I live in a pretty old condo in MA, and the living room track lighting stopped working. New bulbs didn't help, but the second set of lights on the same outlet worked fine. Replacing the bulbs and cleaning the fixtures didn't help either.

This weekend, I decided it was time to replace the lights, but this is my first electrical DIY project. I pulled down the old lights, hung the new set connected all the wiring, and turned the circuit back on. No dice: same as with the old set, the new ones don't light up.

A voltage tester shows power at the switch (a dimmer), and power throughout the track.

Any ideas why I still don't have any light?

EDIT: I tried with a CFL, rather than LED bulb, and the CFL flashes. Also tried with an incandescent, which didn't turn on at all. Suggestions?

1 Answer 1


It sounds like you have a fixture controlled by a conventional dimmer and are using CFL non-dimmable bulbs.

Standard dimmers were designed for incandescent bulbs. Many CFL and LED bulbs are non-dimmable. Some are dimmable, but only work with special dimmers designed for their electronic circuitry (conventional bulbs have no circuitry, only simple filaments). Some CFL or LED (not many) will work with a standard dimmer.

First you need to make sure the bulbs are dimmable, and then that you have a compatible dimmer.

In general, CFL and LED bulb packages indicate whether they are dimmable or not. If it does not say dimmable, it is probably not. Dimmers also indicate whether they are intended for CFL and/or LED bulbs. Again, if it doesn't mention CFL or LED, it is probably not compatible, unless you have bulbs that specifically say works with standard (or conventional) dimmers.

Check the fixture by using an incandescent bulb. If it works, either go with incandescent, find CFL or LED bulbs that work with standard dimmers or swap out the dimmer.

If the incandescent doesn't work, you have a wiring problem or a defective fixture.

  • I tried the incandescent, and it doesn't work. Any suggestions on what kind of "wiring problem" I might be looking at? I can't really imagine it's defective fixture-- it's brand new, and the prior one didn't work either.
    – Joan Smith
    Commented Nov 30, 2013 at 23:07
  • It's a bit hard to tell. Do you have both a neutral (white wire) at the fixture as well as a switched hot (black or red)? You can test this with a non-contact tester, carefully turning the power on with the box fixture box open. The white should have no power and the red or black only when the switch is on. You also could have a bad dimmer.
    – bib
    Commented Nov 30, 2013 at 23:15
  • I do have a white and a black, as well as a green ground. I'm not completely sure I trust the non-contact tester, but it seems like all three have power, even when the switch is off. The tester behaves properly on another circuit/fixture when it's on/off. Even when I have the breaker switched off for this one, the tester beeps. I guess that means it's time to call an electrician?
    – Joan Smith
    Commented Nov 30, 2013 at 23:26
  • Yes. The neutral wire (white) and the ground (bare or green) should never beep with a non contact tester. It sound like you have a short or crossed wire somewhere (even though this would normally trip a breaker). Call the pro.
    – bib
    Commented Nov 30, 2013 at 23:29
  • @JoanSmith Actually depending on how sensitive your non-contact tester is, you may get false positives. Just placing a finger near the insulated part of the wire should stop that from happening. You will need to test the wire an inch or more away from where your finger is. Commented Dec 2, 2013 at 0:00

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