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William
Updating Kitchen Lighting

Hi, anyone familiar with how houses were wired back in the 50’s? I am trying to update the kitchen dimmer light switches in the house. The house has old 1950's wiring (cloth) which is in good condition (see below).

The problem I’m having is that the new switches are asking for connections that don’t seem to be available. (see diagram below).

The new switch needs 3 wires; Black (line) White (neutral) and Red (to the light/load). I’m guessing the black wire is like a input and the red wire is the output for the line.

As you can see both wires in the switch socket are black. I did use a meter and found that one of the wires (the one with the white tape on the end) goes to the light.

There are two wires at the light and they both look like the wires coming out at the switch. One goes to the switch but where does the other light wire go, or how can I trace it down?

It almost looks like there is no neutral wire at the switch, could that be possible? I'm not sure how they did things back in the 50's... If so could I reuse the two existing wires (black and black with white tape on the end) and just run a 3rd (white neutral) wire to the fusebox? Any help in sorting this out would be appreciated

William
Re: Updating Kitchen Lighting

...almost forgot, this is a single gang switch.

Sombreuil_mongrel
Re: Updating Kitchen Lighting

That looks like knob & tube. The large sheath of black woven insulation gives it away.
In any case, you have an old-time switch wiring plan. The hot feed wire is in the ceiling box, you are just looking at a "switch leg". You can't connect your controller without running new wire. And if you _are_ dealing with K&T, you would be obliged to replace that feed with new cable as well.
Casey

William
Re: Updating Kitchen Lighting
Sombreuil_mongrel wrote:

You can't connect your controller without running new wire.

Thanks for trying to help Casey. I don't think this is knob & tube for two reasons; first they stopped using it in the 1930's and this house was built in the 50's. Second there are no ceramic knobs in the house which I think was a signature of knob & tube.

How much new wire are we talking? Can I just run a white neutral wire between the fusebox and the switch, and reuse the old black (line) wire, or does everything have to be scrapped? I'm on a very tight budget because high funeral expenses from last month.... :o

sparky1
Re: Updating Kitchen Lighting

yeah that looks like the old cloth romex. Isnt there a differnt style dimmer you can buy? Is the switch lighted? Id just get a differnt switch than pull new wire in. unless you want to make a 10 minute job into a 6 hour job.

William
Re: Updating Kitchen Lighting

The switch is not lighted. This switch is a insteon switch so unfortunately it cannot be substituted for another switch....

motoguy128
Re: Updating Kitchen Lighting

I switched ot dimmers last fall on 3 light circuits. I have hte same cloth sheathed, rubber insulated wire as you. Yes, it's a early version of ROmex... and IMO is probably better since it uses rubber instead of paper for the primary insulation... and I think the clith too may be more durable than PVC.

I beleive there are only 2 wires because the switch is only witching the hot/load, not hte neutral. THe neutral goes only to the light fixture. THe dimmer should still work just fine on 2 wires. It should have instructions for 2 wire connections. Eahc of mine only took 10 minutes or less to change over. I have no immediate plans on replacing the wire.

JLMCDANIEL
Re: Updating Kitchen Lighting

As I see it you have two choices. 1- get a different dimmer that only requires the two wire switch leg or 2-replace the 2 conductor cable from the light box to the switch with a 3 conductor cable. And no you can not just run another white wire from the panel to the switch box, you could run 2 conductor Romex and cap the black wires but I would advise against it.

Jack

William
Re: Updating Kitchen Lighting
motoguy128 wrote:

I beleive there are only 2 wires because the switch is only witching the hot/load, not hte neutral. THe neutral goes only to the light fixture.

Yes from what I see here that appears to be what is happening. It also explains what the other wire at the light is (the neutral).

JLMCDANIEL wrote:

As I see it you have two choices. 1- get a different dimmer that only requires the two wire switch leg or 2-replace the 2 conductor cable from the light box to the switch with a 3 conductor cable.

Option 1 is not possible, so I guess I'll have to rewire :o Is there maybe a third option, that being to tap into the white wire at the light - and bring it to the light switch?

JLMCDANIEL
Re: Updating Kitchen Lighting
MyMilan wrote:

Option 1 is not possible, so I guess I'll have to rewire :o Is there maybe a third option, that being to tap into the white wire at the light - and bring it to the light switch?

That would be choice 2 replace the 2 conductor wire with 3 conductor from the switch box to the light box.

Jack

William
Re: Updating Kitchen Lighting

OK THANKS Jack, appreciate the help :)

While I'm trying to process in my mind how I'm going to approach this 'wiring job' let me ask you guys another general question. As I understand it the white (neutral) wire acts to "balance" the electrical system, correct? :confused: If that is correct then could I just tap into another white wire that might be easier to get to?

The way it stands now to run the white wire from the light to the switch would involve cutting into the floor upstairs. Not impossible but very labor intensive. However last year I ran a new outlet into the kitchen and it has all 3 wires going to it. It is on its own circuit breaker. This outlet is around 4 or 5 feet away from where the light switch is. Instead of tapping into the light box white wire, couldn't I just tap into the new kitchen outlet white wire?

Or does it have to be the white wire going to the light?

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