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Wiring dimmer switch for recessed lights...help!

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by Swedishchef, Jan 2, 2013.

  1. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    Hey guys

    I am installing recessed lights in my basement ceiling. Before finishing the walls 3 years ago, I installed a dimmer switch so that it would be ready for the recessed lights once I got around to putting up a ceiling. I left the wire from the switch coiled in the joists.

    My power runs from a series of 4 outlets. It seems, to me, that wiring lights is very basic. HOwever, I am stumped (and think I may have a faulty switch) or don't know much about wiring (very possible).

    My wire to / from my switch is 14-2. I connected the neutral (white) these wires to each other. I have 2 black wires and a ground on my switch. Obviously, ground goes to the grounds from the 2 wires. Then one black from switch to a black from wire X2. Yet when I switch the dimmer off, the wire FROM the switch is "hot" (still has power). Is it possible that my dimmer switch doesn't have an off?? It is for incandescent bulbs...i made a mistake and need one for halogen anyway.

    Any ideas??!!

    Thanks in advance

    Andrew

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  2. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    On another note, the dimmer is supposed to be LED backlit and it does not turn on. Perhaps it has failed? I think it was left on for 2 years straight...or more (by mistake). I do remember when I first wired it, the light did come on!

    I am going to get a new switch later this PM.

    A
  3. seige101

    seige101 Minister of Fire

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    When you say with the switch off the lead is still hot are you using a multi meter to test this or a non contact voltage tester? Or better yet are the lights still on?

    The indicator light in the switch relies on passing a tiny amount of current through the load to light up. If all the bulbs in your cans are burnt out or not installed or the load line of the switch is hooked up to the circuit the light won't light up.

    Also a dimmer switch for incandescent is the same used on halogen. Halogen is still an incandescent light. The newer CFL or LED rated dimmers are usually just made for switching a smaller load, since they draw a fraction of what a traditional bulb would.
  4. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    I am using a non contact voltage tester and it is indicating that there is voltage on the wire that is supposed go to my lights.

    I did not know that the light on the switch had to have a load in order to light up...my bad!

    Hmmm.

    Thanks for the information about the switches...I was unaware! why would they make a switch that would say "to be used on halogen and incandescent lights"??

    ANdrew
  5. heat seeker

    heat seeker Minister of Fire

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    The light inside the switch uses the ceiling bulb filaments for a ground path, so voltage will show without a load on the load side (where the lamps connect to the switch). I don't think anything is wrong with your switch. (I'm just repeating what seige101 said, actually.)

    CFLs are not made to be dimmed, in general. A regular dimmer will overheat and destroy itself, and probably the CFLs. There are special CFLs that are made to dim, but they're not the cheapies you see advertised.
  6. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    So then could it be that it shows voltage on my Gerber circuit detector (minimal) even if the switch is off??
  7. lukem

    lukem Minister of Fire

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    Maybe I'm not reading this right, but something doesn't sound right with the wiring at the switch.

    The white wire at the switch isn't acting as a neutral anymore...it is carrying the hot leg. Should look something like this fugly drawing.

    Attached Files:

  8. heat seeker

    heat seeker Minister of Fire

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    Yes.
  9. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    Indeed it is a fugly drawing. LOL. But I get the just of it. My white from the 2 wires are connected. Black from the switch to a black from wire feeding power (going to switch) and a black from the switch to the black from the wire that goes to the lights.

    So I just installed a ceramic base ($1) with an incandescent bulk screwed into it. The light came on the dimmer switch but now I can't find voltage in the wire that goes to the light. And when I turn the switch on and off nothing happens to the light.

    I got a new switch and will try that later. Gotta put the kids to bed.

    Andrew
  10. seige101

    seige101 Minister of Fire

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    Correct you are getting phantom voltage readings. Be 100% sure and test with a meter though
  11. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    Meh. I gotta go get a meter. Mine died 2 months ago and I have not bothered replacing it yet.
  12. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    So, I got a new switch. I installed it. Same problem. The light on the dimmer switch (orange LED I presume) comes on but it won't turn on the light I have attached at the end of the wire.

    It seems to me this is pretty damn straightforward....wtf is going on?!

    Here is a diagram of what I have done...

    Andrew untitled.JPG
  13. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    Disregard my last post, it works. Yay! The bulb I had was burned out. LOL. Fn stupid move on my behalf.
  14. heat seeker

    heat seeker Minister of Fire

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    Good news! FYI, I think that the light in the switch is a neon bulb. I have one that's going bad, it flickers when it decides to light up, not LED behavior, or color.
  15. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    Interesting. It could well be a neon bulk indeed!

    I wasted 2 hours because of a burnt out bulk. Argh. At least it works now!

    Thanks for the input!

    Andrew
  16. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    LOL. I've had that happen to me too.

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