I am installing a new light fixture in my bedroom ceiling. Up in the attic, at the fixture there are three copperish looking wires (wrapped in cloth tape) coming in from different directions. I can tell one is the switch cause it goes cold when the switch is off. The other two are hot. Does this make sense?

I've tested one of the hot wires going to black on the fixture and the other to white. That did not work. I switched it around and it lit the fixture. Now my question is what to do with the switch wire? does it go to black or white on the fixture? I tried black and it shorts out when i flip the switch on. I think that when the previous fixture was connected I think one of the hot wires was not even connected to the fixture -- just capped. but i could be wrong. this is SO confusing.

I should also mention that it seems like some of the switches in the other bedrooms are interconnected. I can tell because at one point in my trial and error, a switch in one bedroom was turning off lights in another room. Ugh! Oh the joys of living in an old house!

  • Some photos might be helpful. How are you determining the wires are "hot"? How was the old fixture wired?
    – Tester101
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 16:04
  • im calling it hot because my voltage pen lit up on two of the wires and on the third when the switch was flipped on. I wish i knew how the old one was hooked up. it was removed from the bedroom without me looking at the hookup. i can post a pic tonight.
    – Drew M
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 16:07
  • Are the two "hots" connected when the voltage tester lights up, or is everything disconnected?
    – Tester101
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 16:10
  • everything disconnected when they show hot
    – Drew M
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 17:24
  • It's strange to have two "hots". Even stranger in a light box that's switched. How many wires total are in the box?
    – Tester101
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 17:26

1 Answer 1


Do not trust the voltage pen to be accurate. I've seen them light up when I have had the entire house power turned off. I got out a real mulit-meter, and it showed that it was dead. Even though the voltage stick still lit up. Verify with an actual meter. This very well might change the story.

  • 1
    +1 to counter the minus someone gave. "Voltage pen" proximity testers are not accurate devices for determining hot from neutral. Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 6:10

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