Troubleshooting Wires to the Light Switch
How to Wire Light Switches: Types of Circuit Wires Typically Found in a Switch Box and How They are Connected, To Get Your Light Switches Working it is helpful to understanding that a light switch is basically the switching of a the power source as explained here with the help of Wiring Diagrams for Light Switches.
How to Get Your Light Switch Working
Electrical Question: I am confused about the wiring of a light switch.
- Here is what I have:
- 1 outlet box with 3 lines coming in to it.
- Only one line is hot and outlet box has one light switch for a bathroom light and one receptacle.
- One wire goes to hall light switch, another wire goes to a bedroom receptacle.
- All three lines coming into the outlet box are black, white, and ground.
- I am not sure how to connect the wires to the light switch and still keep the the receptacle in the bedroom hot.
Received from Gilbert a Handyman in Sacramento, Calif.
Thanks for your electrical question.
How to Wire Light Switches
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 lighting circuit, turn it OFF and Tag it with a Note before working with the wiring.
Notice: Installing additional electrical wiring for light fixtures should be done with a permit and be inspected.
Identifying the Circuit Wiring
It is very helpful to identify the wires and then organize them together into groups so you understand which wires will be spliced together and which wires will be attached to light switch.
Types of Circuit Wires Typically Found in a Switch Box and How They are Connected
- Cables and Wires
A cable is typically a group or wires with one outer covering containing a black wire, white wire, and ground wire. This is commonly referred to a 2-wire cable with a ground.
- Power In
This is typically the black wire of a cable which supplies the circuit power.
- Power Out
This is typically the black wire of a cable which supplies circuit power out to other devices such as wall outlets.
- Wires to the Light Fixture
This is the cable that goes up to the light fixture with the black wire that will be controlled by the light switch.
- Neutral Wires
White wires are typically the neutral wires that are in the same cable as the circuit power wire.
- Ground Wires
A bare copper wire or a green wire is the ground wire which is found in each cable.
Grouping the Wires Together
Once the wires have been identified, then the wires can be organized into groups that will be spliced together to keep the circuit connections, and the additional wires that will be necessary to connect the circuit power to the light switch.
- The Power In and Power Out black wires are spliced together, and an additional wire is added to provide power to the switch.
- The Black wire that goes to the light fixture is attached to the light switch.
- All the White Neutral wires are spliced together.
- All the ground wires are spliced together and bonded to the switch and box.
- Note: Some switch boxes may have more than one electrical circuit cable, and these wires must be identified as well so they can be kept separate from the light fixture circuit wiring.
For More Complex Wiring for Switches
To Get Your Light Switches Working it is helpful to understanding that a light switch is basically the switching of a the power source as explained here with the help of Wiring Diagrams for Light Switches
- This type of question is hard to answer because it lacks a lot of clarification and there seems to be an explanation of a few missing wires. With me being placed right in the middle of something like this it creates all kinds of questions of my own.
- My first question being what has taken place that caused all these wires to need to be identified, or what is the original problem?
- Is this wiring that was just added that does not work?
- If so you may consider contacting the person who added the wiring and ask them to put it together and make it work.
- I run into this from time to time where I am brought into a situation where I have to basically get out my testers, pencil and paper and identify what someone else has wired.
- If you’re working at a home that has original wiring, then 99% of the time outlet wiring is connected color to color except for switched outlets or 3-wire or multi-wire circuits.
- Wiring to a light switch is basically the switching of a hot wire and splicing the neutral wires that lead to the fixture.
How to Troubleshoot Light Switch Wiring
Troubleshooting electrical wiring begins with identifying the problem, asking a lot of questions, then start the process of elimination. Work the problem backwards starting with what does not work and travel back towards the source until you find the problem.
- Wiring a light switch can be challenging sometimes when there are many wires to try to figure out.
- If you having a hard time wiring a switch then consider having a professional help you out.
- So many times Ive seen projects where homeowners hire someone who is not a professional just to save themselves money.
- Most of the time they end up spending more because they end up hiring a professional to fix what was installed wrong.
- This is not intended to speak bad about handymen and women, not at all. I know some who know more about electrical wiring than a general contractor, this is rare, but interesting to note.
- I know a lot of very knowledgeable handymen and handy women who provide a great deal of services to a lot of people at a very reduced rate.
- The key is to understanding when you may be getting into something that may be beyond your abilities. At that point it may be time to hire a professional to take care of it for you.
More about Wiring Light Switches
Electrical Wiring Diagrams
Home electrical wiring diagrams are an important tool for completing your electrical projects. An electrical wiring diagram can be as simple as a diagram showing how to install a new switch in your hallway, or as complex as the complete electrical blueprint for your new home or home improvement project.
Be Careful and Be Safe - Never Work on Energized Circuits!
Consult your Local Building Department about Permits and Inspections for all Electric Wiring Projects.
The Safest Way to Test Electrical Devices and Identify Electric Wiring!The Non-Contact Electrical Tester
This is a testing tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and is the first test tool I grab to help identify electrical wiring. It is a Non-contact tester, [amazon.com], I use for the detection of Standard Voltage in Cables, Cords, Circuit Breakers, Lighting Fixtures, Switches, Outlets and Wires. Simply insert the end of the tester into an outlet, lamp socket, or hold the end of the tester against the wire you wish to test. Very handy and easy to use.
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