Hopefully straightforward wiring question, but I can't seem to figure it out.

In my kitchen we have two ceiling light fittings. One has white, black, & copper wires, the other had white, black, red and copper.

There is a two way (on/off) light switch on the wall which causes power to flow through the white & black wires in both boxes (tested with a voltage detector).

I hung lamps on both fittings, wired to the white and black wires. The light attached to the first fitting (only white and black wires) works fine, but the light attached to the second fitting doesn't - light doesn't come on. I've switched bulbs, and switched the whole pendant, to make sure neither is defective, and in all cases the light attached to the first box lights up, the second doesn't, despite the voltage detector showing the white/black wires are hot.

In the second box, with the non-working light, the volt meter shows that the red wire is always hot.

Am I wiring up the second pendant lamp wrong? Should the always-hot red wire be involved, and if so with which other wire?

  • 2
    Where is the red in the 2nd box coming from? Is the black in the 2nd box switched by the switch that controls the 1st light. What wires and cables are in the switch box? – Jim Stewart Aug 27 '18 at 15:10

The first light works with the switch, but the second does not, even though the black wire in the second box is (switched?) hot. The simplest explanation is that the neutral is not connected to the second light.

Is the black line hot entering in the switch box or in one of the boxes for the lights?

Where is the red line hot coming from? You do not need two line hots for two lights controlled by one simple 1-pole switch. Possibly the second light was at one time controlled separately from another switch and someone changed to the two lights controlled by one switch.

  • Thanks for getting back to me Jim. The black line entering both light fittings is switched by the same switch (the voltage detector is silent on both black and white wires in both light fittings with the switch off, and lights up on both black and white wires in both light fittings with the switch on). I haven't looked at what wires are connected to the switch - if that's useful I can take a look. No idea where the red hot line is coming from. Have tried every switch in the room, nothing seems to turn it off. – Antony Baxter Aug 27 '18 at 15:16
  • Are these wires in Romex or are they in conduit? – Jim Stewart Aug 27 '18 at 17:47
  • Romex - the end of which emerges into the light fitting. I'm wondering if the problem is at the switch - perhaps the neutral from the second fitting has come loose? – Antony Baxter Aug 27 '18 at 19:14

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