Home Improvement Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for contractors and serious DIYers. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'm installing a ceiling light to a fixture that was previously unused. However I'm having trouble because there are 2 groups of white wires. Which white wire should I connect with the white wire of my ceiling light? One group is a set of 3 wires and one group is a set of 2 wires.

enter image description here

Edit: I should also say that when I tried connecting the group with 2 white wires, turning off the switch for some reason short circuited the whole thing. I thought I might have done the grounding wire (the red one) wrong because I assumed I didn't connect the grounding wire. If my issue is not the white wires, can you please advise what else might be the issue?

share|improve this question
Is this in the US? It's relevant because wiring is generally color coded but may not be coded the same in every country. – The Evil Greebo Dec 28 '12 at 12:50
I don't see enough information to explain what is happening. How many wires in total exist in the box, three wires with black, white, red and bare? Is the switch a two-way or three way switch? When the power is off on all switches that control this, do any of the wires still carry voltage? – maple_shaft Dec 28 '12 at 12:57
How was the old fixture connected? – Tester101 Dec 28 '12 at 13:26
The light has white, black and a copper wire. The picture is of the ceiling. Their was no prior fixture connected. I don't have a device that measures connectivity. – Chowza Dec 28 '12 at 22:13
Also this is in Canada – Chowza Dec 28 '12 at 22:14
up vote 2 down vote accepted

For the switch turned off to short things, it must be a 3 or 4 way switch. The 2 white and 2 black could be travelers, the most likely connection then is lamp black to switched power red, lamp white to the 3 white, probably neutral. It's worth buying a non-contact circuit tester, they aren't all that expensive and can be a literal life saver. You can then quickly locate the proper switched power and deduce which is the neutral, because my guess at what to connect is only a guess. The circuit tester will tell you for sure.

share|improve this answer
Thank you. Black to red and 3 white to white worked. – Chowza Dec 29 '12 at 18:15

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.