Hanging new chandelier

bmwelchOctober 27, 2013


We have an antique chandelier that we have tried to hang in a house built in 1920. The chandelier has just a live wire and a neutral wire. There are multiple wires coming from the electrical box. The caps have colors, most of the wires don't, and are just covered with cloth. I tried to connect the live chandelier wire to the wires capped in red and the one wire that was capped in yellow, and, for both attempts, wired the neutral from the chandelier to two connected wires coming from the box, one of which was white (I assumed this was the neutral wire). Both times, sparks flew from the connection I thought was the neutral. I have attached a photo. I would greatly appreciate any insight anyone has for wiring this up. Thanks!

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Ron Natalie

While without being there it's hard to say for sure, but I suspect you should connect the hot side (center of the contacts) of the chandelier to the black wire (with yellow cap) and the other wire (shells of sockets) to the mess of white wires under what appears as black cap.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2013 at 9:33PM
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Have you tried using a meter or two-lead tester to identify the correct connections?
Is there a wall switch for the light?
I'd recommend that you turn the circuit off at the fuse/breaker panel when wiring in the fixture. The sparking you see is normal when making the final connection on a live and loaded circuit.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 11:32AM
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It is on a switch. I haven't tried using a meter. That is likely the next step. I figured since the switch was off, there shouldn't be any load going to the connection, but I was obviously wrong there.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 11:36AM
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With circuit live, the neutrals can well be carrying current and breaking that connection can cause sparks and give you a potentially deadly electrical shock.
Russian roulette.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 3:29PM
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The OP might also find it useful to post a photo of the switch pulled away from the wall showing its runners.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 5:01PM
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The circuit is on a fuse, not a circuit breaker, I discovered. So I removed the fuse, confirmed no power to the circuit, wired up the light, put the fuse back in, flipped the switch (on a dimmer set to low), and could hear it fizzing and popping in the ceiling. Turned the dimmer up, and blew the fuse. We recently bought this house, and the previous owner had a chandelier hooked up and working on this circuit. We have 5, 60-watt bulbs in the chandelier. Too much? House only has 70-AMP service (town requires underground underground electrical service, so too expensive to dig the trench necessary to bring in 200-AMP service).

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 8:37PM
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The insulation on old wire can be prone to cracking and falling off when the wires are re-positioned, leaving bare wires which can short circuit. The fizzing and popping you got is different from what I pictured from your original post. I recommend getting the wiring checked out by an electrician experienced in working with vintage wiring.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 1:29PM
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Have you tried connecting the two wires from the chandelier to the wires with the red and yellow wire nuts?

    Bookmark   November 1, 2013 at 1:04PM
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Good lord, please stop connecting random wires and applying potential to the "circuit" until after you figure out what the wires are doing. You are needlessly damaging the wire insulation.

There are two ways the light can be controlled by the switch. One is by the circuit connecting from the fuse at the ceiling box and running a switch loop to the wall switch. The other way is by running the wires from the fuse to the switch and then to the ceiling box.

Put the individual conductors back exactly the way you found them to start. Gently pull the switch from the wall box and look in the box. Report what you see in there. After that, you can take a meter or other test device, light or jigglier, and see what wires are live in the ceiling box when the switch is off and when the switch is on. Only then can anyone begin to guess how to connect a light.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2013 at 2:53PM
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