Home>Discussions>ELECTRICAL & LIGHTING>Newly wired lights work fine, then won't come on at all
13 posts / 0 new
Last post
cocteau3
Newly wired lights work fine, then won't come on at all

Hi,

I recently installed 6 porcelain pull-chain lights in my attic. I first ran a new romex wire from an existing double receptacle in the attic to the first porcelain light. From there, I wired in "series" to each of the five in the run. By this I mean running a wire into a ceiling box, attaching it to the light, then the next romex run is attached to the light and run out of the box, an so on. When finished, I turned the breaker back on, and put light bulbs (100W) in each of the six new lights. I turned on the wall switch (the receptacle from which the lights get their current was already wired to the wall switch), and everything works fine. I cleaned up my tools, turned off the switch, and put away my tools. When I went back upstairs and decided to go back in the attic, I turned on the same wall switch, and the lights will not turn on. :confused:

I tested the circuits with a tester that reads through the romex. Every wire is showing current, each porcelain socket is showing current. The existing receptacle and its lead from a junction box show current. That junction box is fed by a BX-cabled, two wire feed. The ground wires in all the new Romex are connected to each other in the series circuit. The ground wire leading from the junction box is touching the metal junction box where the BX feeds. All the other receptacles on the same circuit breaker are working fine.

What could be the problem here? Why would the lights come on and make me think I've done the right job, and then go off? :(

kentvw
Re: Newly wired lights work fine, then won't come on at all

Sounds like you're using a noncontact tester? Could be that you lost your neutral (white wire) connection. I’d physically check all your connections from the receptacle on through the light switch.

$.02 bets you have a loose neutral connection in either the receptacle or switch.

djohns
Re: Newly wired lights work fine, then won't come on at all

First of all , you didn't really wire the lights " in series " right ?
Electrically they are paralelled . Correct ?

A. Spruce
Re: Newly wired lights work fine, then won't come on at all

Gremlins! :eek:;)

Sounds like a connection problem to me. I'd retrace all the connections from the light switch through the receptacle that you tapped off of, through all of the fixtures. Only one connection has to be bad and make intermittent contact for the circuit not to work. I've had occasion where things are all fine, then all of a sudden all the outlets on one side of a room will go out. The cause is that another receptacle, in another room, was loose on the wall and while plugging/unplugging devices into it, the wires on the back jiggled loose. Tightened all the connections and everything was fine again.

djohns
Re: Newly wired lights work fine, then won't come on at all
kentvw wrote:

Sounds like you're using a noncontact tester? Could be that you lost your neutral (white wire) connection. I’d physically check all your connections from the receptacle on through the light switch.

$.02 bets you have a loose neutral connection in either the receptacle or switch.

Non contact testers are more trouble than they are worth . ( In my less than humble opinion :D )

cocteau3
Re: Newly wired lights work fine, then won't come on at all

I'll try to examine all the connections, lot's of work that is. As for series, maybe my terminology is wrong. One fixture leads to another, to another, in a line of six.

thanks, i'll post the results of the examination later.

:o

A. Spruce
Re: Newly wired lights work fine, then won't come on at all
cocteau3 wrote:

I'll try to examine all the connections, lot's of work that is. As for series, maybe my terminology is wrong. One fixture leads to another, to another, in a line of six.

thanks, i'll post the results of the examination later.

:o

The question is about semantics. It isn't the sequence of lights, it's how those lights are attached to the wiring. In "series" the power travels through one wire, through the load, on through the wire to the next load, and so on. Once past the last point of load, the neutral returns the power back to source. In this instance if one light were to burn out, all lights would cease functioning because you need each load point in the circuit to complete the circuit. In a "parallel" scenario, the power line continues uninterrupted from one end of the circuit to the other, as does the neutral. Each load is attached to these lines without "breaking" the line. One of the electrical guys might be able to put it more eloquently, but that's the jists of it. More than likely, one of the points where a light was pigtailed into the circuit is loose, or even at the point of source - the switch or starting outlet.

kentvw
Re: Newly wired lights work fine, then won't come on at all
A. Spruce wrote:

One of the electrical guys might be able to put it more eloquently

Sprucy........... There is an old saying............. It goes like this.................. A picture..............Is worth.........................A thousand words. :D

A. Spruce
Re: Newly wired lights work fine, then won't come on at all

Sure, if you've got a picture, otherwise you're stuck with the thousand words. :( :p

cocteau3
Re: Newly wired lights work fine, then won't come on at all

:)

Thanks for all the timely responses! Great results. The problem was in the neutral wire(s). I went back and checked all connections and found one light fixture with a little too much insulation over the white wire connected to the screw. So I loosened them and re-inserted, taking care to not put too much or have any insulation touching the contact. After checking all six, my lights work great.
So I'm sure I had a loose connection.

And they are wired in series.

thanks!

John

A. Spruce
Re: Newly wired lights work fine, then won't come on at all

Glad you got it figured out!

And not to disagree with you, but I bet your fixtures are in parallel and not series, but again, that's beside the point. What's important is that you figured it out and got it working! Kudo's!

Pages

TV Listings

Find TV listings for This Old House and Ask This Old House in your area.