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Re: [Shop-talk] Unfamiliar wiring for basement lights

Subject: Re: [Shop-talk] Unfamiliar wiring for basement lights
From: Pat Horne <>
Date: Sat, 21 Aug 2010 15:19:02 -0500
  Ian,  As a test try disconnecting the red at the first fixture and 
capping it. If the lights and switch still work as they did, then you 
can leave it off. I believe that you will find that they don't work. If 
they don't work, look in the switch box at the top of the stairs. I 
would expect to see a red wire there that is connected to the switch, as 
well as a black to another screw. There may or may not be another screw 
that the white wire is connected to.  What this means is that the power 
from the breaker panel goes to the fixture, then a cable is run from 
there to the switch. If there is only one red wire in all the fixtures, 
it may be that the electrician didn't want to use the white wire as a 
switched hot lead - something that has become illegal within the last 
year or so, or he planned for a future light switch to be added at the 
bottom of the stairs sometime in the future.

If you need a better explanation please let me know.


Thusly spake, On 8/21/2010 1:41 PM:
> Hi All,
> Our basement is lit with six 2x34W Fluorescent fixtures and one 60W
> incandescent fixture, all switched by a two-way switch at the top of the
> stairs (no other switching).  One of the fluorescent fixtures failed (the
> ballast failed) and the fixture is broken, so Im replacing it. From the
> outside it looked like the lights were just daisy-chained, but after pulling
> the fixture I see that one wire going into the fixture is 3-way (has a red
> wire) and the other is a normal line (B,W,Gr).  The black is on the switch,
> but the red wire appears to be a hot home run  the only way I can kill its
> power is to throw the breaker.  Anyone know if there is a reason or protocol
> for wiring like this?  Im inclined to just cap the red wire and daisy-chain
> the black and white wires, but I dont want to make a naove mistake (Im not
> an electrician and my EE classes from 20 years ago are no help).  The red
> wire was connected to one of the black wires in the fixture, BTW; the two
> black wires coming into the fixture were coupled (wire nut).  Any thoughts?
> On a safety note, the old adage:  assume all wires are hot and test,
> certainly held true in this case.
> Thanks, Ian
> p.s. Im a lurker who tries to answer at least two questions for every one
> that I askbut I dont tend to ask many questions.
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Pat Horne, Owner, Horne Systems
(512) 797-7501 Voice            5026 FM 2001  Lockhart, TX 78644-4443
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