Sean R
Sean R
  • Hometalker
  • Mansfield, MA
Asked on Jun 25, 2012

Installing recessed lighting

KMS WoodworksLandlightSSean R
+5

Answered

I am replacing two flourescent lights in my basement with 8 recessed lights. After installation of 4 of the recessed lights I decided to give it a test. The first recessed light worked, but the remaining three did not.
The circuit is on a 20 AMP breaker and all of the pre-existing wire to the flourescent light was 14/2(which I believe is against code). I decided to continue to use the 14/2 wite to string together the recessed lights, and will then switch the 20AMP breaker for a 15AMP breaker. Where can I begin to troubleshoot why the second light is not working. Should I be using 12 gauge wire for hanging recessed lights? I hope not, because some of that wire is buried in the ceiling of the other half of the basement which is already re-done.
installing recessed lighting, electrical, lighting
installing recessed lighting, electrical, lighting
installing recessed lighting, electrical, lighting
8 answers
  • KMS Woodworks
    on Jun 25, 2012

    Your right that most areas do not allow 14 gauge to be served by 20 amp breakers. Even though the "real" loads should be fine if only serving some fluorescents. Its a bit hard to tell from you pic but your wiring seems to be ok...this pic shows how multiple light hook up. I have seen issues like this before where there was a break in the wire that was hidden. If you have access to a decent volt meter check each strand for continuity down stream of the working light.

    installing recessed lighting, electrical, lighting, multiple lights
  • What is incorrect here is that your using a breaker to large for the wire, The 14/2 wire is ok for a few lamps, but nothing else. Few things to understand about wiring. 1. The white wire must always go directly to the current consuming device. In this case the white wire must never be switched and must always end up at each light fixture. 2. The bare copper wire must always be connected to every other bare wire in each box and then connected to each box or fixture. 3. When doing the wiring, you did not peel back the insulation on all the wires back to the connectors. You must do this in order to properly strip back each conductor and twist them before you put the wire nut on. (this can be why you loose the connections to the the rest of the branch run) 4. Be sure once everything is done that you place covers over every junction box. And NEVER cover over with wall board or panel. Access must be available to every junction box in the basement or house for that matter. As far as finding out why things are not working. Purchase a voltage sniffer. These little gadgets will beep when placed next to a hot wire, black or white. simply place the sniffer next to each wire at each junction until you loose the beep. That is where your issue lies. My bet is that because you did not allow for enough exposed wire to make the connection in the box, that one of the wires pulled out just enough to prevent the current from traveling to the next splice box.

  • Sean R
    on Jun 25, 2012

    I do plan on switching the 20AMP to a 15AMP so that the 14/2 wire will be sufficient. As I understand it, the 15AMP breaker can handle ~1440 watts and the 4 LEDS I bought for the recessed carry 15W each, so I figured I had more than enough wattage available to run on the 15AMP breaker with 14/2 wire. Most of the wiring already existed, especially between the circuit and the light switch (Which I believe is 14/2), If I had to get at those wires then this would be a much bigger job that I would have to hire someone for, mostly because I would have to make lots of holes in the walls and ceilings. If the wire from the circuit to the switch is 14/2, and I simply start running 12/2 from the switch to the lights, is that allowed? Or is that no-no to use different size wires. I have a voltage tester and will check to see if that pinpoints any loose connections.

  • You can always use larger wire on a smaller breaker, but never the other way around. But with wire costs, you want to keep the size small to save money. Just connect all the white wires together, and all the black wires together and all the bare copper wires together and it all should work. Just do not switch the white wire as that is the ground wire and doing this wrong will make the entire wiring job unsafe.

  • LandlightS
    on Jun 25, 2012

    Be safe.....and avoid any inspection problems in the future.(when you plan on selling). If the current wiring from the breaker to the switch is 12/2 on a 20AMP breaker......continue the circuit to the recessed lights with 12/2 wire. As for stripping the wire, leave at least 8 inches wire from the point that the insulation is held by the restraint on the junction box. There should be NO MORE than 1/2 inch of insulation within the confines of the junction box. In the junction box of each recessed fixture..in and out black wires to black fixture wire, in and out white (neutral) wires to white fixture wire and same with the bare copper or green wires (grounds). Twist the wire nuts so that the wires begin to twist....that will insure a tight connection. Tuck all wires carefully into each junction box and put the j-box cover in place. In the junction box that hold the lighting control.....white wires(neutrals) together with a wire nut, ground (bare copper) twisted together with a copper crimp and connect to the green screw on the light switch. The "HOT" black wire(from the circuit breaker) to the bottom screw on the switch and the "LOAD" (the black wire going to the fixtures) to the top screw on the switch In any event...DO NOT mix the wire sizes.....12/2 down to 14/2 or 14/2 up to 12/2....that is a NEC violation.

  • Sean R
    on Jun 25, 2012

    Thanks everyone for your responses. I tried to rewire it to ensure a tight connection but still only the first light worked. I verified with the voltage tester that power is getting to all of the recessed cans. I just started with the existing wiring that was already there from the switch, so I thought this would be straight forward. I hung other singular recessed lights and ceiling fans with no problem. Guess it's time to bite the bullet and call someone. It's too bad, I get really proud of myself when I accomplish this stuff on my home.. Appreciate the help!

  • LandlightS
    on Jun 26, 2012

    Sean.....do not feel stumped....I know this is going to sound strange.....BUT many times I've changed a light bulb and the problem was cured, Check each of the LED modules in the first fixture to make sure they are not defective. It can happen and does more than you could imagine. Good luck and have a good 4th holiday Gary

  • KMS Woodworks
    on Jun 26, 2012

    If you have power at each of the downstream fixtures...it could be a problem with the fixture itself. I have seen brand new "out of the box" stuff be defective before...especially if these are lower grade far east imports

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