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Jason
Jason, Service Technician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 4246
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience in all types of installations, troubleshooting, and repairs.
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None of the bulbs in our dining room chandelier are working.

Customer Question

None of the bulbs in our dining room chandelier are working. I have a voltage tester and can see there is power getting to all the bulb sockets. I replaced the dimmer to be sure that wasn't the issue and replaced one of the light bulbs although I can see filaments are intact.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Electrical
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.

Hello. Welcome to Just Answer.

Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.

Are you using a non contact voltage detector?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for the additional information. With that type of tester, you can't really determine the integrity of the house's neutral (white) wire connection to the fixture's neutral wire. Most likely, you have a loose neutral in the ceiling box above the chandelier.

Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.

This would be the splice where the house's white wire ties to the fixture wire.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
It's an old house. There are two wires. Both are black The wire nuts are very tight. Still no light.
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.

In that case, I would check the light switch box, to see if the neutral is spliced there. If it is, verify the integrity of that splice. If it isn't, you'll need to open nearby boxes, to look for the loose neutral.

Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.

Just to make sure it isn't a bad splice within the fixture itself, it wouldn't be a bad idea to connect something else to the ceiling wires temporarily. If there's good power there, the problem is inside of the chandelier. Somewhere within that fixture, the wires have to branch out to go to each bulb socket.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
All the wire nuts in switch box are tight and the wires I can see look good - just old. I will see if I can hook up a new fixture. Getting the chandelier down is going to take some time
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.

OK. If you think you would use a meter in the future, rather than just for this issue, you can get one for about $20 or so at your local home improvement store. It may be easier to go that route than to take the fixture down. You could take a meter reading with the chandelier still in place.

Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.

I would be happy to post a product link for a suitable meter, if you would like me to do so.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Ok. Please do. I can run out to lowes
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.

Sure, one moment while I pull up a good choice for you.

Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.

I like this kit because you can't beat the price for what's included...

http://www.lowes.com/pd_464***-***-****5K___?productId=50125855&pl=1&Ntt=digital+volt+meter

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Just tested ... No voltage at the switch box I checked another switch box and got 120V so I know the multimeter is working and I used it right. So there must be something lose between the swiarch box and breaker. What next?
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.

The next steps will involve some guess work, unfortunately. You will need to open nearby boxes to look for the loose connection. If you can find the right circuit breaker for the affected circuit, you can identify nearby boxes that are on the same circuit, and limit your troubleshooting to those boxes.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Yeah, I don't know the breaker but there is an outlet in the other side of the wall that seems like a likely suspect.
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.

That's probably a pretty good place to start.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
There are no connections passing through that box and it has newer wiring.
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.

In that case, I would just keep opening nearby boxes. On any outlets that have the wires poked into the holes on the back, I would redo the connections using the side screws.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
You know, I already opened all the breakers for the boxes around this fixture and I still detected voltage at the switch box. I never detected voltage at an outlet when the breaker for it was open. Do you think this means it is on its own circuit but I could not find it? This room is right above the basement which is where the breaker box is
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.

I would use the non contact tester and put it in the switch box for the nonworking fixture. Have an assistant turn each breaker off, one at a time, until you find the one for that circuit.

Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.

Then, take note of which boxes aren't live when ONLY that breaker is off.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I found the circuit. The other boxes are all upstairs. All of the outlets and switches are working.
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.

In that case, it could be a broken wire between two boxes. That's pretty rare, but it does happen. You would need to try to trace the wire backwards from the box where you know the wire isn't functional. I believe you said that's the wall switch box. If you have electrical wholesale suppliers in your area, they may be willing to rent you a circuit tracer. Ideally, you would use one at this point to follow the wire backwards from the nonworking box, toward the previous boxes on the circuit that it goes into. If it is a broken wire, you would need to replace it between those two boxes. Those two boxes should basically straddle the break in the wire.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I think the non-working switch box is the closest to the breaker. So am I looking for a break between the breaker and the switch box? Why do all the other outlets and switches past the non-working switch box work if they are further along the circuit?
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.

I think the working devices are between the breaker and the nonworking switch box. They have to be, or they wouldn't work. The power isn't making it to that box, so it can't possibly be making it beyond that box.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
That makes sense. I have a tone generator and tracer probe that I have used on low voltage wires (cat 5 and phone line). Will that work on these wires?
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.

A tone generator for low voltage wiring should work fine. Just make sure the breaker is off, so you don't apply an overvoltage to your toning equipment.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I finally had time to hook up the tone generator. I get clear tones at all of the upstairs outlets & switch boxes and at the circuit breaker. This is with both leads connected. Is there a way to test each wire individually?
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.

You would have to disconnect the wires from each other at all boxes on the affected circuit. In other words, go into each box that you have determined to be on the problem circuit, and disconnect all white groups and all black groups. If you do this, I would first make a sketch of each box, detailing exactly how each wire is connected. Also, if you find any wires connected to outlets or switches via the small push-in holes on the back, I would redo the connections using the screws on the sides of the devices.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
What is the next step after disconnecting everything?
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.

Tone each wire at each box, to see where it goes at the opposite end. I would make a sketch of the circuit based on what the toner tells me.

Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.

Once you know how the wire is routed in the walls, you will most likely be able to determine whether there is a break in the wire between two boxes. If so, that section of wire will need to be replaced. That scenario is pretty rare, but it does happen. Far more often, the opening in the circuit is in a box. So typically, you would not need to rerun any wire, nor open any drywall.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Ok. So I am opening up all the switch and outlet boxes to look for loose connections. On the switch boxes, they each have only one white wire and two black wires. On one of them there is a white jumper connecting the two white side terminals. The other switch does not have this. Is this meaningful? All the connections everywhere are tight.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Each of those switch boxes has two switches so does that mean the power is run directly to the fixtures?
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.

In any switch box that does not have a splice of at least 2 white wires, the power for the fixture most likely goes to the fixture first, and is then intercepted on a black/white set, routed down to the switch on white, and back up to the fixture on black. The source neutral from the circuit would be connected directly to the fixture at the ceiling box. The white at the switch should be constantly live, and the black at the switch should be a switched hot... only live when the switch is ON. This also means that there would be a splice in the fixture box of black to white, which allows the constantly hot black wire from the circuit to get down to feed the switch.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Ok, so the problem must be in the fixture box that feeds the dining room switch box or in a wire between them, right?
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.

Yes, based on the symptoms the circuit is displaying, I would agree with you. Since the circuit seems to go into fixtures first, rather than switches first, I would check inside nearby light fixtures for a loose wire. You can determine which lights are on that circuit by turning all switches on and then dropping out the breaker.

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