June 11, 2008

I Am Not An Electrician (Part II)

The Wife wants me to replace the two old "ugly" overhead light fixtures in the office and spare bedroom of Soffit House. She found the fixtures she wants and now it's my job to get them in the ceiling and working. The instructions (illustrated, click for full-size goodness) that came with the fixtures leave a lot to be desired.

First of all, the instructions nowhere distinguish between the "mounting screws" and the "outlet screws." So I have no idea if I'm using the right screws or not.

Secondly, the illustration of the bracket is backwards from the bracket that I have -- you'll note that the bracket illustrated in figure 1 seems to have the ground screw head facing out on the concave side. My bracket came with the ground screw head pre-mounted on the convex side. It's far from apparent how the screws are supposed to attach the fixture to the bracket, since there are no threaded holes at all in the fixture. So I don't know whether I've mounted the screws facing the right direction or not.

Third, there are two sets of wires, plus the ground, on the new fixture. Two jacks for light bulbs, with one black wire and one white wire each. An uninsulated copper wire in the middle for the ground. Easy enough right? here's the problem: my ceiling's junction box has three wires and a ground -- one in black, one in white, and one in red. Presumably, the red is the "hot" wire, and the white is the "neutral" wire necessary to complete the circuit. The black wire might also be a "hot" wire, but it might also be a "neutral." I only know to hook up black to black, and white to white. If red and black are the same, then that's cool, but I'm still short one "neutral" wire so I can't make two circuits. And if I make a three-way circuit (black from bulb 1 and black from bulb 2 both hooked up to black from the ceiling, same with white) that leaves me with at least one "hot" wire just kind of floating loose, which sounds oh, just a bit dangerous.

Of course the mounting bracket that came with the bulb has nothing to do with the size of my junction box, so I had to make a special run to the hardware store to get an improvised mounting system (hex nuts) based on the old bracket's mounting screws.

So let's review TL's progress installing an out-of-the-box overhead light fixture. After an extra day getting hex nuts to mount the bracket at all, I don't know whether I've mounted the bracket upside down or not, nor whether the screws are facing the right direction or if they're even the right screws. I don't know how I'm going to mount the fixture on the bracket when those problems get solved, and once that happens, I don't know how to wire three wires into four.

Other than that, this job's a snap.

1 comment:

Arnie said...

In all likelihood, your ceiling fixture has been prewired for a ceiling fan with lights. The black wires should be for the fan, and the red one for the lights. Check the wall switch beneeath the plastic plate. Or perhaps there are two switches? I am guessing you previously had just a light fixture. And the red wire was not attached when you disassembled the old one. See what the red wire is attached to inside the wall switch controlling the light.