I'm trying to change our existing 2 pendant lights over our kitchen island to new ones we purchased. House was built in 2005 (modular home). After removing 1 of the existing pendant lights I panicked about why I have (out of the ceiling box) 3 white wires and only 2 black....I capped everything off with wire nuts...and STOPPED :) Inside the ceiling box there were 2 black wires and 3 white wires that were connected with brass/copper color tube thing and squeezed together and then they had a clear big cap that looked like a wire nut. The 3 ground wires just have the copper/brass tube thing attaching the ends squeezed on. (see pic 1)

The old pendant light (see pic 2) had one yellow coated wire that was pulled apart into two wires, then one silver wire that was attached to the base of the pendant and 1 copper color wire that was I assume ground? Wiring was like this on the old pendant light to the ceiling box …They attached one of the yellow coated wires to the white (3) bundled wires of the ceiling box. They attached the other yellow coated wire to the black (2) bundled wires of the ceiling box. They attached the silver wire to the green ground screw of the plate. They attached the copper wire to the 3 copper (ground) bundled wires inside the ceiling box inside the brass/copper color tube thing as described above.

I pulled off the tube connector thingy of the white and black bundles. I cut the copper skinny wire from the old light fixture from the copper (ground) bundle in the ceiling box. (you can see the tail end in pic 1 - the other end is still inside the tube connector on the bundle of the copper (3) wires inside the ceiling box).

Here's my questions: 1) why do I have 3 white and only 2 black wires in that ceiling box? Could the white extra be coming from the recessed lights elsewhere on the ceiling? Those lights are on a dimmer switch (which does NOT control the pendant lights) 2) Do I attach (from the new pendant light) black to the (2) black wires, white to the (3) white wires, and ground wire to that little piece of left over ground wire hanging from the ceiling .Or do I put the ground from the new light onto the green screw on the plate only? 3) I have orange, yellow and red wire nuts connectors (size in that order) - which ones to use for these large bundle connections since I don't have those brass tube connectors that you squeeze on?


  • Just connect the new light exactly as the old one was. Not sure why you are panicking if the old ones worked. If this home is that new, and a modular, it is safe to assume the wiring is correct. Don't concern yourself over how many wires are in the box unless you know what was run and why. All you need to know is what was connected to the old fixture. No offense, but you really do not need to over-think this. Commented Apr 10, 2016 at 16:39
  • LOL...Thank you speedy petey for your quick reply, but do I have to pigtail an extra piece of copper wire to the little piece that's hanging that I had cut (is attached from the ceiling box bundled copper wires - from old pendant) and then join ALL of that to the green screw? My new light doesn't have an extra wire like the old. It only has one of each: black / white / copper. Directions say to attach copper (bare wire) to the green screw. Thank you again
    – Karen
    Commented Apr 10, 2016 at 17:14

1 Answer 1


The silver wire is also a ground. Chains are not grounding paths so a pendant needs 2 grounds - one down the chain to the pendant, and the other for the box cover.

I suspect the manufacturer ran an extra run of 14/2 (12/2?) Romex from the switch to support a ceiling fan which you don't have (yet). I bet the third black is folded up in the back of the box, but they tied this pair's white wire with the other white wires. That's making my spider-sense tingle, but I can't say why. Might make a good question.

Since the power is fed from the switch (no weird switch loops) you should be able to connect all blacks to each other, ditto the whites. All grounds must be connected together. I don't see any obvious way that upper steel plate bonds to the maze of ground wires above it, and that makes me a bit nervous. Is that a steel box above, and is the ground bundle bonded to it in some way? I see a screw, but it's not green and may be a physical mounting. Is the steel cover plate tightly screwed to the steel box?

As far as wire-nuts, each make of wire-nut is listed for certain combinations of wire. For instance Ideal's 73B (orange), 74B (yellow) and 76B (red) are covered in a document titled UL Listed wire combinations... Generally I like to be in the middle of the working range for a wire-nut, so I'd go yellow for 3 wires, red for 4, and orange for something that seemed on the smallish range for yellow.

  • Thank you Harper for the detailed answer - very helpful.
    – Karen
    Commented Apr 10, 2016 at 19:32
  • The square plate is for the new pendant light (our old was used a round plate) My new light only has the one ground coming out of it, so I wasn't sure if I suppose to just tie it to that green screw (pic 1) or also pigtail to the ground bundle that is inside the ceiling besides the green screw as the old pendant light was attached that way. Just don't want to blow us up :) and thank you for explaining the wirenuts.
    – Karen
    Commented Apr 10, 2016 at 19:37

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