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I bought a house that was built in the early 70's.

I replaced a wall sconce which had the usual white, black and ground wire. The power source for the wall box has several wires; two white, two black and two red. I wired the new light using the same wiring pattern that existed previously; the white sconce wire went to the two white wires and the sconce's black wire going to the two red wires. I left the two black wires alone and twisted/capped together.

The light works fine except that it smells hot. I am reluctant to use this light because I don't understand how are why it was wired as it is.

Is it safe to use or should it be wired differently?

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    Interesting and well described! Are there two light switches controlling the light? Also, this probably won't help anyone, but for my own curiosity: Are the black, red, and white in a single romex-type deal or are they loose wires? – Zach Mierzejewski Oct 7 '15 at 17:21
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If the previous light was functioning properly and the new light is wired exactly the same and functioning properly, there should be no issues here.

Smells hot could be any number of things or absolutely nothing at all. Usually feels hot is where problems occur (and not feels-hot because of heat generated by the light bulb(s)).

Black/red/white wired in this manner sounds like a multiwire branch circuit in which they have wired your sconce lighting from one of the hot legs (the red). Assuming the proper breaker is being used, this is a completely safe wiring method.

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This all sounds normal to me. Sounds like you have two 3-conductor+ground wires in the box, one coming in to feed power, one going out to feed downstream devices.

The incoming red is probably switched, by tying it to the light's black and the outgoing red, the sconce and other devices tied to the red downstream are controlled by that switch.

The blacks are just tied together to feed through to unswitched devices downstream.

The whites are all tied together for the neutral return of the sconce and any downstream devices.

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