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The wiring is suspended on the ceiling inside a metal tube that connects to each light socket and set of outlets at independent metal junction boxes. The first light in the chain finally stopped working the other day a couple years after the second and other lights down the chain kept blowing out new bulbs as they were used for the first time. Something must be wired improperly since I cannot get any power at the switch or bulb sockets while there is power at the fuse box. How do I properly wire this? Should I get new wiring with a third wire for ground? If so, where should it be grounded to and what will the wiring look like at the junction for the switch and first light socket and down the line to the other lights and outlets? The fuse box is an old 30 AMP unit that uses fuses.

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Where are you located? –  bib Feb 7 '13 at 1:51
    
good question, Chicago land and some other areas require all wiring to be within conduit. –  codydog Feb 7 '13 at 2:26
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Chicago is still reeling from the Cow Fire and requires a metal conduit or BX. Sounds like you have an open hot or neutral, you will need a meter and some skills to trouble shoot this problem. –  shirlock homes Feb 7 '13 at 11:58
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2 Answers

You have an aged system that is seriously compromised. Based on the question, you seem to have little experience with eletrical work. It is usually better for a novice to begin with straighforward tasks on a healthy system.

I would strongly urge you to bring in a professional. As other have suggested, a full upgrade to the service panel and the wiring is highly desirable. While it may be possible to cure the current problem without a full ovehaul, you need someone very knowledgable with the right equipment to ensure that the repair is sound and safe.

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+1 It sounds like there might be multiple issues going on, possibly at the panel. It is best to at least get advice from an electrician. –  maple_shaft Feb 7 '13 at 14:35
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Most likely the ground is the metal conduit.

This type of wiring is in service in many areas though should be updated to a three wire system when altered. You should also switch away from fuses and go to circuit breakers. That way you can have arc fault and GFCI breakers where appropriate. This would of course mean rewiring your service panel as well as most of your house- expensive.

Rewiring this section with a three wired system would make sense. if the conduit is the ground in your system you can install grounding screws or clips at each of the metal boxes that your three wire system connects to. The first in the chain must always remain grounded. Ie you can not in the future disassemble conduit from your system without making sure that this section remains grounded all the way back to the fuse box.

For the specifics of how to wire a switch I would recommend that you look at some basic wiring skills books such as wiring one two three from home depot etc.

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Most likely the ground is the metal conduit. One would hope but not necessarily. You are making the assumption that the conduit is in contact with a grounded panel or more likely on the plumbing. It sounds like there might be serious problems here and I am not sure if this an amateur job. –  maple_shaft Feb 7 '13 at 14:35
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