I'm trying to install a new light fixture (I'm based in Canada in case that matters) and I am having some trouble figuring out which wires to connect to which.

The existing outlet has (see picture attached):

  • A bunch of green wires twisted up together (is this ground?)
  • A bunch of red wires twisted up together (what are these for??)
  • A bunch of tan (white?) wires twisted up together (is this neutral?)
  • A single brown (black?) wire (is this hot?)

The light fixture itself has (see picture attached)

  • A single black wire (hot)
  • A single white wire (neutral)
  • A single copper wire (ground)

Do I went to connect up black to brown, white to tan, and copper to green?

If so what's red for?

Can anyone help me to confirm so I don't electrocute myself or burn down my place? :)

I have turned off all power from the circuit breaker (and tested its turned off before beginning). So I'm half kidding on the electrocution part (I hope)

Thanks, Brad

Light Fixture Existing electrical wires

  • 2
    How was the previous fixture connected? "Tan" is almost certainly a "shade of white" here, BTW. They age. But how the previous fixture was wired is almost always the way to wire the new one unless the previous one didn't work correctly...
    – Ecnerwal
    Oct 2, 2022 at 22:52
  • In my eagerness to get the old fixture down I forgot to snap a picture or document it. I suspect the bare wires were connected up and the ground didn’t seem to be connected at all 😱
    – Brad
    Oct 2, 2022 at 22:57
  • 2
    Reds are probably always hot, black is switched hot(switch turns on/off), green/bare always ground, and white should be neutral. Neutral must be white or maybe grey, but white not always neutral, as in a 240 volt circuit.
    – crip659
    Oct 2, 2022 at 23:00
  • So ignore red because it’s a light controlled by a switch?
    – Brad
    Oct 2, 2022 at 23:01
  • 1
    What I am hoping, most lights are controlled by a switch.
    – crip659
    Oct 2, 2022 at 23:03

2 Answers 2


Based on your comments, and normal practices, black to black (brown?), white to "aged white" that you call tan, and ground to green. The old fixture may well have lacked a grounding wire.

Many people use a convention of black for always hot and red for switched hot, but it's a convention, not a code item, and it seems likely that whoever did the wiring here used red for always-hot, if the exposed connections are where you removed the old fixture from.

  • It had a ground wire it didn't appear to be connected. I guess the prior person who installed it just didn't bother - or maybe it wasn't long enough to connect up.
    – Brad
    Oct 2, 2022 at 23:12

It could also be that the red is smoke/fire alarm. What I'd do is get a stick tester (or voltage tester if you know what you're doing), then turn off the light switch. Check the black and red wires with a stick tester, is it hot or dead? Turn the switch on then recheck the wires. Did the black wire become hot? If so, that's you're light hot.

I'm willing to bed that unless you replaced the wire nut on the hot wire that:

  1. The black wire is your light's hot wire
  2. The tan wires are your neutral
  3. The ground was never hooked up, and now is your opportunity to hook the ground to the green wires

Best of luck!

Here's how to use a stick tester:


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