Electrical Wiring in the Home/Light Wiring in Attic
Expert: Will Babbitt - 2/16/2015
We bought a house that has a fluorescent light wired in the attic, operated by a light switch (which looks like that switch may be operated by another light switch. It has not worked since we bought it. I replaced the bulbs, thinking maybe that was the issue. How can I tell if it has something to do with the fixture or the wiring?
Answer So you think this switch is a three way? Three way switch circuits have two switches at two locations when there is say two entrances to a room, if the switch is a three way switch it will have three wires and a ground, a bare ground wire, ground is not critical to operation it is for safety so if there is no ground as many leave grounds off switches if there are three insulated wires most likely two of one color coming from the switch it is likely a three way switch, and either the other switch is bad, or this one is bad, or both or bad, or no power to either,
First thing find the incoming power then find the load side which goes to the light, get a voltmeter you will need a meter that reads voltage value not a non contact because we are looking to see if you have somewhere near at least 110 volts going to the light,
switch legs are just the hot wire run to a switch where the switch "cuts" the wire into, that is all a switch is, a three way has a traveler wire from switch to switch and then power, so the light or load can be operated from two places,
Quite often the first thing that fails in a fluorescent light is the bulbs but they should appear blackened and some fixtures fail if just one bulb goes out, so measure the voltage at the LIGHT is there 110 or so there? When you flip the switch does the 110 go away?
If so bad bulbs, bad ballast, bad wiring in the fixture, for a temp test, unwire the fixture find a cheap ceramic fixture with a known good bulb tape it up good with lots of black electrical tape and see if it works, again bad fixture buld ballast if no voltage now you have some detective work, but first determine if the switch has more than one wire on each screw if there is three find the other switch and again measure for voltage, I get questions all the time about things like this and there is another switch hidden behind a cabinet or something, but that alone should not keep the light from working,
Butyou need to find it anyway because it might be that the other switch is bad, but if you just have two wires it is not a three way,
Now you look for any loose wire nuts in any boxes the switch box the light box check the breaker look for a GFCI that may be tripped somewhere, but you will need a voltmeter and be working with live voltage, if you feel uncomfortable with that, hire a referenced electrician.
But you said you bought a house when? Most homes have to pass an electrical inspection what happened then and when,? Can you contact the seller or realtor sometimes they will be very helpful and maybe provide the answer over the phone, most likely you have a bad light fixture bulbs or something, but until you can prove there is power or you can get another power supply to the fixture and then it works, ?? The last one will be the most difficult, the simplest of all is to get a cheap single bulb fixture, you know the older style for like a crawl space they still sell them or find one at a swap shop, wire the two wires at the not working fixture to the new buld and fixture and see what happens it either lights or not, if it does bad fixture, if it does not something somewhere is open the switch is bad, the OTHER POSSIBLE SWITCH is bad, or some wire nut came loose, check your breakers make sure none are tripped and if one is and it resets great and all works, but if it is tripped and when you go to reset it it trips right back off or will not reset call an electrician that is a problem way beyond diy and diy in electrical is not my most favorite advise only if you have experience and are comfortable with a meter and live power should you even attempt diagnosis, a good electrician should have this kind of thing diagnosed in a matter of minutes, if not then get another electrician
And if they start telling you stuff that makes no sense with big $$$ write me back and I will call them if needed, this should not be a big deal one switch one fixture minutes if that now they have minimum charges for a trip charge and honestly if the price is reasonable that is fair for the gas the service vehicle and the time but maybe you know a handy person who can look at this who is experienced with electrical, people find me all the time, I am sure there is someone around your cirles that can diagnose a light fixture and switch let me know how it goes and get references if you go with a company and another thing, do not just let them show up, you go to their office or shop and look yourself, the days of fake websites is here to stay and many websites look way better than the real building and company so check their place before they come to yours
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