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Electrical help needed - again.

Old 01-26-13, 07:54 AM
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Electrical help needed - again.

another fun day at the goat house.

so we bought a new ceiling light - it's an electronic low-voltage unit, and we bought a Lutron ELV dimmer, single pole (it only is in one small room, one light, one switch). Three 50W bulbs on the light and the dimmer is rated at 300W.

Our building guys installed it yesterday (after dropping one of the brass lights, breaking the bulb and denting our floor). BUt it's flickering like mad. I called Lutron (switch co.) and they said we def. need the neutral wire attached, b/c it's a low voltage dimmer. Our guys said they couldn't figure it out b/c the old on/off switch only had two wires.

My question - when I look inside the box,
there are two entry points for wiring
one has TWO wires coming out, and they are taped off together ("dead ends?")
The other has three wires - this is what our old light was attached to, and what the guys hooked up the dimmer to....
The red wire coming out of the wall is hooked to the yellow wire of the dimmer.
The black wire and white wires out of the wall are taped together, and this is what the guys attached the dimmer's black wire to.
The dimmer has a green (ground?) wire and a white (neutral?) unused, each is separately taped off.


Am I crazy, or is the white wire coming out of the wall a neutral??

And do they just need to hook up the dimmer's white wire to the white wire coming out of the wall to get rid of the flicker?

Do we need to separate the black and white wires coming out of the wall? Or just attach the dimmer's white wire to that whole mess?

pics forthcoming, tough to get a good shot in that space...
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Old 01-26-13, 08:34 AM
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Here's some pics, sorry they aren't so clear, my camera isn't cooperating...

Originally Posted by pgoat View Post

1. there are two entry points for wiring The one on the left has two wires - a black and white wire - what looks like a third wire is actually just a scrap of paper or exterior wrap. These are taped off together.










2. one has TWO wires coming out, and they are taped off together ("dead ends?") This is from the first entry point at the upper left side of the box; You can see the taped off part just left of center here, the taped ends are sticking straight up.









3. The other has three wires - this is what our old light was attached to, and what the guys hooked up the dimmer to....
Looking at the second entry point at upper right of the box, The red wire coming out of the wall is hooked to the yellow wire of the dimmer.
The black wire and white wires out of the wall are taped together, and this is what the guys attached the dimmer's black wire to.

It's hard to see all of this here, but the red wire coming out of the hole at upper right snakes down to the left and then curls back to the lower right, where the dimmer's yellow wire is attached to it. The dimmer's black wire goes up to the yellow junction cup where it is joined with a black and white wire which come out of the same hole at right as the red wire. (The unattached white dimmer wire can be seen in the foreground.)






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Old 01-26-13, 09:24 AM
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some more pics, hopefully this might make it clearer:
















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Old 01-26-13, 09:33 AM
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and some more:
You can see the red wire from the right entry point snaking around the taped up ends of the two wires from the left entry point:


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Old 01-26-13, 09:52 AM
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First fire the building guys... you should never use electrical tape like that.

Second, get a real electrician... they will come with a meter and check to see what wire does what.

It is hooked up wrong. I can't tell you what to do without some testing.

It is quite common to use a junction box to make connections that are unrelated to the switch (other than likely they use the same feed from the main).
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Old 01-26-13, 10:02 AM
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If the black and white wires are spliced together, the white is not your neutral and is a hot (should have been marked as a hot with a piece of electrical tape or something).

There are two things wrong with that installation. The switch is not grounded (green wire), and the neutral is not hooked up (white wire). The box itself is likely grounded, so connecting the green wire to a ground screw or clip would ground it. You need a neutral though.

Are the other two wires coming into the box live? If so, and they're on the same circuit, you could use the neutral from that. Otherwise, you may need to have an electrician run a neutral from that circuit into the box.

BTW, this is why the 2011 NEC requires neutrals to exist at all light switch locations. At least, that's what our electrical inspector said.
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Old 01-26-13, 10:05 AM
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I really don't know the answer to this, but with your track record for electrical maladies figure it's not going to be simple.
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Old 01-26-13, 10:18 AM
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we just looked at the instructions with the dimmer - I think this makes more sense now -

The instructions show:

A box with two entry points, one at top, one at bottom. We have two entry points side-by-side. Check

I didn't realize, one side goes to the light, the other to the fusebox.
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Old 01-26-13, 10:19 AM
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so, the instructions show the top hole has a black, white and ground wire. Our hole at right has a red, white and black wire.

They have the bottom hole with a white and black wire. we have the hole at left with the same thing.

so far so good...
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Old 01-26-13, 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by pgoat View Post
so, the instructions show the top hole has a black, white and ground wire. Our hole at right has a red, white and black wire.

They have the bottom hole with a white and black wire. we have the hole at left with the same thing.

so far so good...
Consult an electrician.

The fact you have a black and white wire spliced together means the white wire is NOT a neutral. The white wire should have been marked somehow as a hot. Most likely a leg to another switch on that circuit.

If the other two wires are not hooked up, you don't know what they go to and will need to figure it out. They could be a completely different circuit.

Best way to solve this is to get a neutral from the same circuit to the box. This is where an electrician comes in handy.
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Old 01-26-13, 10:27 AM
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Originally Posted by genec View Post
First fire the building guys... you should never use electrical tape like that.
Meh. Not really, though definitely not necessary if the wire nut is correctly installed.

Originally Posted by genec View Post
Second, get a real electrician... they will come with a meter and check to see what wire does what.

It is hooked up wrong. I can't tell you what to do without some testing.

It is quite common to use a junction box to make connections that are unrelated to the switch (other than likely they use the same feed from the main).
Completely agreed. Since you don't know what the other two wires go to, I wouldn't attempt to use them in this situation.
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Old 01-26-13, 10:28 AM
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The instructions show connections as follows:

green wire off the dimmer goes to a screw in the box, which also has the ground off the box's top hole. Not sUre if this would be the black wire at right for us?


Yellow wire from dimmer is shown going to "wire leading to the load" ...That is the one our guys hooked up to the red wire; since the light is turning on, I am guessing that's ok.


Black wire from the dimmer is shown going to the black wire at the Bottom of their box, to the breaker/fuse box. My apologies, all - It turns out my pic description was wrong; upon more careful inspection the black wire from the hole at left in our box is indeed attached to the dimmer's black wire. Again, because we have power, that should be correct, no? I am thinking the guys just put the switch in the way the old on/off switch was hooked up.

Finally the white wire in the instruction sheet shows it going from the dimmer to a junction cap - which then has a white wire going to each hole!

Upon more careful inspection, it looks like our white wires from each hole are the two that are joined together with tape.

So if that is so, shouldn't they just be able to stick the dimmer's white neutral wire in with the two white wires in the box (preferably with a plastic cap) and we're good to go?


And yes, from now on, only a licensed pro for us. I actually did call a couple over the last month but between the holidays and I am guessing overload demand from Hurricane Sandy repairs, no one ever got back to me.
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Old 01-26-13, 10:35 AM
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Originally Posted by pgoat View Post
The instructions show connections as follows:

green wire off the dimmer goes to a screw in the box, which also has the ground off the box's top hole. Not sUre if this would be the black wire at right for us?
Hard to tell from the picture. Is the black wire attached directly to the box? Regardless, the green wire needs to be grounded to the box somehow.

Originally Posted by pgoat View Post
Yellow wire from dimmer is shown going to "wire leading to the load" ...That is the one our guys hooked up to the red wire; since the light is turning on, I am guessing that's ok.
Most likely okay. If you pull the light out, the red wire should be connected to the light.

Originally Posted by pgoat View Post
Black wire from the dimmer is shown going to the black wire at the Bottom of their box, to the breaker/fuse box. It turns out my pic description was wrong; upon more careful inspection the black wire from the hole at left in our box is indeed attached to the dimmer's black wire. Again, because we have power, that should be correct, no? I am thinking the guys just put the switch in the way the old on/off switch was hooked up.
Yes, that sounds correct.

Originally Posted by pgoat View Post
Finally the white wire in the instruction sheet shows it going from the dimmer to a junction cap - which then has a white wire going to each hole!

Upon more careful inspection, it looks like our white wires from each hole are the two that are joined together with tape.

So if that is so, shouldn't they just be able to stick the dimmer's white neutral wire in with the two white wires in the box (preferably with a plastic cap) and we're good to go?
Sounds better. Grab a multimeter and measure the potential between the white wires and one of your hots. If the potential is 120V, then they are your neutral. Splice the white wire of the switch with those and a wire nut of the appropriate size. Always use wire nuts, and never just simply twist and tape.

Originally Posted by pgoat View Post
And yes, from now on, only a licensed pro for us. I actually did call a couple over the last month but between the holidays and I am guessing overload demand from Hurricane Sandy repairs, no one ever got back to me.
Meh, typically replacing a switch and a light don't need a professional. Since you explained better how the wiring is, this is actually pretty simple.
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Old 01-26-13, 10:41 AM
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Thanks Mikey - at first I was leaning towards licensed pro b/c this was a low voltage canopy with screw-in lights. I wasn't sure how the transformers, etc would play with whatever small box we had in the ceiling...

But when we got the light and looked the transformer, etc is all enclosed in the canopy, and from what I read my wife and I could simply wire and install it into the ceiling, same as a standard light. So I reckoned our building dudes could handle it (They put in about four other dimmers including an LED model, with a little head scratching at times, but no major probs). I was mostly concerned about the dimmer - to an ignoramus like myself, the intimidation factor goes up with the number of wires!
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Old 01-26-13, 10:57 AM
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Old 01-26-13, 11:04 AM
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pretty much.

this is more or less how the Lutron insert showed the wiring, with the exception of the ground wire - Lutron's had the ground screwed into the box itself, whereas in this illustration it looks more like ours (it unclear from this angle just where the grounds go to inside the box)




There are a couple of unused holes at the back of our box, with what looks like wood behind (assuming the box itself is bolted to a stud)...it may be tough to get the relatively short wire to reach, But can we just use a screw to attach the dimmer's green wire to one of those holes?
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Old 01-26-13, 12:09 PM
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Old 01-26-13, 02:11 PM
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Crusty old box,brittle insulation,Larry,Curly,Moe(electrical janitors),I'd say increase your fire insurance before starting this project.
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Old 01-26-13, 02:37 PM
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Originally Posted by pgoat View Post
There are a couple of unused holes at the back of our box, with what looks like wood behind (assuming the box itself is bolted to a stud)...it may be tough to get the relatively short wire to reach, But can we just use a screw to attach the dimmer's green wire to one of those holes?
You can buy green ground screws made for this purpose. If you don't have a threaded hole that fits those, there are also ground clips that offer the same functionality.

With that short of a ground wire, you may want to connect a longer ground wire to the box and splice it with the ground wire on the switch. Although that box looks pretty cramped...
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Old 01-26-13, 10:49 PM
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The green wire is traditionally the ground wire, and grounded to the box as mikey says above.
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Old 01-27-13, 10:45 AM
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It's sad how much electrical knowledge I've gained trying to fix mistakes in our home's electrical wiring.
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