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Switching light fixtures..

  • Last Updated:
  • Jun 17th, 2021 12:55 pm
[OP]
Jr. Member
Aug 15, 2009
169 posts
36 upvotes

Switching light fixtures..

Hi RFD,

My old light fixture stopped working (the fixture was quite and replacing the bulb didn't work), so I decided to buy a new fixture at Costco to replace it. I swapped the fixture and it didn't work, so I've added two photos to this post:
1) The wires from my fixture's junction box
2) The wires connected to my existing light switch

The switch was installed prior to moving in. From reading online the red wire is typically used for three-way switches, except I'm not aware of any other switch that's connected to the same fixture. The red wire is currently connected to the "lead", black to the "line", and white to the "neutral", however it doesn't seem correct according to the switch's manual (attached photo).

My light switch has a black/white/copper wire. I had connected them to the red/white/green wire in the fixture photo but it didn't work.

I think at this point I have two options:

1) Rewire the light switch (although it worked with the previous fixture. maybe the previous owner wired it incorrectly

2) Attempt a different combination of attaching the light fixture to the junction box wires
Images
  • IMG_1859.jpeg
  • IMG_1860.jpeg
  • Screen Shot 2021-06-06 at 3.06.45 PM.png
15 replies
Deal Addict
Jun 8, 2004
1543 posts
464 upvotes
Oakville
Which wires did you have connected to the light fixture? Based on the picture, you seem to be missing a connection...
The green wire looks like it would be ground (assume it is attached to the ground screw at the back of the junction box).
The red wire that came from the Inovelli "load" screw would be the black "line" to the light fixture.
You should have a white pigtail connected to the white bundle that would be the neutral to the light fixture (but I don't see any pigtail in the photo to connect to your light fixture).
Deal Addict
Sep 13, 2016
2839 posts
1603 upvotes
Mississauga
Hi OP.

This is a smart switch. I have a bunch of Inovellis around my house so I should hopefully be able to help. Do not get too fixated about the color of wires.
Some basic trouble shooting.
1. Do you have a no contact volatge tester. If you dont, get one from Amazon. Costs around 10$. Basically it will help you check if the Line terminal on the switch is getting the power.
2. These switches have their terminals marked. For the bulb to work, technically you only need line and load to be wired. Ground is for safety, and the switch needs neutral so that it can power itself even when you turn the rocker off. Otherwise it will go offline. Can you check which wires are coming out of line and load terminals?
3. Was this switch in a 3 way setup earlier. Presence of a red wire stronly suggests it was. Which part of the house is the light in?
Newbie
May 10, 2006
94 posts
28 upvotes
I see this wiring often. The black wire of the 14/3 is being used to bring the line/hot to or from the switch.

The red wire is being used for the load and the white the neutral. The green would be used as the ground (confirm it is connected to the ground screw in the junction box).

This type of wiring is common if the feed was brought to the junction box or you need to bring the hot/line to the junction for any reason. The electrician would then run a 14/3 from the device/switch box to the junction to have both the load and line and neutral in 1 run.

This information is for reference only. Please test the wires.

I see you are holding a non contact tester. That is a must have.

IMO Do not rewire there are other devices on this circuit from the looks of the wiring, are you 100% sure the problem is not in the switch?
Penalty Box
Jun 24, 2015
4965 posts
1497 upvotes
0 downvotes
why not just wire it up as a regular on/off switch (single pole) and omit the red wire and cap it off? also noticed you bought a light fixture from Costco? how in the heck did u do that? the light fixtures are blocked off until the government restriction on essential goods are lifted
Hi
[OP]
Jr. Member
Aug 15, 2009
169 posts
36 upvotes
IndyBeak wrote: Hi OP.

This is a smart switch. I have a bunch of Inovellis around my house so I should hopefully be able to help. Do not get too fixated about the color of wires.
Some basic trouble shooting.
1. Do you have a no contact volatge tester. If you dont, get one from Amazon. Costs around 10$. Basically it will help you check if the Line terminal on the switch is getting the power.
2. These switches have their terminals marked. For the bulb to work, technically you only need line and load to be wired. Ground is for safety, and the switch needs neutral so that it can power itself even when you turn the rocker off. Otherwise it will go offline. Can you check which wires are coming out of line and load terminals?
3. Was this switch in a 3 way setup earlier. Presence of a red wire stronly suggests it was. Which part of the house is the light in?
cba123 wrote: Which wires did you have connected to the light fixture? Based on the picture, you seem to be missing a connection...
The green wire looks like it would be ground (assume it is attached to the ground screw at the back of the junction box).
The red wire that came from the Inovelli "load" screw would be the black "line" to the light fixture.
You should have a white pigtail connected to the white bundle that would be the neutral to the light fixture (but I don't see any pigtail in the photo to connect to your light fixture).
Agent240sx wrote: I see this wiring often. The black wire of the 14/3 is being used to bring the line/hot to or from the switch.

The red wire is being used for the load and the white the neutral. The green would be used as the ground (confirm it is connected to the ground screw in the junction box).

This type of wiring is common if the feed was brought to the junction box or you need to bring the hot/line to the junction for any reason. The electrician would then run a 14/3 from the device/switch box to the junction to have both the load and line and neutral in 1 run.

This information is for reference only. Please test the wires.

I see you are holding a non contact tester. That is a must have.

IMO Do not rewire there are other devices on this circuit from the looks of the wiring, are you 100% sure the problem is not in the switch?
Thanks for all the responses, and apologize for my delayed response. Haven't had time to get back to this switch until today. I took some more pictures and circled the wires I see, hopefully this helps explain my current situation,

For the switch:
- There are three wires coming out of the junction box. Red, white and black. I've tested with a non-contact voltage tester that the black wire is the hot wire. The red and white wires don't seem to beep when I have them connected.
- Oddly enough, I did some DIY with some spare wiring and I was able to turn on my lamp by completing the circuit with both the red/white and black/white pairs, so I'm a bit confused why my tester didn't detect electricity in the red wire

For the fixture:
- There is the green (assumed ground), red, white, black, and aluminum wiring. With a voltage tester I was able to identify that the black wire was the hot wire.

- My light fixture has black, white and copper wire

- Attempt #1 was attaching the black, white and copper wire to the red, white and green wire from the junction box, respectively

- Attempt #2 was attaching the black/white/copper to the black/white/green wires from the junction box.

- Both attempts did not work


I'm not 100% sure if it's the switches fault, but the LED on the switch does indicate it's getting electricity (has a blue-ish light, and will be bright green when I hold onto a button on the switch). With things opening up in Ontario on Friday I may go buy a simple switch to do some testing. If I buy a simple switch, do I just connect the black/white wires in the switch junction and ignore the red wire? From what I've read I'm assuming the red wire in the switch junction is mainly for three way switches and not necessarily needed?

Thanks,
Images
  • light fixture.jpg
  • switch.jpg
Last edited by ah_b on Jun 10th, 2021 12:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
[OP]
Jr. Member
Aug 15, 2009
169 posts
36 upvotes
GoodFellaz wrote: why not just wire it up as a regular on/off switch (single pole) and omit the red wire and cap it off? also noticed you bought a light fixture from Costco? how in the heck did u do that? the light fixtures are blocked off until the government restriction on essential goods are lifted
Hi GoodFellaz,

I may try that with Ontario opening back up. Is it safe to just ignore the red wire? I honestly don't care about the light switch and just want this light fixture working again.

I had bought the fixture back in December, but never bothered to try installing it until my existing light fixture (which was quite old) stopped working all of a sudden.
Deal Addict
Sep 13, 2016
2839 posts
1603 upvotes
Mississauga
Hi OP,
so couple of more points.
It is possible that at some point the fixture was in a 3 way configuration, but may be previous owner could not get it to work with the smart switch, or just did not like it and capped it off at the other switch.

Based on what you have said so far, I am almost certain that the switch box has one less wire. The switch box does not have a neutral, which is why it does not work when you turn it on. There are two possibilities:
1. It is possible that the switch is not between panel and fixture, but after fixture.
2. This box is other end of the 3 way setup, that is why it only has line, load, and traveler wires. The other end of the setup would most likely also have a neutral wire.

I strongly suggest that you find where the other switch controlling this fixture is because if you make it a simple single pole switch at this end, flipping the switch at the other end may again cause issues.
If you figure out where the other switch is, you could move the smart switch there if you were interested in setting up home automation at some point.
[OP]
Jr. Member
Aug 15, 2009
169 posts
36 upvotes
IndyBeak wrote: Hi OP,
so couple of more points.
It is possible that at some point the fixture was in a 3 way configuration, but may be previous owner could not get it to work with the smart switch, or just did not like it and capped it off at the other switch.

Based on what you have said so far, I am almost certain that the switch box has one less wire. The switch box does not have a neutral, which is why it does not work when you turn it on. There are two possibilities:
1. It is possible that the switch is not between panel and fixture, but after fixture.
2. This box is other end of the 3 way setup, that is why it only has line, load, and traveler wires. The other end of the setup would most likely also have a neutral wire.

I strongly suggest that you find where the other switch controlling this fixture is because if you make it a simple single pole switch at this end, flipping the switch at the other end may again cause issues.
If you figure out where the other switch is, you could move the smart switch there if you were interested in setting up home automation at some point.
Hi Indy,

Thanks for sharing your insight.

Is the white wire I circled in the switch box not the neutral? Would I be able to use a single pole switch and ignore/cap the red wire in my switch box? I honestly don't see why this particular fixture needs to be 3-way, and I'm very content if I could just control this fixture with the switch I'm using now.
Deal Addict
Jun 8, 2004
1543 posts
464 upvotes
Oakville
ah_b wrote: Thanks for all the responses, and apologize for my delayed response. Haven't had time to get back to this switch until today. I took some more pictures and circled the wires I see, hopefully this helps explain my current situation,

For the switch:
- There are three wires coming out of the junction box. Red, white and black. I've tested with a non-contact voltage tester that the black wire is the hot wire. The red and white wires don't seem to beep when I have them connected.
- Oddly enough, I did some DIY with some spare wiring and I was able to turn on my lamp by completing the circuit with both the red/white and black/white pairs, so I'm a bit confused why my tester didn't detect electricity in the red wire

For the fixture:
- There is the green (assumed ground), red, white, black, and aluminum wiring. With a voltage tester I was able to identify that the black wire was the hot wire.

- My light fixture has black, white and copper wire

- Attempt #1 was attaching the black, white and copper wire to the red, white and green wire from the junction box, respectively

- Attempt #2 was attaching the black/white/copper to the black/white/green wires from the junction box.
Attempt 2 should have worked as you were connecting the light directly to the black hot and white neutral wire bundles, in the junction box, with no switch in that attempt.

So, something is not right.

At the switch, how many cables enter the box. One 3 wire cable (black, white, red, bare copper). Is there also a 2 wire cable (black, white, bare copper)? Are the white wires from both cables plus a white pigtail wire that goes to your switch combined together under a nut. Are the black wires from both cables plus a black pigtail wire that goes to your switch combined under a nut.

At the light junction box, how many cables enter the box? One 3 wire cable (black, white, red, bare copper) that came from the switch box. How many other 2 or 3 wire cables are in the box? Can you describe each of the other cables. Are all the white wires combined under a nut. Are all the black wires combined under a nut. How many pigtail wires are in the box? Were any pigtails removed?

How was the original light fixture connected? Red to black, white to white?
Last edited by cba123 on Jun 10th, 2021 10:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Deal Addict
Sep 13, 2016
2839 posts
1603 upvotes
Mississauga
ah_b wrote: Hi Indy,

Thanks for sharing your insight.

Is the white wire I circled in the switch box not the neutral? Would I be able to use a single pole switch and ignore/cap the red wire in my switch box? I honestly don't see why this particular fixture needs to be 3-way, and I'm very content if I could just control this fixture with the switch I'm using now.
Just to confirm, you said earlier,that if you join either red/white together, or black/white together, the fixture turns on. If it is indeed the case, then the white wire cannot be neutral. What you did by joining these wires is exactly same to what a single pole switch does in closed(ON) position. Your combinatio basically means these are line/load pairs.

Again, unless the electrician doing this was a complete hack, you can end up with this situation in only 3 potential scenarios:
1. It was a 3 way setup which someone altered over time.
2. The switch is not between breaker and fixtute, but after the fixture. So neutral wire stops at the fixture and does not carry on to the switch.
3. Another possibility is that this is a 2 phase wire.. so basically both red and black are hot, but out of phase. But this is usually done only in kitchens for split receptacles.

3rd is very unlikely in this case. Anyway, since you only care about controlling the light and have already identified the combination that works, yoh can wire that way and just cap off remaining wires.
[OP]
Jr. Member
Aug 15, 2009
169 posts
36 upvotes
cba123 wrote: Attempt 2 should have worked as you were connecting the light directly to the black hot and white neutral wire bundles, in the junction box, with no switch in that attempt.

So, something is not right.

At the switch, how many cables enter the box. One 3 wire cable (black, white, red, bare copper). Is there also a 2 wire cable (black, white, bare copper)? Are the white wires from both cables plus a white pigtail wire that goes to your switch combined together under a nut. Are the black wires from both cables plus a black pigtail wire that goes to your switch combined under a nut.

At the light junction box, how many cables enter the box? One 3 wire cable (black, white, red, bare copper) that came from the switch box. How many other 2 or 3 wire cables are in the box? Can you describe each of the other cables. Are all the white wires combined under a nut. Are all the black wires combined under a nut. How many pigtail wires are in the box? Were any pigtails removed?

How was the original light fixture connected? Red to black, white to white?
IndyBeak wrote: Just to confirm, you said earlier,that if you join either red/white together, or black/white together, the fixture turns on. If it is indeed the case, then the white wire cannot be neutral. What you did by joining these wires is exactly same to what a single pole switch does in closed(ON) position. Your combinatio basically means these are line/load pairs.

Again, unless the electrician doing this was a complete hack, you can end up with this situation in only 3 potential scenarios:
1. It was a 3 way setup which someone altered over time.
2. The switch is not between breaker and fixtute, but after the fixture. So neutral wire stops at the fixture and does not carry on to the switch.
3. Another possibility is that this is a 2 phase wire.. so basically both red and black are hot, but out of phase. But this is usually done only in kitchens for split receptacles.

3rd is very unlikely in this case. Anyway, since you only care about controlling the light and have already identified the combination that works, yoh can wire that way and just cap off remaining wires.
Hi cba/Indy, so I ended up getting it working this weekend, but not with the pairs we might think. I must've messed up or misremembered the working wire combinations because the line/load pair seems to be the black/red wires in the switch box.

1) I read up on the switch box wires at https://support.gelighting.com/hc/en-us ... h-Wall-Box

2) Purchased a single pole switch. Tested with a voltage tester to validate that the black wire in the switch box and fixture box was the line/hot wire (beeped with nothing connected to it). Assumed that the red was the line wire based on the article linked in #1, and from the previous smart switch setup.

3) Connected my single pole switch with the black/red wires as the line/load wires, respectively. Capped off the white wire (presumed to be the traveler wire)

4) In the fixture box, I connected the fixture's black/white/copper wire to the box's red/white/green wires (ignored the black/aluminum wires). I tested the red wire in the fixture box and verified it was not active.

5) I turned on the switch and the light fixture turned on. I tested with the voltage tester again and verified that the red wire was now active.

Hopefully it's safe to just cap off the white wire in the switch box and the black/aluminum wires in the fixture box and leave them unused.
Newbie
May 10, 2006
94 posts
28 upvotes
As I stated in my previous post the 14/3 was used to bring a neutral to the switch. If it was only used on the neutral leg of the smart switch and nothing else attached to it, You can safely cap it at the switch box.

In the end it was exactly as wired. Black wire was hot and red was load. Too many people get hung up on red wires being commonly used in 3 ways as a traveller when in fact its used in all sorts of wiring.
Deal Addict
Sep 13, 2016
2839 posts
1603 upvotes
Mississauga
Happy that it all worked out. The original setup was a weird one and was made even more complicated with that smart switch. I think the previous homeowner tried their best to get the smart switch to work but couldn't. Actually that particular brand( Inovelli) is the only one which reliably works in 3 way setup without a neutral.

I have a similar gangbox which is other end of the 3 way and it was the pain to get that smart switch working properly . Having said that, I wonder why they did not swap these smart switches back to normal ones before they moved out.
Deal Addict
Jun 8, 2004
1543 posts
464 upvotes
Oakville
The wires you ended up using were exactly as what we all said they should have been.

My first response was that the light fixture's black/white/copper are to go to the red/white/green wires, which is exactly what you now have (and was also your attempt #1 wiring that you said didn't work with the smart switch, but now works with the new dumb switch). The initial wiring on the smart switch was also correct with red to load, black to line, and white to neutral. With the dumb switch, only the red and black wires are needed; the white was only needed for a smart switch to receive power.

So, it appears that the smart switch was not working properly since the wiring was correct, and only solved with a dumb switch.
Penalty Box
Jun 24, 2015
4965 posts
1497 upvotes
0 downvotes
ive also seen where they use 14/3 to bring a neutral wire to the switch, glad you got it solved.
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