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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Posts
    15

    Default which wire is which ?

    I want to install a new hanging light. There are 3 wires on the light, a bare (ground) and 2 brown. There are 2 wires coming out of the ceiling, both are cloth covered, one is tan the other is black. How do I know which wires are which? I am sooo tired of a dark kitchen. Please help. Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Fayette County, Ohio
    Posts
    5,557

    Default Re: which wire is which ?

    You have old wiring, Black is hot, the tan is most likely just dirty white and the neutral. If the two brown wires are the same on the light connect one to the black and one to the tan.

    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Tennessee
    Posts
    1,381

    Default Re: which wire is which ?

    What JLM says is normally true, but not in your case. Most lights today come with a black and a white wire as well as a green or bare so your light must be an old light. Your house wiring certainly is old.

    If you can see the where each wire is connected to the socket, then get a piece of white tape, any kind, even that white out tape will do, or if you can't get any white tape, then get some black tape.

    If you have white tape, find the wire that is connected to the shell of the socket, that the outer part and put a piece of white tape on it.

    If you have black tape, find the wire that goes to the center contact and put the tape on it.

    The end result is that the wire to the center contact of the socket should be connected to the black wire and the wire to the shell should be connected to the white or tan wire.

    The black wire is the "hot" wire, the one that can give you a fatal shock. If it is attached to the shell of the light socket and you accidently touch the threaded base of the bulb while you are either screwing it in or out, you would get shocked. It might not kill you, but it will get your attention.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Fayette County, Ohio
    Posts
    5,557

    Default Re: which wire is which ?

    Unless it is a florescent fixture with the wires going to a ballast.
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Posts
    15

    Default Re: which wire is which ?

    Quote Originally Posted by JLMCDANIEL View Post
    You have old wiring, Black is hot, the tan is most likely just dirty white and the neutral. If the two brown wires are the same on the light connect one to the black and one to the tan.

    Jack
    Thank you Jack! All done and it looks wonderful! I did it as soon as I read your reply. I logged on to thank you then read the other post. It is about 5 years old. Bought it from Lowes, it was a floor model, hanging tiffany. The wires are brown, the kind you have to split. I am so proud of myself! Not a big deal for you gentlemen but it was for me. Thank you again.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Pacific Northwet
    Posts
    1,359

    Default Re: which wire is which ?

    Well, you're already done so this is probably moot, but it might help someone else.

    Look closely at the wires on the light fixture. One of them will have linear ribs molded into the insulation; the other will be smooth. The one with the ribs is the neutral and connects to the white wire in the box; the smooth one is the hot and connects to the black wire in the box.

    The neutral wire connects to the interior shell of the socket; the hot connects to the center contact. By wiring backward you make the shell "hot" and that increases the possibility of electrocution or fire in the event something or someone contacts the shell or the base of the bulb when changing it.
    Last edited by Fencepost; 01-13-2013 at 08:15 PM.
    The "Senior Member" designation under my name doesn't mean I know a lot, it just means I talk a lot.I've been a DIYer since I was 12 (thanks, Dad!). I have read several books on various home improvement topics. I do not have any current code books I can refer to. I was an apprentice plumber for two years.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Tennessee
    Posts
    1,381

    Default Re: which wire is which ?

    well there is a 50:50 chance that you got it right. You should be OK as long as you turn off the light switch before you change any bulbs, but even that is not a guarantee with old wiring like yours. There is a small chance that the light switch is in the neutral wire instead of the hot wire as it should be.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Northern Virginia
    Posts
    975

    Default Re: which wire is which ?

    You can test which is the hot with a trouble light. Try each wire against the ground with the switch in the on position; only the hot wire will cause the lamp to glow. Right?
    Casey
    Remove not the ancient landmark, which your fathers have set.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Tennessee
    Posts
    1,381

    Default Re: which wire is which ?

    It would if it had a ground. According to her post, her house wiring is not grounded.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    New London County, CT
    Posts
    88

    Default Re: which wire is which ?

    Better to use a non-contact voltage detector, no ground needed. They are not that expensive and will probably be put to use again in this home. I like those that use AAA or AA batteries.

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