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How do I wire old ceiling light where all wires are the same color in the light

  1. profile image47
    GracieZGposted 7 years ago

    How do I wire old ceiling light where all wires are the same color in the light AND ceiling box?

    There are three identical copper wires in the ceiling outlet, all with white plastic sheathing. Two are twisted together, the third is alone. The old swag light we want to hang for now (until we can afford an expensive, new fixture) has no grounding wire, two identical copper wires with a semi-transparent plastic sheathing. The fixture we took down had a bare grounding wire attached to a screw in the crossbar in the ceiling outlet, and two more wires with brown sheathing (identical, except one had writing on it: numbers, brand, and 300V), but we couldn't tell which was hot or neutral.

  2. wilderness profile image99
    wildernessposted 7 years ago

    Interesting problem.  There are two questions to be answered; which wire in the box is hot and which is neutral, and which one on the swag fixture is which.

    This sounds like it is likely the old knob and tube wiring from decades ago used when they didn't care much which wire went where although the plastic insulation is puzzling.  The problem is that the large threaded part of the light bulb can become hot if it is not wired to the neutral and is all too easy to touch when changing a bulb.  I would like to see you get this right and prevent any future shocks.

    We will probably need some back and forth questions and answers, though, and I don't think that is possible in this part of HubPages.  If you would either go to my hub on wiring a new light fixture (http://hubpages.com/hub/Installing-and- … ht-Fixture) or email me through the address in my profile I will be able to ask for more information and answer that way.  Simply copy and paste your question into the comment box on the hub or into the email.

    I guessing that you will need either a non-contact voltage tester (preferable) or a voltmeter of some kind to find the proper wires.  Is such a thing available?

  3. sheerplan profile image58
    sheerplanposted 7 years ago

    First off I have to say:  if you are unsure of any electrical connections then please call a licensed electrician.  Electricity kills.

    With what you have described (I do not have any pictures to go by) it sounds as if the two wires twisted together may be the neutral wires. The single white wire could be the switch-leg return (hot).  But it would be hard to say without seeing it.  They should be checked with a multimeter.

    Take a close look at the insulation on the wires of the fixture - is there a small black stripe?  if so this is the hot.

    If there isn't a stripe look closely at the braided wires. Is one wire colored gold and the other silver? The gold colored wire is the hot. I hope this helps.

  4. framistan profile image56
    framistanposted 7 years ago


    You can use a "NEON TEST LIGHT" to tell you which terminal is HOT.  They only cost a couple dollars.  Picture i uploaded is a sample. they come in various styles.  Some of them are built into a regular screwdriver.