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Kevin
Kevin, Licensed Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 1063
Experience:  27 years as a Licensed Electrical Contractor in Illinois, 5 year college Electrical Instructor, Former Electrical Inspector, Diploma in Digital Electronics, Former Illinois Licensed Home Inspector
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I installed a new light fixture. Initially, the wall switch

Customer Question

I installed a new light fixture. Initially, the wall switch would not operate the light. It stayed on constantly. I pulled the wall switch out to 'just' look at it. Now, the wall switch is snapping the circuit breaker. What have I done wrong?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Electrical
Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

Hello.....my name is XXXXX XXXXX I will be happy to assist you with your electrical question. My goal is to excede your expectations on Just Answer!

 

1) Can you provide me with the wire colors in the ceiling box that the light fixture is connected to?

 

2) What type of wall switch do you have? Is this a single pole switch or a 3-way switch that can control the light in more than one location?

 

3) What are the wire colors connected to the switch?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

the ceiling box has black, cream(probably white when installed) and red


a single pole switch


 


the switch wires are black, cream and brass

Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

1) Is the light fixture connected to the black or red wire in the ceiling box?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.


black to black, white to 'cream' but I also have a single red wire

Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

1) So with black to black and white to white, the switch does not work and the light won't turn OFF, correct?

 

2) Does the red wire also appear in the wall switch box or do you only have black and white in the switch box?

 

3) Any chance you have a 2-prong AC voltage tester or an AC voltmeter?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

1. correct but the switch tripping the circuit breaker is new


2. red wire in ceiling only. none in the wall


3. I have a voltage tester


 


 

Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

1) OK, very good, thanks for the replies. We need to identify the hot wire that feeds the switch as well as the return wire going from the switch up to the ceiling box. Refer to the attached diagram to assist you on how a single pole switch is wired to a light.

graphic

2) Temporarily disconnect the light fixture and keep the ceiling wires separated so they don't short out.

 

3) Back out the switch, but do not disconnect the switch wires. Turn the breaker to ON. Place 1 probe on the black wire on the brass switch screw and the 2nd probe on the bare copper wire. Let me know if you get 120 volts. If not, place 1 probe to the white wire on the switch and the 2nd probe to the bare copper wire. Let me know if you get 120 volts on that reading. While doing this, turn the switch ON & OFF to determine which color wire is controleld by the switch.

 

4) At the ceiling box with the breaker still ON, place 1 probe to black and 2nd probe to white. Place 1 probe to red and 2nd probe to white. Place 1 probe to white and 2nd probe to a bare copper wire. Let me know the voltages.

Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.
1) Also while measuring at the ceiling, turn the switch ON & OFF to determine which color wire is the switched loop coming from the wall switch.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

the switch trips the circuit breaker!


I failed to mention that after taking the switch out of the wall, I removed electrical tape that was wrapped around the connections

Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

1) OK, let's temporarily de-install the switch. Turn the breaker OFF. Remove the switch wires. Turn the breaker back ON and measure the voltages at black to bare copper and from white to bare copper within the wall box. One of those wires needs to be the hot feed from the breaker. Once you measure voltage on either one of them, turn the breaker to OFF and re-measure to confirm which color wire is the hot feed from the breaker.

 

It is also possible that the hot feed originates in the ceiling box and not in the wall switch box. Measure the voltages at the ceiling with the wall switch removed. When doing this, make sure the wall switch wires do not touch anything.

 

2) Was the red ceiling wire connected to any other bundles of wires in the ceiling or was it just capped off with a wire-nut?

Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.
1) Is it possible for you to send me a picture of the wall switch box with the switch backed out or removed as well as a picture of the ceiling box?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.


I lost my Internet connection when I tripped the circuit breaker.


 


I made a mistake about the switch. there are 2 switches in different locations to turn the light on


 


I couldn't remove the wires without cutting them. it's a push in connection. Loosening the screws did not help.


I'm not able to download pictures at this time. Connection issues between work computer and home computer.

Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

1) OK, that makes a difference then as you have (2) two 3-way switches installed and not a single pole switch.

 

2) You will need to turn the breaker to OFF. Back out both switches from the wall. Since you don't have screws on the switch, visually look at the connection or wire that is separated from the other 2 wires. The lone wire will either be the hot circuit feed or it will be the switched loop return wire going to the ceiling box. The other 2 wires that are closer together are the traveler wires and those are connected to each of the 3-way switches. One of the 3-ways has the hot feed and the other 3-way has the switched return loop going to the ceiling.

 

2A) You need to determine which of these 3-ways has the switched loop return wire going to the ceiling box. I'm guessing it may be the red wire since the wall box you opened did not have a red wire inside it. Check the 2nd 3-way switch box and confirm if there is a red wire that is a lone wire connected to the 3-way. If you find that this 3-way has 1 lone red wire connected to it, then with the breaker OFF, connect the red ceiling wire to the hot fixture wire (most likely black) and the white neutral fixture wire to the ceiling lights. Turn the breaker back ON and let me know if this works.

 

3) Refer to the attached diagram for 3-way switching.

graphic

Customer: replied 1 year ago.


thanks for your help. unfortunately, I need to leave and can't continue with this project.


one more question. what might be the reason for the switch tripping the circuit breaker

Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

1) No problem, you can return to the question at your convenience and reply back.

 

2) The breaker is tripping due to a short. Most likely one of the wires connected to the switch is the incorrect wire or an incorrect wire in the ceiling box.

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