I was answering a trouble call in an apartment today that a pendant light fixture had come down and was hanging by the wiring.

I went to remount it, but noticed that the light fixture wiring was connected to Black and Ground. The white was unused and coiled up...and oddly, there was a coiled up unused red wire (Like for a 3-way switch, but this isn't a 3-way switch controlled light). They just used that type of cable for the wiring and didn't use the red wire - what a waste.

The light switch for the fixture is on a 2-gang box. The other switch on that box is for the kitchen lighting (which IS a 3-way switch controlled fixture). So I opened up to check the wiring in the box and think I see what's going on.

The kitchen 3-way light looks to be set-up like Wiring Diagram #1 from this link: https://dengarden.com/home-improvement/how-to-wire-a-3-way-switch-wiring-diagram

enter image description here

Power comes in to the kitchen light fixture and then runs over to the 2-gang box (Use that top oval in the wiring diagram for visual). The white wire going into the box is now the hot. There isn't really a neutral on this wire going into the box, right?

Well so now back to the problem pendant light fixture (not the kitchen light fixture). It takes it's hot from that white wire. But there's no actual neutral to tap into, so instead the problem light fixture uses ground as the neutral.

Does there need to be another power-in cable run to the 2-gang box for the problem pendant light fixture to tap into?

I need to check the other apartments now. Maybe this is how all of them are done.

  • Can you post photos of the insides of the boxes in question? Is replacing the wiring involved an option? Commented Feb 19, 2020 at 12:31

2 Answers 2


OK, disconnect that pendant light until you fix the problem. you can't have a ground wire carrying load. There is no neutral in that box.

You've got to choices (well, maybe more), you can run a new feed to the duplex switch and utilize the unused white and red wires to get neutral and switched power to the pendant light after disconnecting the switch from the existing source. You could also run a new feed to the pendant light box, connect neutral to light and utilize the black and red wires for switched hot after disconnecting switch from existing source.

Remember to connect all grounds from new feeds to existing ground wires

  • I did check another apartment that I was working in today. Seems that one has the feed to the pendant light box, then runs to the switch. Not sure what happened when that problem apartment was initially wired up. I'd like to tackle fixing the wiring, but I'm not an electrician. Only a maintenance tech and they always keep us busy running to all the new trouble calls. I have to get the supervisor to get an electrician in to rewire it.
    – itsgalf
    Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 2:03

Technically speaking, the neutral wire is connected to the grounding inside the service panel anyways. However, chances are your local codes wouldn't approve or advise using the ground wire as a neutral.

As for the 3 wire run to the pendant light, they likely ran that because of the possibility of a ceiling fan/light combo being installed. They generally have the connections in them to allow the fan and light to be switched seperately.

  • 1
    Technically speaking, banks give money to lots of random people who walk in, so they shouldn't mind if you walk in and ask for money too. However, chances are your local authorities won't approve. Commented Feb 19, 2020 at 14:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.