red wire in ceiling light??

Ask your electrical related questions here
Post Reply
diy-dan
Posts: 8
Joined: Sat Jul 20, 2019 11:38 am

red wire in ceiling light??

Post by diy-dan » Sat Jul 20, 2019 11:55 am

Hi,

Long time lurker and first time poster...

I'm having trouble wiring a new ceiling light and any help would be greatly appreciated :D

I went to change a ceiling light and came across a red wire. There is just one switch that controls the light that has a built in dimmer and an internal light when it's off.

I wish I had taken pictures of the wiring before I took out the old fixture but when I first removed the old light, the red wire was in a wire nut with one white wire and then a black wire connected those two to the other two white wires which had their own wire nut. I presume the original electrician made this black connection between the one set of red/white and the other white/white - you can see it in the wire I'm holding in my hand.

I figured the red was a neutral too (I don't know how to check, unfortunately) so I wired it with the other whites from the old light and new light. I put all three whites and the red in a single wire nut.

I put the black from the new light with the black wires from the ceiling and then put the ground to the green screw.

When I went to test by turning on the breaker, it wouldn't fully go back to the on position. I pushed on the circuit break a bit which caused a spark and a pop at the light switch. I wasn't in the room but that's what my son said.

Does anyone have suggestions on what I should do with the red wire?

Thank you in advance!
Attachments
20190720_135126.jpg
20190720_135126.jpg (331.46 KiB) Viewed 203 times
20190720_135158.jpg
20190720_135158.jpg (318.16 KiB) Viewed 203 times
20190720_133424.jpg
20190720_133424.jpg (110.41 KiB) Viewed 203 times
20190720_133444.jpg
20190720_133444.jpg (84.15 KiB) Viewed 203 times

User avatar
Aaron
Posts: 3339
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2015 4:03 pm
Location: St. Paul, MN

Re: red wire in ceiling light??

Post by Aaron » Sat Jul 20, 2019 3:05 pm

Welcome to the forum. So when replacing a light, it's always best to wire the new one in exactly the way the old light was wired: black to black, white to white. Take a pic with you cell phone camera if it helps to remember how the old one was wired before you disconnect it. If you see extra wires in the box, just ignore them (as you found out).

Only a white wire is neutral, though it can be hot if it was not properly identified (often the case, so you can never assume white is always neutral). But green (or green with yellow stripe) is always for ground, as well as bare uninsulated copper wire. Gray is sometimes neutral but it's very rare to see this color. All other colors are hot or a switched hot.

So I'm guessing the red wire is probably to power a ceiling fan if you ever installed one. It's not uncommon for ceiling fixture boxes to have two switched hots for a fan and light.

User avatar
emtnut
Posts: 1862
Joined: Mon Mar 02, 2015 7:21 am
Location: Canada
Contact:

Re: red wire in ceiling light??

Post by emtnut » Sun Jul 21, 2019 6:39 am

What you described there really doesn't make sense to me :?

Do you have a voltmeter or tester, and can you get a pic of how the switch is wired for us ?
~~ Ford Ford Ford Ford Ford Ford :mrgreen: ~~

diy-dan
Posts: 8
Joined: Sat Jul 20, 2019 11:38 am

Re: red wire in ceiling light??

Post by diy-dan » Sun Jul 21, 2019 6:42 am

Aaron wrote:
Sat Jul 20, 2019 3:05 pm
Welcome to the forum. So when replacing a light, it's always best to wire the new one in exactly the way the old light was wired: black to black, white to white. Take a pic with you cell phone camera if it helps to remember how the old one was wired before you disconnect it. If you see extra wires in the box, just ignore them (as you found out).

Only a white wire is neutral, though it can be hot if it was not properly identified (often the case, so you can never assume white is always neutral). But green (or green with yellow stripe) is always for ground, as well as bare uninsulated copper wire. Gray is sometimes neutral but it's very rare to see this color. All other colors are hot or a switched hot.

So I'm guessing the red wire is probably to power a ceiling fan if you ever installed one. It's not uncommon for ceiling fixture boxes to have two switched hots for a fan and light.
Thank you for the reply!

I had researched about the red wire being a ceiling fan wire as well. Since I don't have a ceiling fan, do you think I could just put a wire nut on that and not use it? I still have three white wires.

diy-dan
Posts: 8
Joined: Sat Jul 20, 2019 11:38 am

Re: red wire in ceiling light??

Post by diy-dan » Sun Jul 21, 2019 6:44 am

emtnut wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 6:39 am
diy-dan wrote:
Sat Jul 20, 2019 11:55 am

I wish I had taken pictures of the wiring before I took out the old fixture but when I first removed the old light, the red wire was in a wire nut with one white wire and then a black wire connected those two to the other two white wires which had their own wire nut. I presume the original electrician made this black connection between the one set of red/white and the other white/white - you can see it in the wire I'm holding in my hand.
What you described there really doesn't make sense to me :?

Do you have a voltmeter or tester, and can you get a pic of how the switch is wired for us ?
Thank you for the reply!

Yeah, there are a lot of things that don't make sense in the house as I've gotten to know it. It was built in 1969 and there are a lot of odd, non-up to code issues.

I don't have a volmeter or test but probably should get one. If I do get one, what do you recommend I try it on?

User avatar
emtnut
Posts: 1862
Joined: Mon Mar 02, 2015 7:21 am
Location: Canada
Contact:

Re: red wire in ceiling light??

Post by emtnut » Sun Jul 21, 2019 7:06 am

diy-dan wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 6:44 am

Thank you for the reply!

Yeah, there are a lot of things that don't make sense in the house as I've gotten to know it. It was built in 1969 and there are a lot of odd, non-up to code issues.

I don't have a volmeter or test but probably should get one. If I do get one, what do you recommend I try it on?
With the meter, you can see what is 'always hot' and which wire is switched at the light.

We may be able to figure it out without a meter, if you get a good pic of the lightswitch wires ... Hopefully see if it is wired as a switchloop, and/or if there is 14/3 coming from it.

Meters are fairly cheap, and will help out for any future projects , so it's a good tool to have.
~~ Ford Ford Ford Ford Ford Ford :mrgreen: ~~

diy-dan
Posts: 8
Joined: Sat Jul 20, 2019 11:38 am

Re: red wire in ceiling light??

Post by diy-dan » Sun Jul 21, 2019 7:13 am

emtnut wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 7:06 am
diy-dan wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 6:44 am

Thank you for the reply!

Yeah, there are a lot of things that don't make sense in the house as I've gotten to know it. It was built in 1969 and there are a lot of odd, non-up to code issues.

I don't have a volmeter or test but probably should get one. If I do get one, what do you recommend I try it on?
With the meter, you can see what is 'always hot' and which wire is switched at the light.

We may be able to figure it out without a meter, if you get a good pic of the lightswitch wires ... Hopefully see if it is wired as a switchloop, and/or if there is 14/3 coming from it.

Meters are fairly cheap, and will help out for any future projects , so it's a good tool to have.
I pulled it out and I do see a red wire in there. See pics.
Attachments
20190721_091059.jpg
20190721_091059.jpg (144.95 KiB) Viewed 177 times
20190721_091108.jpg
20190721_091108.jpg (112.65 KiB) Viewed 177 times
20190721_091219.jpg
20190721_091219.jpg (125.15 KiB) Viewed 177 times

User avatar
emtnut
Posts: 1862
Joined: Mon Mar 02, 2015 7:21 am
Location: Canada
Contact:

Re: red wire in ceiling light??

Post by emtnut » Sun Jul 21, 2019 7:33 am

OK, looks like the red is the switched hot.

At the ceiling, leave the 3 blacks on their own. Connect the light red to black of light fixture, and white to white of light fixture, and you should be good to go.
~~ Ford Ford Ford Ford Ford Ford :mrgreen: ~~

diy-dan
Posts: 8
Joined: Sat Jul 20, 2019 11:38 am

Re: red wire in ceiling light??

Post by diy-dan » Sun Jul 21, 2019 7:43 am

emtnut wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 7:33 am
OK, looks like the red is the switched hot.

At the ceiling, leave the 3 blacks on their own. Connect the light red to black of light fixture, and white to white of light fixture, and you should be good to go.
Thank you so much! I'll give it a try shortly.

:D :D :D

User avatar
emtnut
Posts: 1862
Joined: Mon Mar 02, 2015 7:21 am
Location: Canada
Contact:

Re: red wire in ceiling light??

Post by emtnut » Sun Jul 21, 2019 5:27 pm

diy-dan wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 7:43 am

Thank you so much! I'll give it a try shortly.

:D :D :D
Dan !!! Where are you ???

If you don't get back to us, then we'll think that the main panel shorted, and your house started on fire :o ... well, or at least took out your internet :mrgreen:
~~ Ford Ford Ford Ford Ford Ford :mrgreen: ~~

diy-dan
Posts: 8
Joined: Sat Jul 20, 2019 11:38 am

Re: red wire in ceiling light??

Post by diy-dan » Tue Jul 23, 2019 9:58 am

emtnut wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 5:27 pm
diy-dan wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 7:43 am

Thank you so much! I'll give it a try shortly.

:D :D :D
Dan !!! Where are you ???

If you don't get back to us, then we'll think that the main panel shorted, and your house started on fire :o ... well, or at least took out your internet :mrgreen:
Sorry the delayed update...no house fire but had family stuff come up unexpectedly and just now had the opportunity to try and rewire.

The light didn't work :(

No sparks, which is good!

You can see that the internal light of the switch is on.

Do you think that I need to wire the red with the three black wires?

User avatar
Aaron
Posts: 3339
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2015 4:03 pm
Location: St. Paul, MN

Re: red wire in ceiling light??

Post by Aaron » Tue Jul 23, 2019 12:28 pm

You should have a multimeter and a helper. Get on the ladder and put leads of the multimeter on pairs of wires to see when you measure 120V when your helper flips on the switch.

One of the wire/wires in the pair will be neutral, but you could also use ground instead.

diy-dan
Posts: 8
Joined: Sat Jul 20, 2019 11:38 am

Re: red wire in ceiling light??

Post by diy-dan » Tue Jul 23, 2019 12:51 pm

Aaron wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 12:28 pm
You should have a multimeter and a helper. Get on the ladder and put leads of the multimeter on pairs of wires to see when you measure 120V when your helper flips on the switch.

One of the wire/wires in the pair will be neutral, but you could also use ground instead.
Ok, thank you. I'll see if I can pick one up today or tomorrow!

User avatar
emtnut
Posts: 1862
Joined: Mon Mar 02, 2015 7:21 am
Location: Canada
Contact:

Re: red wire in ceiling light??

Post by emtnut » Wed Jul 24, 2019 7:45 am

diy-dan wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 9:58 am

The light didn't work :(

No sparks, which is good!

You can see that the internal light of the switch is on.

Do you think that I need to wire the red with the three black wires?
As Aaron said, you will need to find the source of power.

Since the Red didn't work for the switch loop, it means the power is at the light. Once you find it, then you can set up the loop with the Red wire.
~~ Ford Ford Ford Ford Ford Ford :mrgreen: ~~

diy-dan
Posts: 8
Joined: Sat Jul 20, 2019 11:38 am

Re: red wire in ceiling light??

Post by diy-dan » Wed Jul 24, 2019 7:47 am

emtnut wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 7:45 am
diy-dan wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 9:58 am

The light didn't work :(

No sparks, which is good!

You can see that the internal light of the switch is on.

Do you think that I need to wire the red with the three black wires?
As Aaron said, you will need to find the source of power.

Since the Red didn't work for the switch loop, it means the power is at the light. Once you find it, then you can set up the loop with the Red wire.

Got it - thanks!!

Post Reply