The previous owner of my house removed a light fixture and installed canned lights in my living room. The light fixture location was capped and I had a switch that seemed to do nothing so I assumed that switch used to work the light fixture and I was planning on installing a fan (once reinforcing it). If you look at the picture below the switch on the right is the one I referenced and it is in fact wired to that light fixture (I tested the continuity of the hot wire). But the switch only has the hot wire connected, and the neutral wire from the light fixture is pigtailed in with the neutrals of the canned lights. Any help on why it would be wired this way is greatly appreciated.

https://imgur.com/a/qi529DKenter image description here![enter image description here]

  • 1
    Welcome. If you edit your question to include the photo in the question rather than posting an external link, you'll get more people interested.
    – Doug Deden
    Apr 27 '20 at 15:12
  • 1
    Further to @DougDeden's comment, when you edit, there's a little "landscape picture" looking button in the editor. Click that and it'll ask you for the URL to your image, or you can upload it directly from your desktop.
    – FreeMan
    Apr 27 '20 at 15:49

the switch only has the hot wire connected, and the neutral wire from the light fixture is pigtailed in with the neutrals of the canned lights. Any help on why it would be wired this way is greatly appreciated.

Because this is the way normal household switches work.

Normal household switches are single-pole, single-throw switches. That is, they only break one side of the circuit, like this:

------------\ ---------------+

Where the top line represents the hot, switched line, the B is the bulb and the bottom line represents the neutral.

If you have a switch wired like this:

------------\ ---------------+
------------\ ---------------+

That's a double-pole switch and is unnecessary in residential wiring.

It's common in a double-gang box to bring the power in and send two load lines out, one to each switched device.

  • One would tie all the neutrals under one wire nut.
  • Under a second wire nut, you would tie all the grounds, then have 2 pigtails out, one to each switch (to ground the switches)
  • Under a third wire nut, you would tie the incoming hot and 2 pigtails, one pigtail would go to a screw on each switch. Then, the leads out to the loads would each have one hot wire going to the other screw on the appropriate switch.

It sounds like this is exactly how your switches are wired.

  • Thanks! The switch on the right has no power in (not sure if that's clear from the picture). It seems the neutral is still wired correctly, possibly it used to have a line running from the incoming panel hot to the switch that they removed when they took out the fixture? It sounds like I need to: 1. tie into hot wire powering the other switch by pigtailing a wire and wiring to switch on right 2. tie in to ground pigtail so switch is grounded Lastly, I checked the voltage at the fixture which has no power to it. Voltage between neutral and ground is 6V, is that worrisome?
    – Navy247
    Apr 27 '20 at 16:31
  • I think you're on the right track with your wiring update. Please see the comments on the OP about posting your images in the question instead of requiring a click to an external site to view them, makes everyone's life much easier. Also, having viewed that image, it looks like it's been edited to in an attempt to show the wire you're talking about? Not sure. An additional picture from the right side would help visualize better what's going on.
    – FreeMan
    Apr 27 '20 at 16:37
  • Since it seems that the neutral and ground from the box are connected back to the panel and continue to the fixture, it's not surprising that you're reading something there, but, @Navy247, I'd wait for one of the electricians to chime in on that.
    – FreeMan
    Apr 27 '20 at 16:38
  • Thanks! I did edit the original picture to show wire paths. I tried to get this photo in the post but for the life of me can’t get it to display right side up. The far left incoming wire comes from the panel, and you can see where it’s pigtailed into the switch on the left. I’m thinking if I tie in there and run a wire to the switch on the right it will then be powered. Additionally, you can see the ground on the left incoming wire and I could wire the switch to tha. Unfortunately even the working switch on the left isn’t grounded so I can remediate that as well. imgur.com/a/uu7fEsW
    – Navy247
    Apr 27 '20 at 17:07

As you saw in FreeMan's diagrams, switches don't take neutral. Switches only connect always-hot to switched-hot.

The neutral for the defunct switch circuit is exactly where it belongs. The hot wire you have discussed is the switched-hot to the lamps.

What's missing is the always-hot that would give the switch a source.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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