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Kevin
Kevin, Licensed Electrical Contractor
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 3397
Experience:  30 years Licensed Electrical Contractor in Illinois, Adjunct College Electrical Instructor, Former Electrical Inspector, Diploma: Digital Electronics, FCC Technician License
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I have 7 recessed lights in the ceiling in the kitchen. They

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I have 7 recessed lights in the ceiling in the kitchen. They are turned on by a wall switch. Three of them just went out. I replaced the bulbs and it did not fix it. I flipped breakers and it did not fix it. Also, the light over the sink, which is controlled by a different wall switch is not working as well. I checked the wall switch and it has power to it. I took down the lights that were not working and checked the connections and they look fine. What could it be?
JA: I'll do all I can to help. How long have you been dealing with this?
Customer: An hour
JA: Do you plan on doing the work yourself?
Customer: I'd like to
JA: Anything else we should know to help you best?
Customer: I have been flipping GFI plugs just in case and it hasn't done anything

Hello and welcome to Just Answer. My name is ***** ***** I will be happy to assist you with your electrical question.

1) Sounds like either a loose wire termination or a faulty splice to me. Double check the wire nut splices and/or wall switch terminations.

2) Do you have either a 2 wire lead AC voltage tester ( a contact type) or a multi-meter available to confirm the voltage?

Customer: replied 9 months ago.
I have a 2 wire lead AC voltage tester and the wall switches show the correct voltage. The lights that are not working do not register at all.

1) Where are you measuring voltage? At the switch out put (switched loop) or at the light splice box?

Customer: replied 9 months ago.
This should not have anything to do with it, but it is coincidental. The other day a plug in the bedroom went out and it was connected to the shower light and exhaust fan. I checked the plug and a wire was loose and came out of a wire nut. I put the wire (black hot) back into the wire nut and taped it tight with electrical tape. Everything that was not working in the bedroom started working again and has been working ever since. The current problem just came up. They can't be related, correct? By the way, I checked the voltage at the switch and up in each box.

1) Shouldn't be related unless the kitchen and bedroom were wired using a shared neutral circuit. If a shared neutral and a faulty neutral termination, then this would effect the problem. The kitchen and bedrooms should reside on separate breakers, unless it is wired as a shared neutral circuit.

2) Measure for 120 volts on the out put of the switch. 120 V when the switch is ON and 0 volts when the switch is OFF.

3) If the switch is measuring 120 volts on the out put and in the ON position, then measure for 120 volts from the center tab of the can light to the threaded portion of the can light bulb connection. The middle tab in the light fixture is the hot. The threaded portion where the bulb screws into is the neutral connection. If no 120 volts measured at the bulb socket when the switch is in the ON position, then a faulty or loose splice in the junction box or upstream of the junction box.

Customer: replied 9 months ago.
Okay, the switch is 120 in the on position and 0 in the off. The lights do not register at all, but everything everywhere else is working. The plug and lights in the bedroom and the kitchen lights are on different breakers. Could it still be that loose wire from the other day? I can shut everything off and re-do the wire nut in the bedroom.

1) You need to confirm if the 2 circuits were configured as a shared neutral circuit inside the main electrical panel.

2) H to N should measure 120 volts

3) H to G should also measure 120 volts.

4) N to G should measure 0 volts or very close to 0 volts.

5) If H to G is good, but 0 volts from H to N, then the problem is an open neutral.

Customer: replied 9 months ago.
I shut everything off and twisted those wires that were loose in the bedroom and put a new wire nut on. It is definitely a good connection now. Everything is working fine in the bedroom, but I still have the lights out in the kitchen. When you say check H to N and so forth, are you talking about at the wall switch? I am thinking the bedroom and kitchen are two separate issues. Wouldn't all the recessed lights be out? Four of them are still on.

1) Yes, at the wall switch and/or at the lights.

2) The lights are wired in a parallel fashion. You can have "X" number of lights working and "X" number of lights that are dead. If all of the lights reside on the same circuit, then this indicates a faulty splice or termination somewhere along the circuit path. All depends upon how the lights were originally wired. Thus the reason to have a voltmeter to isolate and eliminate the problem along each termination or splice on the circuit path.

Can't take a guess as to where the problem resides. Need a voltmeter to take measurements along the path and confirm where a loose wire resides. If you don't have a voltmeter, simply put, it becomes a time consuming guessing game and you are wasting time on locating and correcting the problem.

Simple as that. Get a meter and start isolating the circuit. With a little bit of time and patience, you will eventually locate the problem.

Keep in mind that problems of this nature are not always a quick and easy 5 minute fix as this can take hours to locate, isolate and correct the problem.

If you have any additional questions, just let me know and I’ll be glad to answer them for you.

Otherwise, don’t forget to rate me before you log Off.

Thanks..............Kevin:)

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1) Yes, at the wall switch and/or at the lights.

2) The lights are wired in a parallel fashion. You can have "X" number of lights working and "X" number of lights that are dead. If all of the lights reside on the same circuit, then this indicates a faulty splice or termination somewhere along the circuit path. All depends upon how the lights were originally wired. Thus the reason to have a voltmeter to isolate and eliminate the problem along each termination or splice on the circuit path.

Can't take a guess as to where the problem resides. Need a voltmeter to take measurements along the path and confirm where a loose wire resides. If you don't have a voltmeter, simply put, it becomes a time consuming guessing game and you are wasting time on locating and correcting the problem.

Simple as that. Get a meter and start isolating the circuit. With a little bit of time and patience, you will eventually locate the problem.

Keep in mind that problems of this nature are not always a quick and easy 5 minute fix as this can take hours to locate, isolate and correct the problem.

If you have any additional questions, just let me know and I’ll be glad to answer them for you.

Otherwise, don’t forget to rate me before you log Off.

Thanks..............Kevin:)

If you have any additional questions, just let me know and I’ll be glad to answer them for you.

Otherwise, don’t forget to rate me before you log Off.

Thanks..............Kevin:)

If you have any additional questions, just let me know and I’ll be glad to answer them for you.

Otherwise, don’t forget to rate me before you log Off.

Thanks..............Kevin:)

Customer: replied 9 months ago.
Could it be the a bad receptacle in the first light that went out?

Yes, If power to the wall switch originated from an upstream receptacle, it is possible that a loose wire termination or a faulty splice resides in that receptacle. Thus the reason to always have a volt meter readily available whenever troubleshooting an electrical problem.

Customer: replied 9 months ago.
if the receptacle is bad in the first light that is out in the three that are out, it would make the next two in line not work as well? And they would all not register at all on a voltage meter?

1) All depends upon how the original electrician wired the lights and provided power to the switch and daisy chained the can lights. There are numerous options to route wire and not limited to any one specific method.

Customer: replied 9 months ago.
I have not had the time to continue to try and fix this problem due to my primary job and situations that have arose. I may have further questions when I get back to it here soon. Thanks..

No problem, just reply back to me with any questions.

Thanks..............Kevin:)

If you have any additional questions, just let me know and I’ll be glad to answer them for you.

Otherwise, don’t forget to rate me before you log Off.

Thanks.............Kevin:)

Kevin and 3 other Electrical Specialists are ready to help you

If you have any additional questions, just let me know and I’ll be glad to answer them for you.

Otherwise, don’t forget to rate me before you log Off.

Thanks................Kevin:)

If you have any additional questions, just let me know and I’ll be glad to answer them for you.

Otherwise, don’t forget to rate me before you log Off.

Thanks...............Kevin:)

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
Okay, I am finally able to get back to this problem. As it turns out, the light over the sink that is on a different switch is okay. It turned out to be the bulb. It is a special bulb that I had to find. Just thought they may be connected because they all went out at the same time. So, the easy is one is done. So, I have taken a meter and checked each canned light that is not working. I pulled down the receptacles and put the meter on the black and white and got nothing, black and the inside housing threads and got nothing. Do I take down all of the receptacles and do this, or just the next one that is working? Just to verify, is Black and White H to N? And Black and inside threads H to G? And White and inside threads N to G?

Thanks for the replies.

1) Then somewhere in the circuit, you have an open hot wire either due to a faulty splice or termination.

2_ Yes black to white should measure 120 volts and black to ground should also measure 120 volts. N to G should measure 0 volts or very close to 0 volts.

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
I may not have mentioned this, but there are two switches in the kitchen that control those lights. I just checked the other switch and H to G is good, but H to N did not register. The red would be the three way, correct?
Customer: replied 8 months ago.
Okay, I checked the other switch and the H to N does not register either. The H to G does 120 on both and N to G is 0.
Customer: replied 8 months ago.
I am sorry, I said that wrong N to G is also 120 on both.
Customer: replied 8 months ago.
Also, remember the switch in the bedroom that I made sure the hot connection was good and everything that was out back there came on. Well, I pulled the plug out again today just to see if everything was still connected good and noticed that the ground wire was never connected to the plug. Not just from when I connected the hot back, but from when it was installed originally. Is this a problem?
Customer: replied 8 months ago.
The plug is a three prong plug, but the ground wire is not connected and is barely coming out of the wire insulation.

1) An N to G measurement of 120 volts indicates either an open neutral or a loose neutral termination. Should be 0 volts.

2) Only H to G and H to N should measure 120 volts.

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
Could that have potentially been caused by me adding that loose hot wire into the wire nut in the bed room? Or, does it have to be a loose white wire situation?

1) Possibly........all depends upon the voltage measurements.

If H to N measure 120, but H to G do not, then a hot wire issue.

If H to N don't measure 120, but H to G measures 120, then a neutral issue.

2) If a ground wire is present, metal boxes and/or devices need to be grounded.

3) Based on your measurements, sounds like a neutral issue to me. N to G should measure 0 volts or close to it.

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
These measurements that you are talking about, are they for the plug in the bedroom? Because that one does not have a connected ground wire.

1) The voltage measurements are applicable for any 120 volt load. Doesn't matter if a light fixture or a wall receptacle.

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
Sorry, my question is if I am using the meter on the plug in the bedroom and the ground wire is not connected to the outlet, how do I measure N to G and H to G?

1) If a ground wire is present in the box, place 1 meter probe to a hot wire and the 2nd meter probe to the bare ground wire. If no voltage measured from H to G, then either an open Hot or an open Ground upstream of that wall box.

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
Okay, when you say open, you mean not connected to that outlet or switch or receptacle, correct? That is what the situation is in the bedroom outlet. The ground is not connected to the outlet.

Open means either not terminated to a device or not properly spliced (loose splice)

1) If the lighting switch is a single pole, 1 of the wires will always be live whether the switch is ON or OFF. The 2nd switch wire will only be live when the switch is ON. If measuring 120 volts at the switch but the lights don't work, then the problem is an open or loose connection downstream from the switch........ie.......problem is at either another junction box or at a can light junction box.

2) If 0 volts on either of the 2 wall switch wires, then the problem is an open hot upstream of the switch. Gotta have a hot wire to feed a single pole wall switch. Will either be always live or dead on 1 of the 2 wires.

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
When you say 0 volts at either of the two wall switches, on which measurements?

If the switch is a single pole switch and the lights can only be turned ON or OFF by 1 switch, then the switch is a single pole type. A single pole switch has 2 wire terminations....ie........ 1 wire is always hot and the 2nd wire is the switched loop wire extending from the switch to the lights.

1 wire will always have 120 volts to N or to G whether the switch is ON or OFF. The other wire will only have 120 volts from N or to G when the switch is in the ON position.

A single pole switch can also be confirmed if OK with either an Ohm meter or a continuity tester.

See basic single pole switch diagram shown below:

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
The switch that I just checked had 120 volts H to G and N to G and nothing H to N with the switch on. With the switch off, it was no volts for H to G and H to N, and 120 volts N to G.

You have an open neutral upstream of the switch.

N to G should only measure 0 volts or at best, ***** ***** 2 volts if a lengthy circuit run.

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
When you say upstream, are you talking about the lights that it is feeding or before it gets to the switch.

1) Upstream from a device = towards the electrical panel.

2) Downstream from a device = away from the electrical panel or to other devices that are wired further away from the originating device.

Upstream and downstream are just like a river. Start at 1 point and you are either upstream or downstream from the starting point. Rivers only flow in 1 direction, just like an electrical circuit.

Switches feed lights via a hot wire and a switched loop wire. The lighting neutral can tandem thru the switch box or be directly run to the light fixture box. All depends upon how the original electrical installed the circuit. Both are code compliant.

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
I'll pick this up tomorrow. But if there is a room over where the recessed lighting is instead of attic space, how do you get to the junction boxes?

1) Can light junction boxes can either be accessed in the attic (easier access) or from underneath. If underneath access only, the interior can housing needs to be removed (interior screws) and dropped to gain access to the can junction box. This has a very limited amount of space to work with if inspecting or splicing wires from the underneath.

2) If the can lights are the remodel type, then much easier to drop the entire can light housing, junction box and all.

1) Another option is to use a 3 wire (3 prong) extension cord from another known working circuit and compare the hot, neutral from the extension cord circuit to the can lighting circuit. This troubleshooting method can easily confirm if an open hot or an open neutral exists when using a multi-meter.

2) The extension cord method can be used at each can light to confirm which conductor is the cause of the problem and the location of the problem by isolating the lights.

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
I'm not following you. Plug a 3 prong extension cord into a different circuit and put a meter to the cord?

1) Use the 3 prong cord and compare it's hot and neutral to the lighting circuit hot and neutral by using a multi-meter. An electrician's secret to troubleshooting and confirming which wire in the lighting circuit is causing the problem:)

Yes, insert 1 meter probe to the female cord hot or neutral and then place the 2nd meter probe to the light switched loop or neutral.

Will either be a hot or a neutral issue. However, based on your N to G measurements, it appears you have a neutral issue. The extension cord method can also confirm this.

Shown below is a diagram using a 3 prong extension cord to troubleshoot a dead wall receptacle. Whether it is a dead receptacle or dead lights, the concept is the same as you are looking to measure 120 volts. By using an extension cord, you can now use the other known working circuit hot and neutral for a comparison basis when measuring for voltage at the lighting switch and or can light wires.

1) At the can light sockets, the middle tab is the hot wire or switched loop connection. The interior threaded screw portion where the bulb screws into is the neutral connection. Use a meter and a 3 prong extension cord and no need to access junction boxes unless required. Quick and simple testing method to confirm 120 volts at each can light:)

2) Just make sure that you turn OFF the original can light breaker if using the extension cord test.

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
you plug an extension cord into a outlet on a known working circuit and you flip the breaker off to the canned lights. Then you put a meter probe in the hot on the extension cord and the other probe on the threaded part of the canned light receptacle. If no 120, then it's a neutral issue?

1) If the extension cord hot to the can light ground does not measure 120, then yes, you are correct, a neutral issue.

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
The threaded portion of the canned light receptacle is neutral or ground?

1) Threaded light bulb socket = neutral

2) Can metal housing = ground

3) Middle socket tab = hot or switched loop

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
I'll give it a shot in the morning. Thanks

No problem, let me know how you make out.

I won't be logged on tomorrow until later in the evening. So just reply back to me then...........Thanks...........Kevin:)

Here is another troubleshooting option using an audible continuity tester:

1) At the main electrical panel turn the branch circuit breaker to the OFF position, remove the hot wire from the breaker, remove the white neutral wire from the neutral bus bar and remove the bare copper ground wire from the neutral bus bar or from the equipment ground bar. Then obtain an audible continuity tester.

2) At the panel end, temporarily splice the hot and neutral wires together, then go to each can light socket with the wall switch in the ON position and confirm for H to N continuity.

3) You can also splice the panel hot and ground wire together and the panel neutral and ground wire together. Thus 3 different continuity tests. Then confirm for continuity at each can light socket.

One of these continuity tests will confirm if a loose or open wire at a can light fixture or at the wall switch.

1) H to N has continuity, but no continuity from H to G. Therefore an open ground

2) N to G has continuity, but no continuity from H to N. Therefore an open hot

3) H to G has continuity, but no continuity from N to G. Therefore an open neutral.

By temporarily splicing the 3 branch circuit conductors at the panel end and using a continuity tester, you have formed a combination series/parallel circuit or more commonly known as a closed loop circuit due to the temporary splices at the panel end.

Now you can confirm continuity anywhere along the entire circuit path, whether at receptacles, wall switches or light bulb sockets. Each device and/or lighting fixture must be confirmed using the continuity test. If you omit 1 box or light or junction box, then it is possible that all or only some loads will not have continuity. With a little bit of time and patience, you will eventually isolate and locate the problem. Conclusion will either be a faulty wire termination at a device or a faulty splice on a wire nut or a loose wire in a box where the circuit tandem thru at the branch circuit.

If the lighting circuit feed originates from a wall receptacle and the receptacle was wired using the back-stab inserts, those are a good culprit for improper terminations. Back-stab wired receptacles are notorious for coming loose. Devices should always be terminated to the device side screws and never to a back-stab insert hole. 1 loose wire is all it takes to cause problems such as this.

Shown in the link below is an excellent visual and audible continuity tester. I've used mine for years and works great. Easy to use.

http://www.homedepot.com/p/Extech-Instruments-Remote-and-Local-Continuity-Tester-CT20/205556931?cm_mmc=Shopping%7cTHD%7cG%7c0%7cG-VF-PLA-D27E-Electrical%7c&gclid=CPac7siA9c4CFdgLgQod6FAD0Q&gclsrc=aw.ds

Thank you for the positive service rating............much appreciated!

If you have any other questions, just let me know.

Take care and have a great day.............Thanks again............Kevin:)

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