Electrical Wiring in the Home/Wiring Question


QUESTION: I am wiring a sconce which has its own on/off switch. There is no fixture on the wall now -- just 4 wires sticking out of the wall with wire nuts on them. There are two black wires that are twisted together with a nut. A voltage tester confirms these are hot (I've only tested them together). Then there is a white -- presumably neutral wire -- which is twisted with a tan/gold color wire. Voltage tester shows no power to these wire. Question is, what is the tan/gold wire? Another neutral? Ground? How can I tell? I would very much appreciate any guidance you can give.

ANSWER: Hello  David,
My name is Robert and ill be helping you today and in response to your question Yes chances are that that "Tan and gold" wire can very well be a neutral now that being said, how did you originally check the "hot" wires? Did you put one lead from the meter to the box and the other to the black wires or did you just go from the black wires with 1 meter lead and to the white wire with the other? Ok that being said hears what i would like you to do
How To Check Power:
1-With an Electrical meter set to A/C Volts, Go between the 2 sets of wires with the meter leads 1 meter lead to the black wires and the 2nd meter lead to the white wires you should read anywhere from 105-125 Volts and that WILL infact confirm the white wires are your neutrals
2-Now take your meter leads again and put 1 lead to the black wires and the other lead to the box (providing the box is the metal type & not plastic) and again you should read anywhere from 105-125 volts this will insure that your box is properly grounded & the black wires are your hots
3-With your meter leads again Now put 1 lead from the white wires and the other lead to the box again providing that the box is (METAL) you should read ZERO volts thus proving that the white wires are NEUTRAL.
If your box is infact the plastic type either blue or orange in color you should have a "Green" screw with green wires going to it...USE that in replace of the metal box testing points in other words whenever i said go to the box for testing just go to that green screw in replace that's all.
In closing if there is ANYTHING you don't understand PLEASE let me know before proceeding and ill be more than happy to give further instructions, that being said i hope i was helpful and thorough, If so Please take a Moment and fill out the rating survey and leave a comment it means a great deal to me Thank You...Robert

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QUESTION: Thank you very much, Robert.  Sorry it took me so long to come back to you.  I only used one of those pen testers to see if the wires were hot or not.  I do not have a meter.  If it's necessary for me to get a meter to figure this out, I will.  To clarify, note that there are 4 wires - 2 black, 1 white, and 1 tan.  The blacks are twisted together and then the white is twisted with the tan.  That is the way they are sitting in the wall.

ANSWER: I would hate to see you spend money if you don't have to so chances are that that tan is infact a neutral that just faded in color over time  and it makes sense b/c you have 2 hot wires so go ahead and connect the light and essentially you will be using the actual light fixture itself as a meter just the same if you had a pigtail go ahead and connect if the light comes on YOUR GOOD!!! And i feel confident that it is infact another neutral.Dont forget to turn the breaker of before you do it...let me know how you make out

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QUESTION: Thanks again, Robert.  So, I'm going to connect 1) the 2 blacks to the black lead of the light and 2) the white and tan to the white lead from the light.  Breaker will be off!  Should I be concerned that the light won't be grounded?

Not at all thats not important right now all your doing is testing and if you have a metal box in the wall the minute you install it and put the screws in it...BAM!!! its grounded and if you don't have a metal box and its a  plastic one Once your done testing it you will go ahead and hook up the ground you should have a thin bare copper wire attached to the fixture and some ground wires in the box and that is where you will attach it however im pretty sure you have a metal box and if you do you will NOT need to use that ground wire b/c the metal box in the wall is YOUR GROUND...sorry for the long reply I just like to be thorough and safe as well as educating my clients as well as helping them, in closing please be sure to fill out the survey it means alot to me and allows me to help more people such as yourself. Thank you.Robert
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Electrical Wiring in the Home

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Robert Tomasulo


I am here to answer ALL your questions regarding anything to do with home wiring such as Switches, Receptacles,Lighting, Main Distribution Panels, HVAC, Thermostats, etc; if it has a wire and in your home I CAN ANSWER IT. Whether its as simple as "why do my lights flicker?" Or as complex as I would like to rewire my house im here to help, in addition i can offer advice on remodeling a kitchen or lighting up you back yard as well as offering troubleshooting on appliances.


I have over 17 years in the electrical industry including Residential, Commercial & Industrial, Im also a certified HVAC technician as well as a certified fiber obtic technician.I am currently employed by the New York City Transit Authority as the Senior Electrical Maintainer and serve as the Relief Foreman for the electrical maintenance division for the past 12 years.I also hold many certifications, licenses and certificates in my field

FOA Member(Fiber Optic Association) UTU (United Transportation Union) IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) HVAC/TALK (Heating & Air conditioning troubleshooting group)

5 years of technical school after high school in electrical installation and design sponsored by Local 3 (IBEW) As well as over 17 years of hands on in the field training and education, and till this day im still learning, Not a day goes by that i don't learn something and if i feel i didn't i will open up a book to insure I DO!

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