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wire colors - switchable red?


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#1 maddog

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Posted 30 June 2020 - 01:47 PM

We had a guy in to do some drywall repair. He showed up before I got home and removed a ceiling light fixture, and I have to infer what's going on in there to replace. Hanging into the box there is a bundle of three white wires which I presume in the neutral. There's a bundle of black wires that is tucked up into the top of the box. There's also a red wire hanging down that I presume is a switchable live wire. I'll test when I get home, but is there any other likely configuration?

 

edit- early 70s construction


Edited by maddog, 30 June 2020 - 01:49 PM.

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#2 Mando

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Posted 30 June 2020 - 01:50 PM

We had a guy in to do some drywall repair. He showed up before I got home and removed a ceiling light fixture, and I have to infer what's going on in there to replace. Hanging into the box there is a bundle of three white wires which I presume in the neutral. There's a bundle of black wires that is tucked up into the top of the box. There's also a red wire hanging down that I presume is a switchable live wire. I'll test when I get home, but is there any other likely configuration?

 

edit- early 70s construction

 

three white wires???  my lights only have one each of white, black and ground.


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#3 Stains_not_here_man

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Posted 30 June 2020 - 02:11 PM

I've taken apart certain switches and outlets in my house to find all the wires inside are one color. Usually brown. So my answer is that any configuration seems possible.
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#4 Kremer

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Posted 30 June 2020 - 02:27 PM

Usually a red in a ceiling box is switched for a fan. Two ganged switches at the door and 14/3 up to the box, black for light and red for fan.
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#5 Dave McG

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Posted 30 June 2020 - 02:29 PM

We had a guy in to do some drywall repair. He showed up before I got home and removed a ceiling light fixture, and I have to infer what's going on in there to replace. Hanging into the box there is a bundle of three white wires which I presume in the neutral. There's a bundle of black wires that is tucked up into the top of the box. There's also a red wire hanging down that I presume is a switchable live wire. I'll test when I get home, but is there any other likely configuration?

edit- early 70s construction

Most likely, but test them to be sure. Is the wiring in conduit or is it cables like Romex? Around here conduit is required and occasionally (rarely) an electrician will run two out of phase circuits in one conduit sharing a neutral. In most cases the two hots are black and red. In that case they would be on separate breakers and both need to be switched off to make it safe to work. I don't expect this to be the case for you, but verify it to be safe.
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#6 maddog

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Posted 30 June 2020 - 02:39 PM

Most likely, but test them to be sure. Is the wiring in conduit or is it cables like Romex? Around here conduit is required and occasionally (rarely) an electrician will run two out of phase circuits in one conduit sharing a neutral. In most cases the two hots are black and red. In that case they would be on separate breakers and both need to be switched off to make it safe to work. I don't expect this to be the case for you, but verify it to be safe.

 

It's romex. 

 

Also, it's 60C rated wire. Most new light fixtures specify connection to 90C rated wire. I don't know how worried I should be about that. I'm sure the old fixtures generated a lot of heat, too. Maybe I'll just get some fixtures with integrated LEDs.


Usually a red in a ceiling box is switched for a fan. Two ganged switches at the door and 14/3 up to the box, black for light and red for fan.

 

The bundle of black is tucked so high into the box and taped in a way I don't think it was connected to the fixture. 


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#7 stlinch

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Posted 30 June 2020 - 03:33 PM

3 way switch?

how-to-wire-3-way-switch-2.jpg


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#8 maddog

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Posted 30 June 2020 - 04:24 PM

Doesn't seem to be
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#9 Dave McG

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Posted 30 June 2020 - 04:41 PM

As you first speculated, the red wire is most likely a switched leg. There are other possibilities, so test it, but I expect that you are correct.
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#10 AspenLeif

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Posted 30 June 2020 - 05:09 PM

Switched leg vote here. White black to fan. Red manages the light separately
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#11 Mando

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Posted 30 June 2020 - 05:30 PM

Take video.
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#12 pods8

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Posted 30 June 2020 - 05:46 PM

Yeah either 3 way switch or setup for a fan in the future, go pull the plate on the switch that controls that currently and see what is wired. I presume you atleast have an indicator light to see what is live (switches turned on and off)?
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#13 tjbsilv

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Posted 30 June 2020 - 06:04 PM

The red wires are called "travelers" and are usually used in 3-way and 4-way switches to control lights and fans from different places in the room. You can use a meter or continuity tester to trace down each conducter. Just be careful!
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#14 maddog

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Posted 06 July 2020 - 05:30 PM

Most likely, but test them to be sure. Is the wiring in conduit or is it cables like Romex? Around here conduit is required and occasionally (rarely) an electrician will run two out of phase circuits in one conduit sharing a neutral. In most cases the two hots are black and red. In that case they would be on separate breakers and both need to be switched off to make it safe to work. I don't expect this to be the case for you, but verify it to be safe.

 

 

As you first speculated, the red wire is most likely a switched leg. There are other possibilities, so test it, but I expect that you are correct.

 

 

Switched leg vote here. White black to fan. Red manages the light separately

 

Finally got the ceiling painted and was able to install the fixtures. It was as described. Red was switchable, and three different junction boxes were wired this way, all controlled by single pole switches contained in a single 3 gang wall box. 


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#15 pods8

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Posted 06 July 2020 - 08:36 PM

You had 3 switches in a single bank controlling 3 different ceiling fans or did some of these ceiling boxes have just a light with the black capped?
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#16 maddog

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Posted 06 July 2020 - 09:16 PM

You had 3 switches in a single bank controlling 3 different ceiling fans or did some of these ceiling boxes have just a light with the black capped?

 

None were wired for fans. The junction boxes were on the front porch, in the front entryway and in a hallway.  My understanding is that this particular arrangement an old fashioned version of wiring that was common in the 70's.

 

https://www.youtube....h?v=pnlHCiRN_RU

 

Experts - please correct me if I'm wrong.


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