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I bought a new Home Depot kitchen ceiling fixture but am not sure of the proper way to install it. The fixture itself has black, white, and bare copper. The ceiling wiring is red and gray(white?).

What goes to where?

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The fixture should have a wiring diagram. What does it say to do? Also, what's the Home Depot SKU of the fixture you bought? (It's on their website as "Store SKU" and on your receipt.) – Jeremy W. Sherman Oct 3 '12 at 16:59
Look in the ceiling box and see if you have a copper wire screwed to the metal box. – Chris Cudmore Oct 3 '12 at 17:01

The red wire is likely a switched hot -- That is, a wire connected to the hot side of the circuit, but interrupted by the switch. You should test this with a non-contact voltage tester, and have a friend flip the switch. If the wire is indeed a switched hot, the tester should ring in on one switch position. -- It should be wired to the black on the fixture.

That would make the gray/white wire neutral. -- It should be wired to the white on the fixture.

The ground wire (bare copper) may need to be screwed directly to the junction box.

Keep in mind that a ground wire is (hopefully) never used to transport current. That is, it only exists as an alternate path if something goes wrong. If your light fixture is ceiling mounted, and there is no way anyone can touch it, then it's not entirely necessary. In fact, if there is no ground to the junction box, it was installed at a time when grounds weren't required in such locations. While not optimal, it is likely safe just to omit the ground altogether.

EDIT: In reply to comments. If the originally wiring was to code at the time, then replacing the fixture does not require rewiring. (i.e. You can replace what was there as is).

But, you may need to run a ground for the ballast to work properly. If the junction box is metal, it MAY be grounded via conduit or a ground wire screwed directly to the box. If an electric meter reads 120v from red to the box itself, then the box is grounded. (Be careful, or GET AN ELECTRICIAN to check, and run the ground for you.)

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While it's a small risk, I wouldn't advise anyone not to run a ground. If there's ever a short in the wiring to the housing of the fixture, it could electrocute the next person to touch it (e.g. to change a bulb). The ground wire gives a better return path and would likely cause the breaker to trip, alerting you to the issue. – BMitch Oct 3 '12 at 17:18
Actually, most brand new fluorescent fixtures won't even light up without a ground attached to the body of the fixture. Found that out last weekend the hard way -- someone had cut the ground that ran to the fixture at the other end of the line in the box with the switch. – Karl Katzke Oct 3 '12 at 18:09
I missed the Fluorescent part. I re-read the questions several times to check, but I didn't actually read the question title. – Chris Cudmore Oct 3 '12 at 18:14

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