Replacing light fixture--no white or black wires

seattle_rainMarch 10, 2010

I'm installing an old ceiling light fixture. The electrical wires coming from the ceiling are black and white. The wires on the chandelier are both the same color (gold). Any way to know which one goes to which wire?

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seattle_rain

Okay, I have a confession. I figured if they are the same color then it must not matter. (It's like a lamp cord going through the chain.) So I attached them and turned the power back on and it works. Does that mean I did it correctly?

    Bookmark   March 10, 2010 at 10:15AM
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brickeyee

"Okay, I have a confession. I figured if they are the same color then it must not matter. (It's like a lamp cord going through the chain.) So I attached them and turned the power back on and it works. Does that mean I did it correctly?

No, it does not mean it is wired correctly.
I the fixture uses regular Edison based bulbs (the screw in type) then the outer shell is connected to the neutral (white) wire and the button at the bottom of the light socket is connected to the hot (black) wire.

If you look carefully at the cord one side will have ridges along the jacket.
This is the neutral and should be connected to the white wire.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2010 at 10:53AM
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hrajotte

It should be wired such that the contact at the bottom of the socket is "hot" (connected to black wire) when the power is on. The outer part of the socket should be connected to the neutral (white) wire.
If it's wired backwards, and you change a bulb with the power on, you could get zapped if you accidentally touch the threaded part (easier to do than touching the base of the socket.
You can check this with a basic voltage tester. Remove a bulb and turn on. Check for voltage between the base of the socket and a known good ground (not neutral.) You should get ~120V. Be careful not to short the probe against the side of the socket - that would not be pleasant. Alternatively, check for zero volts between the side of the socket and a known good ground. If the side of the socket is energized, shut off power and reverse the wires.
From a functional standpoint, this is NOT a hazard, just someone could be shocked more easily while changing a bulb.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2010 at 10:58AM
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brickeyee

"From a functional standpoint, this is NOT a hazard, just someone could be shocked more easily while changing a bulb."

From a functional standpoint the light will operate.

From a code and safety standpoint it IS a hazard.

This is the reason that most lamps now have polarized plugs.

It ensures that the shell of the bulb socket IS the neutral and is not a shock hazard.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2010 at 8:44PM
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Billl

"If you look carefully at the cord one side will have ridges along the jacket.
This is the neutral and should be connected to the white wire. "

This is certainly true of new fixtures, but if this is a vintage chandelier, all bets are off. The only way to know for sure it to check it with a meter.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2010 at 9:07AM
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forboystoo

I also had this problem (sort-of) I still need to pick up a meter !!!

Here is a link that might be useful: http://ths.gardenweb.com/forums/load/wiring/msg0712585531080.html

    Bookmark   March 11, 2010 at 2:39PM
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countryboymo

I have to say from a safety standpoint it would be better to make sure the center of the socket is energized. If for some reason it is backwards and the room gets noticeably darker when turning the switch on... I would get the issue corrected and sell the property!

    Bookmark   March 16, 2010 at 10:25PM
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