How to Attach a Two-Wire Lighting Fixture to a Three-Wire Supply

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Connecting a two-wire light fixture to a three-wire power supply cable is not an ordinary occurrence. Three wire supply cables generally carry red and black hot wires of 110- to 120-volts each with a single white neutral wire. The lighting could be added to the three-wire cable provided that the circuit breaker is no more than 15-amps and the wire size is no greater than 14-gauge. You can do the work with the proper tools, materials and electrical circuit knowledge.

Things You'll Need

  • Voltage tester
  • Wire cutters
  • Wire nuts
  • Electrical tape
  • Wire stripping pliers
  • Turn off the circuit breaker at the main panel that supplies power to the three-wire cable intended for the light fixture. Tag or otherwise mark the breaker to alert others of the work being done.

  • Test the wires to verify that no power exists using a voltage tester. Place one probe of the tester on the white neutral wire and the other probe on the black wire. Also test the red wire with the white neutral.

  • Cut any exposed copper from the red wire with wire cutters. Place a wire nut over the end of the wire and tighten clockwise by hand. Wrap a few layers of electrical tape clockwise around the wire nut overlapping the tape onto the red insulation.

  • Strip 1/2-inch of insulation from each of the remaining wires using wire stripping pliers.

  • Connect the black hot wire to the black wire of the light fixture with a wire nut. Tighten clockwise by hand.

  • Connect the white neutral wire to the white wire on the light fixture using a wire nut.

  • Wrap each of the wire nuts with electrical tape. Be sure to overlap the tape from the nuts onto the wire in a clockwise direction.

  • Place the wiring into the box and secure the fixture.

  • Restore power to the circuit and remove all tags and markings from the panel.

Tips & Warnings

  • Chain-pull fixtures are an example of lighting that does not require a switch to be wired into the circuit. Therefore, the hot wire is connected directly to the fixture.
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