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Kevin, Licensed Electrical Contractor
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 3544
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 a fan and two fluorescent lights and all are wired to

Customer Question

I have a fan and two fluorescent lights and all are wired to a three way switch. I'm keeping the fan but replacing the flourescent with regular ceiling fixtures. I took the flourescent down which is in the middle of the run and the light had a white and black wire in a connector with the wires from the box going in the other end of the connector, it appears white to white and red and black from the ceiling to the black. There is also a gray from the box that wasn't used or capped. Not sure what to do with the red wire when connecting the new fixture.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Electrical
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago. name is ***** ***** I will be happy to assist you with your electrical question. My goal is to exceed your expectations on Just Answer!
1) Can you turn the circuit breaker to the OFF position and temporarily back out each of the 3-way switches from their respective wall boxes but do not disconnect any wires. At each 3-way switch, take a look at the black screw which will be the Common terminal. What is the wire color at the black screw terminal on each of the 3-ways?
2) How many house wires and the wire colors at the light fixture boxes? Also at each of the light boxes, what groups of wire colors are spliced to each other?
3) Do you have an AC voltmeter available?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
The two switches have 1 screw on the top left side and 2 on the right. One on of the switches the black screw is on the bottom right and the black wire connects to it. On the other switch the screws are in the same order but it's difficult to distinguish a color. The bottom right on it I assume is the black screw like on the other but on this one the white wire connects to it. A black and white wire come into the ceiling box from one and a black, white and red come in from another and another black and white come in from a third. AC voltmeter, not sure, I have an outlet tester and dread using it!
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago.
Thanks for the replies.
1) Based on the 3-way wiring, it sounds like the switch that has the white wire is the hot circuit feed and the other 3-way with the black wire terminated to the black screw should be the switched loop wire that extends out to the ceiling boxes. This needs to be confirmed with the volt meter.
2) Set the meter to the AC setting and the 200 volt range. Leave the two 3-ways backed out from the box, but don't disconnect any wires. At the 3-way with the white wire, place 1 meter probe to the white wire screw terminal and the other meter probe to a bare copper ground wire. Now toggle both 3-ways ON and OFF, you should measure a constant 120 volts on the white wire. If so, this switch is the constant hot circuit feed and the other 3-way switch that has the black wire is the switched loop wire.
You can also confirm the opposite at the 3-way switch with the black wire. Repeat the same voltage test. Toggle both 3-ways ON/OFF. If you measure 120 volts on the 3 way with the black wire and the voltage goes from 120 volts to 0 volts when toggling ON to OFF, then this confirms that the black wire is the switched loop wire.
3) At the box that contains the black, red, and white, were the black and red spliced together using the plastic wire connector? Is this box where the fan is installed or is this box the old fluorescent light?
Any idea where the red wire terminates to at the other end? Possibly inside the fan box or is for some downstream receptacles?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I don't have a voltage meter, the three sets of wires that I described were all in the middle of the run and a white, red and black are bare and were connected to the light, another red and black are connected. The fan is at the beginning of the run, after I took the middle light down and turned the power back on the fan still gets power and works but the light at the end of the run doesn't.
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago.
1) So the middle box contained the following splices: Is this correct?
A) The light fixture black wire was spliced to the house red & black. The white house neutral was spliced to the light fixture white neutral.
B) The light fixture box also contained a separate red and black that were spliced together? Is this correct?
2) Any chance that you can borrow a meter from a neighbor or a friend? If not, you can purchase a meter at any Home Depot or Lowe's for under $25. We need a meter to confirm the wires?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I'm going to connect the white to the white and the black to the red and black, spent $16 here to avoid paying someone, don't want to spend another $25
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago.
I understand that.
Although, keep in mind, that whenever performing electrical work, an AC voltmeter is typically required and should be readily available to confirm the functionality of the wires inside any electrical box. If no meter available, it then can become a time consuming guessing game as to which wires are hot, or neutral or a switched loop.

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