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Adding a light fixture to a switched circuit

I have a 1940s house, and I am adding light fixture to an upstairs bedroom. I am replacing a wall light fixture that was plugged into a switched outlet with a fixture that is hard wired. Currently the circuit is wired as follows:

The cable from the breaker panel goes to the outlet box, then a another cable goes from there to the wall switch. The switch is at the end of the circuit. The two black wires in the receptacle box are twisted together. I believe the white wire from the wall switch goes to the brass screw on the receptacle, and the white the wire from the breaker panel to the silver screw on the receptacle.

I installed the new fixture on the wall and ran a cable down to the receptacle box. (I do have access to the framing inside the wall, where the receptacle is, through a closet.) The problem is I can't figure out how to add the light fixture to the circuit.

As a test, the first thing I tried was (before I installed it) wiring the light fixture directly to the other two screws on the receptacle. When I turned the power back on and used the wall switch, the light when on and off like it should. But when I installed the fixture, ran the cable down inside the wall, and hooked it up the same way, the breaker immediately tripped when I tried to turn the power on. I double checked the wiring at the fixture and it looks right, black to black and white to white, nothing loose.

I tried to figure out another way to hook it up. I think at one point I had the black wire from the fixture connected to the silver screw on the receptacle, and the white wire connected to the white wire to the panel, and the wall switch operated the wall fixture, but only if I plugged a table lamp into the outlet and turned it on. When I turned out the table lamp, out went the wall light.

I'm really scratching my head over this one. I admit I'm not a professional electrician, but I have done many basic jobs like this around the house before. In fact, I did exactly the same job in another bedroom when I renovated it. I added a new ceiling box and fixture, wired it into a switched wall receptacle, and it worked perfectly.

What should I do here?

Re: Adding a light fixture to a switched circuit

If you no longer want the outlet switched, Connect panel black to one brass screw, switch black to other brass screw, make sure jumper between brass screws is in place. Connect white from panel to silver screw, whit from new light to the other silver screw. Connect to white from the switch, be sure to mark it with black marker, to the black to the light fixture.


A. Spruce
Re: Adding a light fixture to a switched circuit

yes, you can add a light fixture to the outlet. You can maintain a switched outlet or wire it constant hot and have the light be independently switched regardless of the configuration of the outlet.

Currently, your incoming hot is split at the outlet, the common (white ) is attached to the outlet, the hot (black ) is run up to the switch and back down to the outlet. Because they don't make wire cable with two black wires, a standard piece of romex is used, the incoming hot is pigtailed to the black side of the switch leg. At the switch the black turns to white and is run back down to the outlet's hot side terminal, completing the circuit.

What I would do is wire the outlet to be constant hot and run a new wire from the outlet to the light fixture to supply power to the light fixture. To wire this, you would bundle your black incoming with the switch black and a pigtail to attach to the outlet's brass screw. The incoming white would be bundled with the light fixture's white and a pigtail to the outlet's silver screw. The switch white would attach to the light fixture black, thus completing the light fixture circuit. To make this obvious to anyone else who works on this circuit, redesignate the white switch wire at both ends with a black sharpie.

Re: Adding a light fixture to a switched circuit

Good news! My fixture is now working.

I had planned on leaving the outlet switched, but I took your advise and made it constant. That actually makes a lot more sense, since I can use the desk lamp independently from the wall light. Then, since the box was pretty crowded, I ran some romex up to a new junction box inside the closet, and wired the wall light and the switch as you described. Taking the outlet out of the picture made it a lot simpler.

Thanks for the advice.

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