Replacing porcelain lampholder
February 13, 2011 1:51 PM   Subscribe

Did I wire this new porcelain lampholder correctly? Replaced an old one in the basement that was slightly different, and want to make sure i did OK.

Hi all,

I just finished replacing a porcelain lampholder in the basement. The old one was seriously on the fritz. Pull chain was broken, and so you had to hand-screw in the bulb, and wiggle it back and forth about 40-50 times until it would stay on.

So, I finally got up the courage to replace it myself. Went to the bigbox hardware store, watched an online video, and went at it.

Here's my question though. The way the old lampholder was connected was different than the new one (which is actually this one: Pass & Seymour brand, Cat. no. 284).

The old lampholder had only one silver screw and one brass screw, and the black and white wires from the junction box, instead of having an end that you would wrap around the screws (which was what I expected) had actually been exposed of insulation for about a 2 - 3 inch segment, that was then wrapped around the screws. So the exposed part was like a segment of the continuous wire.

The new lampholder had 2 silver screws and 2 brass screws. The wire from the junction box was thicker than I had anticipated, and since it was the middle of a wire segment, and not an end, it wouldn't wrap around the screws as I had planned. So what I ended up doing in the end was sort of fashioning a kind of a half loop in the exposed wire segments and sort of looping or hooking it around one of the screws on each side (the black wire segment around one brass screw, the white wire segment around one silver screw) and tightening the screws down.

I closed it all up and everything seems to be working OK. Does anything sound amiss with this installation? I'm not really all that worried about it, but then I thought I'd check to make sure.

Would appreciate any feedback.
posted by leticia to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
Pictures would make me more confident, but it sounds like you did fine.
posted by jon1270 at 2:17 PM on February 13, 2011

The only issue I would have with what you have described is if there is a substantial amount of bare wire sticking out from the screws. It would be good to wrap any bare wire with electrician's tape and be sure, when you push them back into the box, that they don't bend close to each other.
posted by Old Geezer at 5:01 PM on February 13, 2011

I assume the original wiring took a full loop around the screw. This would not be acceptable by code today because a wire can't cross itself and double up under the screw head. You need to have one flat loop so the screw head contacts the wire evenly all around.

In your new fixture I assume that the screw as not long enough to handle a full turn and two thicknesses of wire, so you bent the wire into a little S-shape that you could hook under the screw. This is a little better than the original wiring since you have a single flat wire contacting the screw head. You should be okay as long as the wires are secure under the screws when tugged and the kinks aren't so tight they weaken the wire.

Another way to do it would be to cut the wires and connect the two ends to a pair of terminals. That is, the two black wires to the two gold screws and the two white wires to the two silver screws. The current flows through the metal tab connecting each pair of screws. This allows you to form proper loops and make secure connections to each screw.

The best way is to use 6-inch pigtails and wire nuts to make a connection to the fixture.

If you are confident the connections are secure, you should be okay with your method.
posted by JackFlash at 6:34 PM on February 13, 2011

@jon1270: I do wish it had occurred to me to snap a photo. Of course, I didn't think of it until after i had screwed the lampholder into the junction box, which was such a hassle I hope I don't have to undo it! But, if I get nervous based on responses here, I may just do that so I can post a photo.

@JackFlash: The screws were definitely not long enough for two thicknesses of wire. What you describe is pretty much what I did. There was enough of an S-curve to get each wire about 1/2 to 2/3 around the respective screw, and I am confident that the screws are securely tightened down.

However, to be clear, do I need to be worried about the exposed wire crossing/touching in the junction box? I pretty much just did my best to push it all back into the junction box as I was screwing in the fixture.

Thanks so much for the comments, folks. I'm really happy to have a reliably working light fixture in there, but playing around with electricity (and potentially creating a fire hazard in one's house) is no joke! :o)
posted by leticia at 7:37 PM on February 13, 2011

Leticia, just to be clear, what do you mean by "exposed wire?" Is it bare copper, or is it copper covered with insulation?
posted by exphysicist345 at 10:41 PM on February 13, 2011

@exphyssicist345: It's bare copper. I'm talking about the part of the wire where the insulation has been taken off, to connect to the light fixture. The rest is covered by insulation.
posted by leticia at 1:57 PM on February 14, 2011

You don't want any exposed copper to be touching any other exposed copper or the electrical box. Usually, the exposed copper is only 0.1-0.2 inches (aside from the copper that's trapped under the screw head) and there's no way that can touch anything. However, if there's (say) an inch of bare copper wire leading up to the screw, it could well touch something else, and you'd surely want to wrap it with electrical tape.

Otherwise, sounds like you did fine!
posted by exphysicist345 at 3:56 PM on February 14, 2011

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