So when we moved into our place, the dining room light was always on unless you used the pull cord to turn it off, the wall switch did nothing. Replaced the switch, no change.

Trying to change out the fixture for a regular chandelier(no pull cord) so we need this switch to function.

Inside switch we have incoming power one black, one white and ground, also have wire going to light fixture, one black, one white, one red, and ground. The problem we are having is if we put power to the black, the red gets power, even if it's not hooked up at either end. How is this red getting power? enter image description hereenter image description here

  • 1
    How are you testing the red for presence or absence of power? Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 2:30
  • Non contact voltage tester, it's been pretty reliable everytime I have used it Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 2:55

1 Answer 1


This looks super simple. I mean normally, wire colors are a mess and don't really correspond to wire function. But luckily, here, they correspond exactly:

  • White = Neutral
  • Black = always hot
  • Red = switched hot

So the switch gets black and red becuase its job is switching. The lamp gets red and white because you don't want it on 24x7.

You join all blacks together, all whites together, all reds together (pretending the hot lead from the lamp is a red). And you're done.

We don't know how it was hooked up before, so I can't guess why this didn't work before. I have a feeling the old lamp was wired into always-hot (black) or the switch was miswired.

Why does the red report hot when the black is? Because I think your non-contact tester is picking up on "phantom voltage", which is a bit of capacitive coupling that can happen between wires in the same cable. Wires left to float can do that.

  • Before in the wall switch, both the blacks were nuted together with a wire nut along with a 6 inch jumper wire to switch, then the red also went to the switch. I believe that's why the light was always on. Maybe they did that to keep the outlets coming from the light always powered. Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 14:06

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