We have a dumpster on our property for another home project and are hoping to take advantage of this by disposing of some bathroom lights and a ceiling fan. However, we do not currently have a replacement for these items.

I don't believe turning the breaker off (and leaving off) is an option.

If I were to remove these lights and then cap off with wire nuts and electrical tape would that be a safe option or is this just asking for trouble?

  • 38
    Have you considered donating the old lights and fan instead of trashing them? Habitat for Humanity is probably the biggest organization in need of them, but there are probably others, too.
    – mmathis
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 19:31
  • 4
    What are you planning on using the electrical tape for? If the wire nuts are not staying on the wires on their own then don't tape them; get wire nuts that are the correct size. Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 1:04
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    Simply taping the wires or installing wire nuts would be safe for the short term, where no tampering was likely. Should not be done in a situation where children or pets can access the wires. The only "legal" way to fix things is to install a blank plate over the fixture box or whatever, after installing the wire nuts.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 3:14
  • 3
    @EricLippert, tape is often used over wire nuts to cover any exposed copper, for example in case the wires were stripped back further than needed. Code may even require tape over wire nuts (though as I understand it professionals nowadays don't use wire nuts much)
    – The Photon
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 16:53
  • @ThePhoton another good point about tape is if the wire nuts should deteriorate or not have been installed as good as thought ..the tape will assure the nut, the wires and any exposed wire will be insulated and stay insulated. I will admit when I wire nut - I pull the nut to see if it is really caught or not and generally the tape should not be needed - I tape.
    – Ken
    Commented Jan 13, 2018 at 22:19

4 Answers 4


Yes. This is not only safe but best practice. Tuck the capped wires completely into the junction boxes to avoid accidentally snagging on passing ladders, wallboard, etc.

If the room continues in general use then install blank cover plates.

  • 39
    The blank cover plate is fairly important.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 20:58
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    @Ecnerwal Especially since those plates cover up the wires, leaving them no longer exposed. Just putting a nut on it isn't enough, but with a nut & cover there is no problem whatsoever.
    – Mast
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 9:12

With the breaker off, put a wire nut on each wire separately (don't nut them all together!) and you're good to go. That is the proper way to terminate unused wires, whether the breaker is to be turned back on or not.


In addition to just capping with wirenuts, depending on your wiring configuration and your expertise, I would suggest labeling the wires as you remove them (maybe if you use large enough wirenuts to write on put a different number/letter on each one and keep a log of what each letter's wirenut was connected to) so you'll know what was connected where in each junction box when you eventually install the new fixtures. This will avoid a future SE question on "how do I know what should be connected to what" question that's all too common.

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    And take a good picture of the connections to each device before you disconnect the wires!
    – Mark
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 22:44

The simplest way to make the bare ends of the wire safe at the device end once the device is removed is to remove them from the breaker at the supply end of the wire.

This is common practice in industry where something will be disconnected for medium to long term. Isolation procedures and leaving things locked and tagged off are another way to do it, but removing the wires from the supply, taping and labelling them and leaving them in the bottom of the box/cabinet is usually preferred. A variation is to then connect the wires to an earth terminal/connector so that when working on the remote end one can simply verify via a continuity test that the wires are all common to earth and thus incapable of preventing a danger.

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    This will not work if other fixtures / receptacles on the circuit are to remain on. And I disagree that playing around in the breaker box is simpler than putting on a couple wire nuts...
    – mmathis
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 16:43
  • The OP didn't ask for 'simplest' solution, they asked for a safe one. Additionally, to apply wire nuts you need to isolate the whole circuit (presuming you're not intending to work live, which is very hard to justify most of the time) and so you're already at the breaker box to switch the circuit and dropping the tails out of the breaker is the work of moments. Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 11:13
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    You're assuming that he has a breaker feeding exactly the only appliance he needs to switch off, which is hardly always the case. Here in Italy a good 80% of all homes only have one main breaker which feeds everything, for example. Even if that weren't the case, you might very well have a single braker feeding two light fixtures, and you only want to get rid of one. Also, you're the one who brought up the "simplicity" of your solution first, not mmathis...
    – Demonblack
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 12:03

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