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Rewiring a Pendant Light Fixture

February 1, 2008

 

I went out on a service call yesterday to lower a pendant light fixture. The fixture was approximately 6 1/2 feet above the floor and the homeowners wanted it lowered to approximately 5 feet above the floor. The homeowners estimated the fixture to be 30 – 40 years old and by the looks of the wires and the pendant itself, I believed them. (Click on the images to see a larger view.) Existing pendant
So the first thing I did was turn off the power. Providing the circuit is wired properly, simply turning off the light switch will kill the power to the light fixture.
The next step is to take the light fixture down and see how it comes apart. We need to get into the wiring compartment in this fixture. Most wiring compartments are in the largest part of the fixture. This one was pretty simple to take apart. I removed the ring on the top and a nut underneath that and it came apart. Take pendant fixture apart
Once you have the fixture apart, attach your new cable to the old wires and use the old wires to pull in your new cable. Pull new wires
With the new cable in place, you need to determine which wire is the neutral. On lamp cord, the neutral wire is typically marked either with lettering (like in the picture) or it is ribbed while the hot wire is smooth or does not have lettering on it. Lamp cord neutral marking
With older light fixtures, I like to take an extra minute to ensure they were properly wired from the beginning. Basically, I want to ensure that the hot wire is attached to the center part of the lamp socket and the neutral wire is attached to the outer part of the lamp socket. Simply check for continuity between each hot wire and the center part of the lamp socket. Repeat the process for each neutral wire and the outer part of the lamp socket as well. Pendant socket
Next connect all of the neutral wires together and place a wirenut on them. Now connect all of the hot wires together and place a wirenut on these as well. Tuck the wires back into the wiring compartment and put the fixture back together. Pendant rewired
Now we also need to install a ground wire on this fixture. I decided to connect it to the top of the fixture and run it up through the chain with the lamp cord. I took a picture of this, but I screwed up the picture; it was very blury.
Finally, hang the fixture, turn on and test. Pendant - rewired, lowered and working

 

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Comments

7 Responses to “Rewiring a Pendant Light Fixture”

  1. Pam Hoffman on February 1st, 2008 5:50 pm

    Hey Wayne!

    Beautiful post as usual.

    When I was at my mom’s last November, I rewired a floor lamp that was in pieces so I had to figure out how to assemble it AS WELL AS rewire and connect the plug, the socket, etc.

    It only took about 6 tries as I kept noticing that things were probably better in different places.

    And then, too, my daughter was helping me ;) Actually, it was pretty fun with her.

    Anywho, my whole point (i’m not really rambling here am i? hehe) is that the wire was stiff enough to push it thru the lamp parts – some of which had some nasty turns I was a little worried about.

    The passages were pretty tight, would that contribute to this ease of movement?

    I was really surprised that the zip cord went in so well. The pieces parts were unbelieveably old too! I was very careful to make sure that nothing was going to cause trouble!

    You wrote:

    “With older light fixtures, I like to take an extra minute to ensure they were properly wired from the beginning. Basically, I want to ensure that the hot wire is attached to the center part of the lamp socket and the neutral wire is attached to the outer part of the lamp socket. Simply check for continuity between each hot wire and the center part of the lamp socket. Repeat the process for each neutral wire and the outer part of the lamp socket as well.”

    With an AC device like this, is that absolutely necessary? I didn’t do anything special on my mom’s lamp. I’m not a master electrician either (2-year degree in electronics – i was trained to design computers!).

    You know, I LOVE that you use basic terms. My first job out of school, they would ask me “Check the ground” I would look at the floor, exclaim “Yep, it’s still there” – they never said something like ‘check the ground’ in school!

    That is a whole story unto itself – two of us were hired at that place. I was the first and only woman in their shop and it was challenging to say the least.

    OK, I didn’t have to splice any wires together on my mom’s floor lamp. I still don’t quite see how it matters with AC devices…

    Your input is very welcome,

    Pam Hoffman
    http://seminarlist.blogspot.com

  2. Wayne Gilchrist on February 2nd, 2008 12:31 pm

    Hey Pam,

    Most times reversing the polarity with AC will work, but it may be a safety issue why you shouldn’t. For example, if the hot wire is connected to the outer part of the lamp holder (light socket), a person turning on and off the lamp could easily get shocked. I’m sure you’ve seen the threaded base of many lamps (light bulbs) above the lamp holder when screwed all the way in. If the polarity is reversed here, then this part of the lamp is live when the light is on. Anyone can easily touch this and get shocked or electrocuted. Sure, the light works, but it is not safe.

    Electricity is definately not rocket science. If I can do it, anyone can. Most people can usually make an electrical device work, but the question is, is it safe when you are done? Safety is the most important part when working with electricity. You need to ensure that you or no one else will get shocked or electrocuted and that no fires are started.

  3. Pam Hoffman on February 6th, 2008 5:18 pm

    Hey Wayne!

    Thanks for the explanation! I kind of get it.

    I’m still a bit boggled by something. If I have two wires in an AC circuit, how is one ‘hot’ and the other isnt?

    Don’t they oscillate at 60Hz (50Hz in the UK – i used to live there)?

    Would you do something on that? I’d like to see what makes that so – a circuit drawing would work ok. Would you include the power source, how one is hot and the other isn’t, etc.?

    Thanks,

    Pam Hoffman
    http://seminarlist.blogspot.com

    p.s. not everyone can do what you do – i’ve met people i would never let near any kind of electrical anything save as a user (and not even that sometimes!).

  4. rick on March 24th, 2008 8:22 pm

    I had pendant lights wired in my kitchen, they may have been low voltage they did have hologen bulbs. When I installed the new lights I don’t have power. Is it possible low volt wiring is in the ceiling and now I have to stay with low volt lights or can I switch and does ot matter what the old lights were?Thanks

  5. patrick teahan on March 28th, 2008 4:49 am

    i have an old pendant ceiling light that needs reewiring. i can do the wiring easily enough, but dont know what strength (if thats the correct word) wire to use.

  6. Stan Ozereko on February 7th, 2009 3:27 pm

    I am trying to make a pendant light for over the kitchen sink. I have a 13″ x 3.75″ brass bowl shape (it’s from an old water bubler I removed at work) that I would light to use as the body. I will be turning a black stained oak top.

    I can’t seem to find a source out there for rest of the parts I need. Sites I find want to sell me the whole light and not the parts.

    There is only the wiring and hole mont in the ceiling. We renovated the kitchen last year and couldn’t decide what to put there. The switch is a dimmer type. Can I put a flourescent type there or does it have to be incandescent?

  7. Kris on February 21st, 2010 12:57 am

    Hello,
    I just wanted to thank you for the info & pics about the light! I was hanging a pendant light when I had to stop becaust I didn’t know which wire was the neutral. It wasn’t marked…no white indicator as instructions said and I couldn’t find any writing…reading that ribbed meant neutral & smooth meant hot was all I needed to know to finish the job. THANKS!!!!
    Kris

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