Recently, during a storm, an outdoor spotlight was broken in its socket, its internal wiring shorting out. The lights happen to be on a motion sensor, and in turn on switch, and a breaker at the panel.

Replacing the spotlight bulb, nothing worked, so I checked with a non-contact tester, no power in the socket. No breakers were tripped at the panel. So I pulled the switch; it looks like there is no power their, either! It seems like everything else that should have power does, but I haven't exhaustively checked every nearby outlet.

This is in Canada, and I know the house was just about entirely rewired ~10 years ago.

I'm at a loss how this is possible, but anyway. How can I find the fault?

  • Hi- What else is on the same wires? There should not be fault on wire-- maybe somewhere there is another fuse..
    – Piotr Kula
    Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 19:50
  • If this spotlight is part of a low-voltage landscape lighting system, the non-contact tester will not indicate power anywhere on that system. Use a multimeter to see if the socket shows a voltage across the terminals when the system is on.
    – BQ.
    Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 19:54
  • 3
    Keep tracing the circuit until you find power. Is it possible the switch/light was fed by a GFCI receptacle upstream? If so, check to see if it's tripped.
    – Tester101
    Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 20:11

1 Answer 1


Use your non contact tester, and start tracing the circuit back to the panel. Check each device along the way, and keep a close eye out for GFCI receptacles that have been tripped.

You may want to pick up a multimeter, and test for voltage at the switch, and at the fixture. Water could have entered the fixture housing, and fried the motion sensor. So make sure you check the wires feeding the fixture.

If you don't feel comfortable working on live lines, call in a licensed electrician to have a look.

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