How To Connect Dimmer Switch Wiring for Replacement Fixtures

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How to Wire a Dimmer Switch Wiring for Light Fixtures: Basic Wiring for Light Switches and Dimmers, Identify Switch Box Wires.

Wiring a Dimmer Switch

Electrical Question: I am trying to replace a ceiling fan with a chandelier light fixture.

  • There are 4 sets of wires in the ceiling. 3 sets with black, white, and grounds and one set running to a dimmer switch with red wire, black wire, white wire, and the ground wire.
  • In the ceiling, I have tried to wire all black wires together.
  • I wired all the white wires together and ran to white wire on light.
  • I put the red wire to the black wire of the light fixture.
  • The light will not work nor will my kitchen, hallway, and bathroom lights.

Please help.

This electrical wiring question came from: David , a Homeowner from Stow, Ohio.
See more about Home Wiring for Ohio

Dave ‘s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical troubleshooting question David.

How to Wire a Dimmer Switch Wiring for Light Fixtures

Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools and Voltage Tester.
Estimated Time: Depends on personal level experience and ability to work with tools.
Precaution: Identify the light circuit, turn it OFF and  Tag it with a Note before working with the wiring.
Notice: Installing additional fixture wiring should be done according to local and national electrical codes with a permit and be inspected.

Here is a Straight Forward Way to Identify and Understand Electrical Wiring Used for light Switches.

Basic Wiring for Light Switches and Dimmers

  • Switches do not require a neutral wire, (which is typically the white wire), unless the switch has a pilot light or it is programmable controller or timer.
  • When a “white wire” is used for switching it should be identified with black tape or permanent marker, but in many cases it is not.
  • The wiring in this example, the white neutrals up in the ceiling junction box must not be connected to the white wire which goes to the switch, otherwise it will create a direct short and most likely blow out the dimmer switch and trip the circuit breaker.
  • Three wires are typically used for the switching process of ceiling fans to enable separate switching for the fan motor and the light switch, however they will share the same power source wire.
  • The key is to identify at the switch box which wire is actually used as the power supply, then the other two wire assignments for the light and the fan motor. (The fan motor is never connecter to a dimmer switch, but it can be connected to a speed control switch.)
  • Once the wiring has been identified you will see that you have a spare switch and wire, so just decide which one you want to use to control the chandelier and the remaining switch and wire will be spare.
  • The other sets of  black and white wires up in the ceiling fixture box are the Power In and Power Out cables which will need to be spliced together, color to color.
  • The white neutral wire of the chandelier light fixture will attach with the other spliced white neutral wires.
  • The ground wires of course will be all bonded together and attached to the metal ceiling fixture box.

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Be Careful and Be Safe - Never Work on Energized Circuits!
Consult your Local Building Department about Permits and Inspections for all projects.


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FAQs Frequently Asked Questions and Comments

2 Responses to “How To Connect Dimmer Switch Wiring for Replacement Fixtures”
  1. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Camille,
    Unfortunately, this is not a straight forward simple matter due to the number of wires in the fixture box. However, to understand which wires attach to the light fixture an electrician uses a voltage tester to identify the circuit wires, then the wires which connect to the switch must be identified between the ceiling light fixture box and the wall switch. Once this is understood the proper wiring connections can be made for the wall switch, and the wires for the light fixture.
    I hope this helps you,

  2. Camille says:

    We had an electrician remove our existing chandelier (on a dimmer switch) and he capped the white, black and red (separately). The new chandelier arrived with 2 black wires. We have 2 white wires, 2 black wires, a red wire, and the ground. What wire goes with what? Help, the first attempt the switch wouldn’t turn off the light, the 2nd attempt it tripped.
    Thank you.


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