Hot Topics: Outlet On, Lights Out

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Original Post: Outlets working but lights are not

Natron1 Member

Hello, my hallway lights, bathroom lights and second bedroom lights are not working. In the beginning, neither were five outlets, three master bedroom, one hallway and one child's bedroom. I isolated the breaker at the panel (arc fault), and found the main power line that connected to outlets was wired in a funny way to chain a light switch in my pantry, so I connected it the way I thought it should be and got the outlets to work. Used my digital VOM meter and checked, all outlets tested ok. Seven light switches not working. Tested all switches and showing ok (two hallway, three bathroom, one child's room, one pantry). I swapped arc fault breaker with one that is fully working to no success, even though the original tested as good.

Now the outlets are controlled by the switch in the pantry. Also, when testing the switches with power on at breaker I'm getting odd readings (120v on both connections, top and bottom, no matter if the switch is open or closed). Just to ensure the switches were good, I connected a switch to a known good circuit (bathroom outlet) and the light came on. When I went to shut it off it popped and flipped the breaker. All wires seem in good condition, no breaks or melting. All switches are two post (single pole) with common ground rocket (deco)style. Any ideas?

engr3000 Member

Having 120V on both terminals of the light switch could be due to a floating neutral line that is connected to multiple light fixtures. This neutral might be getting pulled up to 120V by one of the lights that is turned ON, or any other load that is powered up on that branch circuit. If this circuit is on an AFCI/GFCI breaker, the connections to the breaker's line side and load side neutrals should be checked.

More details are needed about the funny looking wiring that you changed, preferably including a picture.

PJmax Group Moderator

The circuit was working. Then it stopped working. Then you rewired it. Could be trouble now.

Natron1 Member

Non switch pic is the funny wiring, originally it was main to yellow romex and outlet wire was twisted together. I believe the main is running from the pantry switch. I placed the main to the outlet romex and that's what got the outlets working but being controlled by the pantry switch.

An open outlet with exposed wires

Exposed light switch wiring

PJmax Group Moderator

That method of stripping the cable and "adding on" a ground wire is not acceptable. The grounds must all be solidly twisted together.

We see the #12 yellow cable. We see what looks like a #14 cable with main on it. We see another what looks like #14 cable with no readable ID.

You need to identify which cable is hot between it's white and black.

In the second picture there is a two wire and a three wire cable. Typically both whites would be connected together and wire-nutted off. Both blacks would be connected together with a short piece of wire (a tail) to go to the switch. The red would go to the other switch terminal.

Natron1 Member

Just a quick update, I put the wiring back in original configuration and now the outlets are not being controlled by the pantry switch.

I agree it not acceptable lol, that's why I called it funny. That's the why it was when I found it. The original configuration for the "funny wiring" was, the #12 yellow (which runs directly to a light fixture) connected to the #14 labeled main, black wire on main is hot and is only hot when breaker is on, and the #14 (unreadable) labeled outlets, were lead (black) and neutral (white) twisted together which is now its current configuration. I will reconnect switch in the configuration you explained and see if that makes a difference with the light switches, also just for general info everything worked a couple days ago, switches and outlets, then one night I went to turn on my son's light and nothing came on, no popping and no breaker tripped.

Geochurchi Member

Hi, the white connected to the black is not a neutral but instead a switch leg which should be going to a light fixture.

Natron1 Member

First and foremost I would like to thank all of you for your input and expertise. Got it fixed!!! I ended up starting from the beginning and working my way back. The primary hot line ran to the bathroom light then to kids bedroom, then to the hall, then to master bedroom outlets, then to pantry, with switches tied into each area. Turns out the main hall light switch was wired incorrectly causing a short. Thanks again for all the input.