Wire confusion


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.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
If the switch is off or removed there is no path for the current to reach the cieling. noel8 wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
noel8 wrote:

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.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
dpb wrote:

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.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
noel8 wrote:

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, anyway.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
dpb wrote:

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:)
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
noel8 wrote: ...

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 check.
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 is elsewhere.
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
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

SInce they don't make wires different colors at different ends, there must be either more wires than you're describing, or another box between the two points, or both.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Goedjn wrote:

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.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
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.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Sev wrote:

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 former.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
anthony wrote:

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.
--
Tom Horne

Well we aren\'t no thin blue heroes and yet we aren\'t no blackguards to.
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Thomas D. Horne, FF EMT wrote:

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?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
anthony wrote:

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.
--
Tom Horne

"This alternating current stuff is just a fad. It is much too dangerous
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

    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.