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Philbert

join:2011-12-12
Pleasanton, CA

wiring outdoor lights in series with motion sensor

downloadScholz Wirin···pptx.zip 42,246 bytes
wiring diagram
Hi eveyrone,

I'm new and admittedly not learned in electronics - I know some basics but have a LOT to learn...hence why I'm here with this question.

We bought a house last year and it came with this setup:
1) 3 outdoor lights (2 on front of garage and one on porch), wired to one switch inside the front door.
2) A motion sensor mounted on the front of the garage, which turned on all three lights (when switch was "on")
3) The lights would only stay on for about 5 seconds when the switch was first flipped, or when the switch was "on" and motion was sensed.

I checked the motion sensor unit and it was dialed all the way up to the longest time to remain on - something wasn't working....

Inside the garage, there is a junction box behind where the motion sensor was mounted. I removed the old motion sensor hardware. Inside the junction box were two sets of conduit. One conduit had a black and white wire coming from it, with the neutral (bare metal) wire clipped off where the conduit jacket ended. The other conduit cable had only a white wire coming out of it, with the black and bare wires both cut off at the end of the conduit jacket. I used a multimeter to test and the black and white wires from the single conduit were hot when the switch inside the house was flipped, and cold when flipped back. I really didn't know what to test with the other conduit's lone white wire.

I think the 3 outdoor lights are in a series and not parallel because when one burned out, the others stayed on.

My question is, how the hell do I wire this thing with a new motion sensor with these 3 wires?? I tried a zenith model from Home Depot but it had 4 wires, and nothing happened.

I'm lost....please help!

I attached what I think represents the setup.

Thanks

Phil


Msradell
P.E.
Premium
join:2008-12-25
Louisville, KY

To start with the lights are definitely wired in parallel, not series. If they were in series when one went out they all would. There obviously has to be more wiring in the circuit than you show in your sketch. Normally the white and black from the switch would tax to the motion detector then the other wire from a motion detector (usually blue) would attach to the black feeding the lights, the white going to the lights would tie in to the white coming from the switch feeding the motion detector. This is how it's normally done however some motion detectors are different.


Philbert

join:2011-12-12
Pleasanton, CA

Thanks for the response. I realized I had series and parallel mixed up after I posted

I've been reading some wiring diagrams online, trying to understand what kind of circuit is used here. This is a pretty good site I think:
»www.how-to-wire-it.com/wiring-a-···tch.html

For a moment I thought that maybe it was a scenario where power was coming in at a light (not the switch in our living room), but then realized if that were the case, throwing the switch while checking voltage on the black/white wires would net a voltage reading no matter if the switch were on or off (and I got no voltage when the switch was off).

I just can't seem to follow the flow of current logically - I don't know why I'd have 2 wires coming from the switch and only one (white - and not black???) going to power 3 lights in a row - it just doesn't make sense :/


robbin
Premium,MVM
join:2000-09-21
Leander, TX
kudos:1
reply to Philbert

How was it wired before you took it apart?



Jack_in_VA
Premium
join:2007-11-26
North, VA
kudos:1
reply to Philbert

Philbert given you complete lack of knowledge for what you are doing your best bet is to call an electrician who can safely take care of the problem.

You're not going to get an understanding from the varied answers you are getting here.


Philbert

join:2011-12-12
Pleasanton, CA

I did not note exacctly how it was wired prior, but I looked again last night at the previous motion detector's wiring and there are 3 wires (instead of the 4 my newer one has). White/Black/Red. They still have their labels - white goes to neutral, black to hot (Switched), and red to hot of the powered light.

I tested again the voltage, and the conduit with the black/white is definitely giving power only when the switch is thrown inside.

I hooked up the old motion detector as described above, assuming the single white wire was actually the power wire for the light system, but nothing seems to happen now. I haven't checked the bulbs yet outside...

I'm not yet to the "call the electrician" part but am close.

For what it's worth, I looked at the rafters above the junction box in the garage, and there are 2 sets of conduit coming from the hosue/porch light side and going down into the wall above the junction box; there are also 2 sets of conduit coming from the furthest light fixture on the front of the garage, also going dowwn into the wall above the junction box (so, all 4 conduit wires enter the top of the wall about a foot away from the junction box).

I'm wondering if the white wire in the junction box is the "hot" wire for the furthest light, and that the second conduit cable between the junction box and the furthest light is the power coming BACK to the other garage exterior light. If this is the case, then the two conduit cables coming from the other direction could be the initial switched power coming from....the switch in the house, and the return power from the second garage light to the third and last porch light. But I have no way to really test that since my multimeter won't stretch that far.


garys_2k
Premium
join:2004-05-07
Farmington, MI
Reviews:
·Callcentric
·callwithus
reply to Philbert

Really, call for help on this one. Bare wires aren't neutral, they're ground and grounds should not be snipped off. White wires usually are neutral but only having one, with the black wire (usually hot) and bare (should be ground, but I've seen otherwise after home owners got to it) snipped off is really confusing.

A mistake here could burn down your house, please get an electrician to help you on this.



Jack_in_VA
Premium
join:2007-11-26
North, VA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Millenicom

said by garys_2k:

Really, call for help on this one. Bare wires aren't neutral, they're ground and grounds should not be snipped off. White wires usually are neutral but only having one, with the black wire (usually hot) and bare (should be ground, but I've seen otherwise after home owners got to it) snipped off is really confusing.

A mistake here could burn down your house, please get an electrician to help you on this.

Not only burn down your house a mistake can kill you or your family member(s). Call an electrician. It's a simple job for him and shouldn't cost that much.

Philbert

join:2011-12-12
Pleasanton, CA

Guys - I'm going to do that.

Thanks - will let you know what the solution ends up being.

Phil



Spork35

join:2011-07-13
Methuen, MA
reply to Jack_in_VA

said by Jack_in_VA:

said by garys_2k:

Really, call for help on this one. Bare wires aren't neutral, they're ground and grounds should not be snipped off. White wires usually are neutral but only having one, with the black wire (usually hot) and bare (should be ground, but I've seen otherwise after home owners got to it) snipped off is really confusing.

A mistake here could burn down your house, please get an electrician to help you on this.

Not only burn down your house a mistake can kill you or your family member(s). Call an electrician. It's a simple job for him and shouldn't cost that much.

Simple doesn't mean cheap. They charge $85 an hour plus materials here. You also need a $35 permit for the pro to step into your house. I'd hire a pro more if it wasn't that expensive!
--
"We are the Borg. You WILL be assimilated!" -ST:TNG


Jack_in_VA
Premium
join:2007-11-26
North, VA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Millenicom

1 recommendation

said by Spork35:

said by Jack_in_VA:

said by garys_2k:

Really, call for help on this one. Bare wires aren't neutral, they're ground and grounds should not be snipped off. White wires usually are neutral but only having one, with the black wire (usually hot) and bare (should be ground, but I've seen otherwise after home owners got to it) snipped off is really confusing.

A mistake here could burn down your house, please get an electrician to help you on this.

Not only burn down your house a mistake can kill you or your family member(s). Call an electrician. It's a simple job for him and shouldn't cost that much.

Simple doesn't mean cheap. They charge $85 an hour plus materials here. You also need a $35 permit for the pro to step into your house. I'd hire a pro more if it wasn't that expensive!

No permit needed here and since it's a simple job how much is your life and house worth?

In the case of this OP it's obvious he doesn't have a clue and the only viable option for him is an electrician.

garys_2k
Premium
join:2004-05-07
Farmington, MI
reply to Philbert

Even if it comes to a couple of hundred dollars it'd be worth avoiding the potential problems here. This is clearly one of those situations where a pro is needed.


robbin
Premium,MVM
join:2000-09-21
Leander, TX
kudos:1

1 recommendation

reply to Philbert

said by Philbert:

I did not note exacctly how it was wired prior, but I looked again last night at the previous motion detector's wiring and there are 3 wires (instead of the 4 my newer one has). White/Black/Red. They still have their labels - white goes to neutral, black to hot (Switched), and red to hot of the powered light.

I tested again the voltage, and the conduit with the black/white is definitely giving power only when the switch is thrown inside.

I hooked up the old motion detector as described above, assuming the single white wire was actually the power wire for the light system, but nothing seems to happen now. I haven't checked the bulbs yet outside...

OK -- lets see if I can clear some of this up for you. To start with, when you tested the black and white pair with your voltmeter, both wires were not hot unless you saw 240 volts. In your case I would wager that the black wire is hot (that is what should be hot according to code) and by testing it to the white (neutral) wire you completed a 120 volt circuit. The bare wires which are cut are ground wires.

There are a number of ways to test what you have but if your light bulbs in the outside lights are incandescent or halogen, then try testing from the black to the single white. You should see 120 volts there with the switch on. If you hook the old sensor back up and connect the black to black, white to the white of the black / white pair and the red to the single white, then it should work as it did before. Also, if the test is as I suggest, you could simply put a wire nut from the black of the pair to the single white and the lights should all work with the switch and no motion sensor installed at all.

Basically what you have is simply a switch leg with a neutral. The single white wire should have been black according to current code. I would recommend finding the other end of the single white wire. I believe it will be in the box with the switch although it could be somewhere else. I think you will find that white wire connected to a black wire. If this is the case and everything checks as I have suggested, then that white wire should be marked with black tape at both ends so it is no longer confusing.

Your new Zenith sensor has four wires. Too bad you didn't post any pics as they could have helped. However, I would guess that there is a black, white, blue and green. Hook it up as your old sensor, replacing the red of the old with the blue of the new. The green goes to the clipped bare wires, but you will have to connect the other end of the bare (which is probably clipped at the other end also) to an existing ground or it will do no good. Personally I wouldn't worry too much about this ground, but I'm sure some of our members will tell you to rip the walls out and replace the current wires if you can't properly repair the clipped grounds. Your call on that.


Crude Wiring Diagram


Spork35

join:2011-07-13
Methuen, MA
reply to Jack_in_VA

said by Jack_in_VA:

No permit needed here and since it's a simple job how much is your life and house worth?

In the case of this OP it's obvious he doesn't have a clue and the only viable option for him is an electrician.

Everyone starts somewhere. Plenty of info out there to do the job yourself with no experience to start provided you have the aptitude to learn. Last time we had a pro electrician out he said my (first time ever) work was beautifully done then proceeded to ask why I wasn't doing it for a living. I'd advocate hiring a pro if you a) Just don't want to do it yourself or b) Can't learn new stuff well. Aside from that Bob Vila can teach anyone to do it correctly.
--
"We are the Borg. You WILL be assimilated!" -ST:TNG