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Light Fixture wire colours not normal

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from Canada

Joined: 11 Nov 2011
Posts: 1
Location: Canada

PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2011 7:27 pm Reply with quote

We moved into a condo not too long ago and we finally bought a ceiling track light to install....

There is a spot in living room with a fixture pre-cut out with wires.. There was nothing installed there before, just a white cover..

It's a newer condo (built in 2008)...

I have installed a bathroom fixture in my old house but i have never seen this type of wire setup before..

There are 4 coloured wires:

3 separate red ones all capped with the same cap
3 separate white wires all capped with the same cap
the green and copper wire (ground i am assuming)
and a single Yellow wire capped

what's the red and white?

what is the single yellow one for?

is it for a ceiling fan?

i opened up the light switch to where i am assuming it goes to cause the one switch doesn't do anything right now..

the one on the left turns on a power plug (our lamp), which has 3 red wires connected to it.. (1 on top, 2 on the bottom)

the other switch, which does nothing has a yellow and red connected to it....

The white wire is no where to be found so i don't know what the White is for? which one is the hot wire? there is no black wire? never seen this setup before ; <

any help would be GREAT
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from United Kingdom

Joined: 01 May 2010
Posts: 2434
Location: Staffordshire,
United Kingdom
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2011 11:51 pm Reply with quote

First of all, I'm only a DIYer, and second I'm not a qualified electrician.
And I certainly have no familiraity with Canadian systems.

However, it seems to me that you have a typical three plate system.
Check out this site for the three plate wiring diagram:

Hopefully you'll see that there is no need for a neutral at the switch.
There is a live/hot wire to each light but this is not connected to the light directly. It is only there to connect to another wire to deliver a live/hot wire to the switch.
At the switch is that live/hot wire and a switch wire which provides a live/hot wire to the light only when the switch is operated. There may also be an earth wire at the switch.

So you probably have three live/hot wires capped together, which can stay as is, probably the red wires.
Three neutral wires capped together which you will need to connect the return from any light fitting, possibly the white wires.
And the yellow wire is the switch wire which should also be connected to the light fitting.

The green/copper wire is probably the earth and in the UK that should now be insulated.

You could test the wires with a suitable tester to verify the above.
The red wires would be permanently live, the white wires permanently not live and the yellow wire live or not, dependent on the switch.

You'll see from this site that neutral wires in Canada are white.
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from United Kingdom

Joined: 19 Nov 2004
Posts: 2137
Location: United Kingdom
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2011 11:35 am Reply with quote

As above, you would need to test to be sure, but it's most likely that the reds are permanent feeds passing through the box and the yellow is the return from the switch. White is normally neutral, and black & red are normally "hot" wires. In NM-type cable the hot is normally black, but if the apartment was wired with single cables in conduit, then red may have been used for some 120V circuits to identify which pole of the supply the circuit is fed from.

So it's likely that you want to connect the black from the lighting fixture to the yellow for it to be controlled by the wall switch (and white to white, of course). If this is the case, then for a ceiling fan you could also connect directly to the reds for the fan section so that it operates independently of the wall switch. But you really want to check to be sure.

Green and/or bare conductors should be for protective grounding.
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