# Ground wire behaves weird

I never experienced this and it doesn't really make sense.

I installed recessed lights(6) with the switch. I connected them all in parallel. The house uses only two wires for lights, white and black. I connected all ground wire and connected it together. I also tried to connect ground wire to every metal box so it's all grounded.

When I turned on the circuit breaker the lights were ON bypassing the switch. The switch was connected correctly interrupting black wire. The only logical thought I had was that the live wire is white and is trying to go through the bulbs into the ground. So I disconnected ground wire in the main box and that worked. But it still doesn't make sense because bulbs aren't connected to the ground wire. They are connected to white and black. Their box is connected to the ground wire.

Does anyone has any explanation for this?

• Can you draw a wiring diagram of what you've done showing hot, neutral, ground, switch connections and light (aka load) connections? Nov 6, 2013 at 14:54
• Do you have a separate ground wire or only black and white at the box?
– bib
Nov 6, 2013 at 15:10
• there is only black and white in the electrical junction box I used for connecting the wires. So actually ground wire isn't connected... Nov 6, 2013 at 15:17
• Your diagram shows ground to each light. Nov 6, 2013 at 15:19
• @user1684652 If you're going to do it wrong, at least do it wrong in a way that won't kill someone. When the switch is off, is anything still hot in the fixture?
– BMitch
Nov 22, 2013 at 15:22

Best guess from the limited details is that you have a ground/neutral short somewhere and also a switched neutral. That would result in the lights always being hot and turning on as soon as there's a path to neutral or ground.

To diagnose this, you'll need a voltage tester that can handle line voltage (120vac). White to ground should read near 0v, white to hot should read 120v, and ground to hot should read 120v. Then disconnect the line from the load and check for continuity in the circuit. The switch should show no continuity when off, and near 0 ohms when on. And the ground should show no continuity from both the hot and neutral wiring. The neutral to hot should show continuity until the lights are removed from the sockets, at which point it should show no continuity.

If the voltage readings indicate a reversed hot/neutral, then correct them and label the issue so it doesn't confuse a future electrician. If the continuity tests show unusual readings, there's likely a short and I'd recommend disconnecting the light fixtures and retesting after connecting them back one by one until you locate the short.

Standard disclaimer: if you're at all uncomfortable around household voltage or do not know the proper safety precautions, please consider hiring a professional electrician.

• this is incorrect answer! If a ground/neutral is short somewhere it would burn out the fuse. The black was interrupted with the switch so it means that neutral and ground were creating circuit. Nov 22, 2013 at 13:45
• @user1684652 that is incorrect. If the ground and neutral wires short each other, you'd have a difficult time noticing since they are already joined at the service entrance. It's only a short of the hot wire that causes a breaker to trip.
– BMitch
Nov 22, 2013 at 13:47
• I understand but in my scenario looks like neutral was a hot wire and black wire wasn't used. So in that case the fuse would burn out if the neutral(hot wire) touches ground before completing the circuit. Nov 22, 2013 at 14:20
• If the neutral wire was hot, then it's no longer the neutral wire and you're talking about a hot/ground short. I'm talking about a neutral/ground short with the real neutral, not the "hot neutral".
– BMitch
Nov 22, 2013 at 15:16