.
If that's the case, you probably should hire an electrician, as they're
familiar with the way wiring is typically run through house construction
and also have test equipment which can inject a radio frequency signal
onto a wire and allow them to track its path through the house. There
are other ways of finding out where the break is of course, but it'd
take too long to teach you all that here.
If you narrow it down to just one breaker which doesn't appear to
control anything, you'll have a better chance of finding out what's gone
If you don't have a meter or a test lamp, you can use an old table lamp
for a tester by cutting the plug off the end of the cord, splitting the
cord back a foot or so and stripping about 1/8" of insulation from the
ends of the two wires. Turn the lamp switch "on" and touch one of the
wire ends to the neutral bar in your breaker panel. (That's the silver
or copper colored bar with a whole bunch of white wires connected to it,
you'll have to remove the inner cover of the breaker panel to access
it.) Touch the other wire end to the screw on the breaker. If the lamp
lights, the breaker is ok, and you're back to that merry chase again.
As others have told you, electrocution is a long term solution to a
short term problem, so keep your cotton picking fingers away from
anything metallic in that breaker box while you're doing that. Touch
only the insulated parts of the lamp wires.
If the lamp doesn't light, and you're sure you've pushed the breaker
handle all the way in the "off" direction before moving it back to "on",
then you probably do have a bad breaker, so take it out, get another of
the same type and rating and install the new one. Make damn sure you
turn off the main circuit breaker before doing that.
Good luck, and take care that you don't become a statistic,
Jeff Wisnia (W1BSV + Brass Rat '57 EE)
"My luck is so bad that if I bought a cemetery, people would stop dying."
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