? about replacing a light fixture

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by lionheartednyhc, Jan 6, 2010.

  1. lionheartednyhc macrumors 65816

    lionheartednyhc

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2009
    #1
    I plan on replacing the ceiling light in my apartment. I have never done anything electrical before, but it seems pretty straightforward. My question is, is it acceptable to use the light switch as a way to kill power to the fixture instead of going to the circuit breaker? Since Im in an apartment, access to the breaker is not exactly easy.

    Thanks
     
  2. Zombie Acorn macrumors 65816

    Zombie Acorn

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    #2
    I would flip the switch on the breaker, you are one small connector away from the shock of your life otherwise. I have done it before, but I wouldn't advise it, at the very least make sure the wire is dead before you go in with your hands.
     
  3. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem

    GoCubsGo

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    #3
    No kill power at the breaker. After installing three fans all I can say is trust me.
     
  4. Huntn Suspended

    Huntn

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    #4
    I worked my way through college as an electrician so I know enough to answer this question. :) If you are a novice, or even if you are not, the easiest way to deal with this is to trip the circuit breaker. The reason is that some ceiling fixtures have the hot wire coming into the fixture, then run a wire down to the switch. You could still end up handling a hot wire at the fixture.

    Some fixtures are wired with the hot wire coming into the switch, then a wire up and back to the switch. This would be safer to work with at the fixture, but it's easier to kill the CB.

    If I was doing this job I would verify without a doubt there are no hot wires by using an inexpensive amp-meter, set it to read AC volts then test wires. If you are wondering if you are using the AC meter correctly, test it on a wall receptical, one lead into each side. It should read about 120 volts. Get the guy at the store to show you. ;)

    With a new fixture, it's important that you ground the fixture itself. Usually there is a little green screw in the electrical box and a green wire on the light fixture. You can connect a wire from this to the ground wire (bare wire) in the ceiling electrical box.

    Although you might think the black wires are always hot, and the white wires are always neutral, that is not true. White wires can be hot if used for the wall switch. And white wire bundles, although they are neutral can still shock you if they are taking excess power back to ground. Antother reason to trip the CB. :)

    Feel free to ask more questions.
     
  5. lionheartednyhc thread starter macrumors 65816

    lionheartednyhc

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    Jul 13, 2009
    #5
    Crap. Ok. I dont think I have acess to the breaker, is the problem :/
    Even if I test it and it shows its dead (after hitting the switch), still advise to not touch it unless I can get to the breaker?
     
  6. yg17 macrumors G5

    yg17

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    St. Louis, MO
    #6
    If it's an apartment, shouldn't your landlord be doing that? Just wondering...
     
  7. Zombie Acorn macrumors 65816

    Zombie Acorn

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    #7
    No one is going to advise you to do it because you could potentially kill yourself, if you know how to use a multimeter you should be fine.
     
  8. lionheartednyhc thread starter macrumors 65816

    lionheartednyhc

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    #8

    haha, of course. I guess that was my question, in regards to the multimeter.

    Thanks.
     
  9. -aggie- macrumors P6

    -aggie-

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    #9
    Well, I actually was an electrician until I got my degree. You're exactly right.

    IDK whether to advise you or not, since you have no experience at all. However, since you'll probably do it anyway, here goes: It's very advisable that you kill power at the breaker. If you can't do that, twist off the wirenuts at the fixture, being careful not to touch the live wires, use a meter to check if there's voltage and then short the black and white wires with a screwdriver (where the handle is non-conductive) to even be more sure. You could also use a tick tracer to touch to each of the wires to see if they're live before shorting (it beeps and lights up if there's voltage). Of course if you get to the point where you use the screwdriver and it does actually short, your breaker will trip (the one you have no access to), HOWEVER YOU WILL BE ALIVE. Good luck, and the rest should be fairly easy. Just put everything back the way it was. I also electrical tape the wire nuts on after twisting them on tight. Many don't bother, but it makes sure they don't come off.

    If you get stuck, ask questions, don't just wing it.
     
  10. Huntn Suspended

    Huntn

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    The Misty Mountains
    #10
    When you take off the ceiling fixture, if you just see two wires coming into the box, when you turn off the fixture using wall switch you should be safe, but that is not a 100% guarantee. However in this case I would use an amp-meter to be sure.

    You can work with live wires if there is no other way, but it requires care, and novice electricians should avoid that.

    Thinking about this, you have friends who know wiring? If so, it would be really better if you had someone who knows what they are doing helping you. House wiring is not that hard, after you've seen it done, but if you have no idea, I can imagine someone getting shocked or wiring the fixture wrong, or not getting the wires connected tightly. Yes most likely it will be easy to replace the fixture, but it would be better to have someone involved who is familiar with wiring.
     
  11. lionheartednyhc thread starter macrumors 65816

    lionheartednyhc

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    #11
    Ok, awesome. Thanks guys. Ill let ya know what I do, or if I have any other questions!
     
  12. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #12
    It doesn't matter whether you have access to the breakers or not. Trip them, work quick, and then call the building maintenance people to tell them about the awful circuit breaker that interrupted your favourite re-run of Ally McBeal. ;)
     
  13. Surely Guest

    Surely

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    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    #13
    Are you sure there isn't a breaker box somewhere in your apartment? There has been one in every apartment I've ever lived in.....
     
  14. Gregg2 macrumors 603

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    Milwaukee, WI
    #14
    Turn everything off, absolutely everything! Especially if it's an older apartment building, you have no idea if the labels on the circuits are correct.
     
  15. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem

    GoCubsGo

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    Feb 19, 2005
    #15
    I was going to ask the same thing but I am in the US and it could vary by country I guess.
    Usually mine are in the laundry room if I have one, in my place now it is actually in the spare bedroom (office) behind the door. Honestly, I'd be a bit annoyed if I moved in here intending to stay in the room with this bitch on my wall measuring 15" x 35". :eek:
    IMG_2410.jpg


    Anyway lionheartednyh, you won't die if you get shocked but in my case it really phased me.
     
  16. Tomorrow macrumors 604

    Tomorrow

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    #16
    Ugh...they could have painted it to match the wall, at least.
     
  17. Surely Guest

    Surely

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    #17
    Since you showed us yours.....

    Mine's pretty bad too.... it's at eye-level, directly across from the master bedroom's door, so it's the first thing you see when you leave the bedroom. I may try to find a picture to cover it. I wish they would have just painted it.....it looks like they painted the bottom right corner at least...:rolleyes:
     

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  18. -aggie- macrumors P6

    -aggie-

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    #18
    They never do that.
     
  19. Gregg2 macrumors 603

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    #19
    You don't need to paint it. Just hang a painting over it.
     
  20. lionheartednyhc thread starter macrumors 65816

    lionheartednyhc

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    #20
    Nice. The building Im living in is a converted house, so the the breaker is in someone elses apartment...
     
  21. Surely Guest

    Surely

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    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    #21
    Yes they do. See it, on the right side.

    I just moved out of that place, so I took photos of it after the move so that the property manager can't claim damage that doesn't exist (and make us pay for it).
     

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  22. Zombie Acorn macrumors 65816

    Zombie Acorn

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    #22
    It could be worse, my old house had the breaker box mounted outside (I had never see this before). Thats a nice thing to deal with in the middle of winter if you blow a breaker.
     
  23. Tomorrow macrumors 604

    Tomorrow

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    #23
    Au contraire, the panel at my last apartment was painted to "match" the wall. I've also seen it done when a panel is in a visible-to-the-public place in some commercial buildings that don't have dedicated electrical rooms.
     
  24. mwchris macrumors regular

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    Apr 12, 2008
    Location:
    Kentucky
    #24

    This is not necessary. Turn on the light you are going to change, go flip the breaker, if the light is off you have killed the power to it. Or you can check it with a volt meter.

    Silly advice.
     
  25. mwchris macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2008
    Location:
    Kentucky
    #25
    Knowing this, I would recommend you not trip the breaker. You might trip the breaker that is powering something that is important in someone else's apartment. (A computer with an important paper, life dialer, etc)

    (Mod Note: please combine my last two posts, forgot the multi quote.)
     

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