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I took down an old ceiling fan in my home, and replaced it with a basic light fixture.

When I took the fan down, I saw the normal white and black wires, but no ground coming out off the ceiling.

The only ground was a wire screwed to the metal ceiling box and then the other end attached/wrapped up in the white wire's connector cap. In addition to the cap, they were also electrical taped together.

One, does that seem right?

Two, and I guess more importantly, the instructions for the new light fixture said to take the included ground wire from the new fixture and wrap it around the ground screw(which is screwed into the included bracket) and then attach the end to the ceiling box's ground wire.

Well, I cannot use the metal ceiling box that was being used with the ceiling fan. I can only use the bracket, which is currently screwed into place, right into the "hole" in the ceiling.

Everything is installed and up, working fine, but my biggest question is how the ground wire works. Is it supposed to have a shared current going through it from the white wire?

I'm currently using the included ground wire from the base of the light fixture, and that goes up and it's wrapped/attached to the ground screw on the bracket.

That to me doesn't seem like it would help anything at all. Would it? Did I do something wrong?

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A photo, age of house and location would help in this case. – Bryce Jan 23 '14 at 4:44
up vote 6 down vote accepted

It sounds like this is what you're describing...

enter image description here

If this is indeed what you've encountered, you should remove the grounding conductor from the twist-on wire connector used to connect the white wires.

enter image description here

The only place grounded (neutral) conductors and grounding conductors should be bonded (connected), is at the main service disconnect.

If there are no grounding conductors in the house, it's not that big of a concern. As long as the wiring is done properly, you should have no problems at all. If there truly are no grounding conductors in the house, connecting fixture grounding conductors will have no effect. If you're really concerned about the lack of grounding conductors, you can install combination ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) breakers in the service panel.

This sentence also has me concerned...

I cannot use the metal ceiling box that was being used with the ceiling fan. I can only use the bracket, which is currently screwed into place, right into the "hole" in the ceiling.

Are you saying that the new light fixture is not installed in an electrical box?

If this is the case, you should correct that issue as well. All electrical connections must be made inside an approved, listed and labeled enclosure.

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If there is a box (a big and important if as you indicate), why not bond the ground wire to both the mounting bracket and the box? I am not a big fan of mechanical bracket connections serving as electrical connections. – bib Jan 23 '14 at 14:26
@bib If there is no grounding conductor in the (possibly nonexistent) box, why bother hooking up the fixture ground at all? – Tester101 Jan 23 '14 at 15:02
Well, if there is a box, and if it is connected by armored cable, and if the mechanical connections (yucch) of the armored connections are all good, then there might be a usable ground. And if there is not such a connection, why hook the fixture ground to the bracket (as shown in your [as always excellent] illustration)? – bib Jan 23 '14 at 15:06
Your illustrations always make me happy (and a good bit jealous). – bib Jan 23 '14 at 15:23
@AnthonyMyers You Must have a box. You might have to install a different size/type box, but a box is required. If there is no grounding conductor leading all the way back to the panel. Then yes, the fixture ground is doing nothing. – Tester101 Jan 23 '14 at 17:10

It is incorrect to connect the white wire to any sort of case, metal box, or ground wire. Period.

There is likely no actual ground in this box. The proper thing to do is to connect the fixture's ground wire to the metal box or bracket and be done with it (there may be no actual ground). The ground wire on a light fixture has no operational purpose: it's there just in case a wiring fault causes the fixture body to become energized. While code for new construction requires a ground, there's no particular reason to worry about that for a retrofit.

As is often the case on DIY, a photo would help a lot, as would age of home and jurisdiction.

You should also consider sealing the the hole to prevent energy loss via airflow.

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Thank you! Yea, I do have the fixture's ground wire attached to the metal bracket's ground screw. I just wanted to make sure that was right. I guess I'm confused how exactly that would do anything to help prevent fires, since it isn't connected to the other wires whatsoever. I knew I should of taken pictures. I was in such a hurry. I'm in the northwest, and light was disappearing fast! The house was build in 1955. – Anthony Myers Jan 23 '14 at 5:00
For a 1955 house it's good to check (or better wrap) any old wires entering metal boxes. Also in the northwest get back up there and air seal: it makes a huge difference. Note that SE etiquette is to upvote then 'accept' an answer, once you are satisfied. – Bryce Jan 23 '14 at 5:30
@Bryce DIY etiquette is not to ask the OP to up vote and/or accept your answer. – Tester101 Jan 23 '14 at 11:07
Thank you Bruce, but I was looking for a definite answer that my ground wire supplied with the light fixture really isn't needed, since there isn't a ground coming from the house. I was/am looking for an explanation of how a ground works. What really threw me off was the fact that they had a wire going from the metal ceiling fan box to the white wires. – Anthony Myers Jan 23 '14 at 16:19

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