US 120v system.
I’m replacing a light fixture in my living room. When i took the fixture off, the two wires broke. Therefore I can’t identify how the fixture was previously wired.
There are five wires in the ceiling box. ALL OF THEM ARE BLACK. Two of them are nutted together and are far up inside the box, and I’ve determined these are unrelated to my work, probably just a hot using the box as a junction. The other three are the confusing part.
I used a tone tracer to identify the hot wire coming from the switch. I double checked this with power on - contactless sensor senses power in the wire when the switch is on and not when it’s off. Ok, so now I know which is the hot.
Now this is the part I’m confused about. First I need to add that I have a switched floor outlet in the living room. Since I pulled the fixture out and all the wires came loose, this outlet is dead even if the switch is on. Contactless sensor DOES detect voltage at the switch AND at the outlet even if the switch is off. (Sensing at the outlet is irrelevant though since it’s a split outlet and thus I’m just sensing the always on socket.)
There are two more wires in the ceiling box. One has no voltage sensed at all in any configuration, so I’m reasonably sure this is the neutral. But the other wire always has voltage on it, EVEN if the wall switch for the floor outlet is off and the switch for the ceiling light is off. Nothing in the ceiling box changes when I flip the floor outlet switch, but devices on the floor outlet do not work.
I obviously know that the hot of my new fixture goes to the hot I found coming from the ceiling light switch. What I’m not sure of is what to do with the other two wires + the fixture neutral. My hypotheses for what’s going on are:
- The second live wire is actually the neutral for the extra floor outlet and it should be tied to the wire with nothing sensed by the contactless tester. However this is concerning because this wire reads live EVEM when the wall switch is off.
- The second live is a hot that is meant to lead to the switch for the floor outlets. Also doesn’t make sense since the switch always has voltage even with that wire disconnected in the box I’m working in.
- The wire with no volts is actually the hot for the floor outlet and thus it reads no volts. Also unlikely because of #2.
- Voltage testers can sense voltage on isolated neutral wires and perhaps #3 is indeed the case. But in this scenario, shouldn’t the switch be turning another wire on and off? This leads me to believe #1 is the most likely.
What would be the next things to test to verify my hypotheses?
I fully intend to mark the wires! The previous homeowner was a DIYer who clearly cut corners and did shoddy work.