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My kitchen lights are having electrical issues that I am trying to identify probable causes for. When I bought the house, there was an overhead light in the kitchen and several plug-in light fixtures over the sink and stove, all working fine. The overhead light has two switches, one of which is a dimmer. The overhead fixtures are just on a wall socket, and have their own power switches on the devices.

I recently removed the overhead light and replaced it with a fan & light combination. It has both the light and the fan connected on a single regular 110V circuit, both to the same live & neutral connections. For about a week after the installation, the new fixture was working just fine. After about a week, the fan would continue to work, but the lights would not come on. I discovered that if I leave the lights set to "on", but repeatedly toggle the fan's directional switch (if left in the middle, the fan is "off"), the lights will eventually come on and will work simultaneously with the fan. Sometimes the lights will come on while the fan is not moving (switch for fan in the middle) and will go off again when the fan's direction switches. Turning off the fan altogether does not seem to coax the lights into working by itself. If the dimmer on the light is accidentally turned almost slightly, the lights will go out again, and the process has to be repeated after turning the dimmer back up. The fan itself continues to operate just fine no matter what we seem to do.

Shortly after moving in, the overhead plug-in light fixtures I mentioned earlier stopped working altogether. Replacing the bulbs in them seemed to have no effect. They are unfortunately installed behind the cabinets and I have been unable to reasonably test the lights on other circuits. I might just have to unplug them and cut the wall plug off just to remove them.

The two problems combined make me wonder if the circuit might just be overloaded and trying to draw too much power; otherwise I would just presume that the fan is defective.

I don't have the experience to diagnose what is going on, so when I found a DIY stack exchange forum, I decided to ask the question here. What does this situation sound like to you guys? I don't currently have a diagram of what the circuit looks like.

  • You should contact a local licensed Electrician, and have them come take a look. It sounds like you're having some troubles, and it's not likely anybody will be able to locate and correct the problem through the internet. Without poking around with meters and probes, it's going to be difficult to determine the problem. Also, it sounds like you may have a fan being controlled by a dimmer. Ceiling fans are not designed to be controlled by dimmers, so you should remove the dimmer or fan. – Tester101 Jan 6 '15 at 13:59
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The problem with the light in the new fan/light combo is almost certainly an intermittent connection in the fan unit.

Often these units come with two sets of wires (one for light and one for fan) that you join together at the fixture for operation from a single switch. Your first point of investigation will be to lower the fixture and check that the wire(s) attachments are done properly and securely with good quality wire nuts.

There is also the less likely chance that the intermittent light connection could be in the light part of the fixture itself. This will require careful inspection of all the wiring up to the light socket itself. For some models of fixtures this may require some minor disassembly of the fixture.

  • I don't think that it is an intermittent connection; I can toggle the fan direction switch and just tap the direction to the middle (no direction) and the light will come on. I mean, just lightly touch the middle and the light will come on. If it does not work the first time, doing so over and over again will turn the lights on. Sometimes they will come on and go off again, if the fan goes back into motion. – Erik Frantz Dec 16 '14 at 16:54
  • Your description is exactly the reason I think it is an intermittent connection inside your fixture. The slight movement of activating the switches or the jiggling involved when the fan starts / stops / switches could be just enough make the light wires contact and not contact. – Michael Karas Dec 17 '14 at 1:31
  • I'll take a look at the fixture's wiring this weekend. It just seems odd to me that I can smack the fixture, getting it to wobble, and the lights are not affected, but touching the voltage just a bit will turn them off and cause a whole song and dance to get them back on again. – Erik Frantz Dec 19 '14 at 22:43
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Two years later, I decided to fix this completely. There were 5 cables; source, 3 for a 3-way switch, and one more for remaining circuit.

Whatever the previous homeowner had done was sloppy and dangerous; wires were haphazardly spliced such that a neutral was the fixture's load and another was its return, with three neutrals wired to the hot; it looked like the wiring got reversed and was spliced however just to fix it for an overhead light.

Unwiring everything and testing with a volt meter and voltage detector, turning the circuit on and off for testing and temporary splicing did the trick and everything is now wired correctly, black as load and white as neutral return.

  • Hello, and thanks for bringing this information back. It would be great if you added a simple diagram showing what was going wrong; you could then accept your own answer. (If ya want.) – Daniel Griscom Jun 22 '16 at 10:40

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