I've got a problem with some recessed lighting.

We have 8 recessed lights on a circuit that is controlled by a timer so we can leave them on/off for set periods. Five lights are indoors and three are outdoors, under an extended overhang. When we moved into this location, one of the three outside lights did not work. This one is positioned on the right. After we were here a year, all of the old floodlight bulbs were replaced with LED bulbs. Some time in the year after that, the light in the center stopped working as well. Currently, only the leftmost exterior light works and all of the interior lights work. There is no attic access to this area. All of the bulbs have been tested and work fine elsewhere. Never had a breaker trip. Tested the sockets of the two nonworking bulbs with my voltage indicator and it agreed with the bulbs - no power.

The boxes for these lights are all mounted right beside them up in the fiberglass filled hellhole of an overhang but I can't see them or see how to get them loose. I've managed to get a horrible picture or dozen with my phone - enough to see that the wiring looks to be in good shape and that any connections must be actually in the boxes (never know with these really old buildings).

Where's my best bet for trying to solve this and get the lights working? I've put away a lot of the more pressing projects and I'd like to get these back in commission before the long dark of winter.

  • I managed to learn a couple of things. One, the power was not run in serial to the exterior lights. Dunno why, but I got video that shows it coming in from different directions. Two, no power going to the boxes on these. Managed to get into them after a few ore tries and tested the inbound wires - dead. So I'm looking at tracing those back to their issues or bringing in new runs. – Tom Stephens Aug 30 '17 at 17:17
  • recessed fixtures usually do have a small over temp switch, fixture gets two hot the switch opens, after cycling for years they do fail open. Other than that they are probably daisy chained and have a bad connection. – Ed Beal Jan 25 '18 at 22:36

Recessed light that are for incandescents have a built in thermal detector, over the years the eventually give up and the can stops working. The outside has more extreme conditions so it stands to reason they would give up first. The detectors are generally located on the exterior of the can. If these cans are original installations and not remodel cans, you can actually remove the small screws towards the bottom of the can. You may have to remove the trim first.

Once that is done you will be able to see the detector on the side and the junction box mounted on the can frame. This box has snap off covers so you can get to the wiring. Check to see if you have power to this box. Unfortunately they stopped making replacement thermal protectors so you will need to replace the can, if you find power in the box. If you do not have power in the box then I am afraid the only way you can find the problem is to track it down (see Michael Karas).

  • Should have read the answers both are what I was thinking ++ – Ed Beal Jan 25 '18 at 22:41

One has to draw the conclusion that the outside light fixtures must be wired up first to the LEFT then to the CENTER and finally to the RIGHT. Somewhere there is a wire connection that has failed so the best recommendation for trouble shooting is to start at the LEFT junction box and check the electrical connections there. Then follow the wiring and check the connections in the CENTER box. Follow this through to the RIGHT most box/fixture. From the information you have given us so far, the above procedure should find a bad connection somewhere along the wire route.

Note that it is possible that the wiring is not a straight inline string and may instead branch out to these lights from a single common point. For example the switched power wire from in the kitchen could feed to the center junction box and then branch from there to the left and right light fixtures. The only way to know this for sure would be to actually see the wires or observe the number of wire cable ends in the boxes as you fully inspect each one.

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