DIY question

I am not an electrician, but I’m trying to install a chandelier in my new home and need some advice. The home was built in the early 1900s and has K&T. There was no electrical box where I’m installing the chandelier, so I installed one (cut through the plaster and attached it a joist). The problem is, the brass chandelier appears to be “hot” when I turn the breaker back on. Or at least my voltage pen goes crazy when it gets a few inches from the chandelier. Same when the switch is off (but breaker is still on). The bulbs in the chandelier come on. After my volt pen went off the first time, I turned off the breaker, removed the chandelier and looked for exposed wires inside the metal electrical box. I didn’t see any but I added some electrical tape around some of the frayed insulation on the K&T anyway, just to be sure. When I turned the breaker back on it was the same thing. Anyone have any idea what’s going on? It’s a new chandelier and I’m wondering if there’s a wiring problem in the fixture itself or if there’s something else I’m missing. Thanks in advance,

From your description this sounds like [FONT=Comic Sans MS]reversed polarity (hot and ground wires are switched)[/FONT]

Obtaining DIY advice is not the purpose of this forum. However, as Gary suggested, it could be a hot-neutral reverse, which would be pretty common with modified K&T systems.

It’s more likely that you’re using a non-contact voltage detector, and there’s no “real” voltage in the exposed brass.

Have an electrician check the circuit, and for added safety, have that electrician install a GFCI breaker on the circuit.

Shawn… as others have stated above!

Just curious though… as you are not an Electrician…

In *Layman’s *terms…

K&T wiring utilizes a Common Hot and a Neutral wire… for a total of TWO wires… there are NO GROUND wires located in most circuits…

A newer Chandelier utilizes a Common Hot, a Neutral, and a GROUND wire… for a total of THREE wires… the third being a GROUND wire…

Where did you connect the THIRD (ground) wire to???

A non contact voltage detector will sense the return current on the neutral from downstream loads connected to the same circuit. Never, ever, trust a non contact voltage detector when troubleshooting. If you connected the wrong wires together, this may be the issue.

I will not elaborate further. Contact a licensed electrical contractor to help determine if an issue exists. Remember, you and perhaps your family will sleep in your home every night. Your well being is worth a few dollars.

Amen and Amen.
Throw it away and own nothing that does not have a category rating marked right on the meter.
My NFPA 70E and OSHA safety training is coming out.

Agree with all 4 comments!

sorry wrong thread

It has nothing to do with the category rating. My Fluke non contact voltage detector is rated at category IV. Troubleshooting requires specific values between specific conductors, neither of which can be determined using a non contact.

You must understand them, know their range, their limitations, and test them BEFORE and AFTER each use.

Not looking to get into any type of debate on this issue as I have found that people are going to do what they want to do anyhow.

I have been teaching NFPA 70E and OSHA for a few years now and both say these meters are no good. In every class where I have went into an industrial plant to hold someone has had one and every time I have took it, rubbed it against my hand and got a reading.

I have never seen one that had any type of rating but I am not saying they aren’t out there.

I have also tested for voltage using a two lead meter and find the circuit was de-energized after one of those no contact meters saying it was hot.

From NFPA 70E
**110.4 Use of Equipment. **
(A) Test Instruments and Equipment.
(1) Testing. Only qualified persons shall perform tasks such as testing, troubleshooting, and voltage measuring within the limited approach boundary of energized electrical conductors or circuit parts operating at 50 volts or more or where an electrical hazard exists.

Based on Tables 130.4©(a)]( and ©(b)](, a limited approach boundary exists only if the ac circuit voltage is 50 volts or greater or the dc circuit voltage is 100 volts or greater. Only qualified persons are permitted to be within the limited approach boundary. However, wet conditions, high available fault current, and other conditions associated with circuits operating under the 50 and 100 volt benchmarks also have to be evaluated as to whether an electrical hazard exists. If determined that an electrical hazard does exist, only those persons considered as qualified are permitted to perform tasks such as testing, troubleshooting, voltage measuring, or similar diagnostic work.
To be qualified to perform testing, such as measuring voltage or load current, the employee must be trained to understand the electrical hazards associated with the work task and select the necessary PPE.
Employees must be trained to understand that when they are performing work tasks involving testing, they are exposed to shock and electrocution. Each qualified person must be trained to understand how to use the specific meter (see Exhibit 110.2]( and to understand and interpret its indication(s). The meter must be in good working condition, appropriate for the task, and inspected before use.
All employees who are qualified persons must be trained to test for the absence of voltage. Each qualified person must be able to operate every meter that he or she could be expected to use and to interpret any possible meter indication. No voltage-testing device should be available for use until each qualified person has been trained to use it. Employees must understand all limitations of the testing instrument. [FONT=Calibri]Commentary ends[/FONT]

(2) Rating. Test instruments, equipment, and their accessories shall be rated for circuits and equipment to which they will be connected.
Informational Note: See ANSI/ISA-61010-1 (82.02.01)/UL 61010-1, Safety Requirements for Electrical Equipment for Measurement, Control, and Laboratory Use – Part 1: General Requirements, for rating and design requirements for voltage measurement and test instruments intended for use on electrical systems 1000 V and below.

Test instruments are safety equipment and should be considered in the same category of protection as voltage-rated gloves or arc-rated face shields. Although they have some characteristics of a tool, all test equipment and accompanying accessories should be purchased without artificial cost restraints. Test equipment must be selected based on the intended use and expected voltage or current rating. Leads and probes are an integral part of the test equipment and must be rated at least as great as the instrument.
See Exhibit 110.2]( for an example of a voltage meter. Note that the Cat rating [per ANSI/ISA-61010-1 (82.02.01)/UL 61010-1] is on the lower left of the device (see insert) and the approved testing organization listing is on the back. Notice that the leads are appropriate for the use.
Equipment and instruments that contact an exposed potentially energized electrical contact or conductor might expose an employee to both electrocution and arc flash. These devices must be rated for the expected service. Voltage-detecting devices must have a voltage rating at least as great as the maximum operating voltage of the circuit or conductor. Accordingly, instruments that measure other circuit parameters must be rated accordingly.
The Informational Note to 110.4(A)(2)]( explains that one important factor for test instruments used to measure voltage is a static discharge rating for devices used on conductors rated at 1000 volts or less. Any static discharge, such as a lightning discharge, has the potential to damage an instrument that happens to be in contact with a conductor, even if the lightning discharge is remote from the work location.
The rating of the measuring device also must be at least as great as the parameter being measured. Section 110.4]( also requires that employees observe any duty rating assigned by the manufacturer.
(Exhibit 110.2 shows the rating on a Fluke meter) [FONT=Calibri]Commentary ends[/FONT]
(3) Design. Test instruments, equipment, and their accessories shall be designed for the environment to which they will be exposed and for the manner in which they will be used.

Section 110.4(A)(3)]( requires that the design of instruments and
similar equipment must be consistent with the conditions of use. For example, voltmeters should have a static rating (category) that is consistent with their use. All components of the instrument must be designed for the application. Design of the meter, probes, and mounting/holding device must be consistent with the environment in which the device is used. ANSI/ISA 82.02.01 describes static discharge ratings for voltmeters and other devices that make direct contact with an electrical circuit.
Instruments that measure voltage, current, and other parameters must be selected for the conditions of use. Contacting an exposed energized electrical conductor with an instrument to measure voltage normally results in a small arc immediately before contact is made or broken. Therefore, devices such as these must not be used when the atmosphere is explosive. [FONT=Calibri]Commentary ends [/FONT]

(4) Visual Inspection. Test instruments and equipment and all associated test leads, cables, power cords, probes, and connectors shall be visually inspected for external defects and damage before each use. If there is a defect or evidence of damage that might expose an employee to injury, the defective or damaged item shall be removed from service, and no employee shall use it until repairs and tests necessary to render the equipment safe have been made.

A visual inspection must be conducted prior to each use of test instruments and equipment. All test instruments must be inspected for physical damage before each use. Only listed test equipment should be used, and the employee must look for the listing on the device before using it. The inspection must include all leads, probes, and other attachments. If any damage, such as a cracked case, cut or pinched leads, or damaged probe tips, is observed, the instrument must be removed from service, repaired, and tested before it is used again.
If a defect is found during the visual inspection, a tag or label indicating that the instrument is defective should be attached to the instrument or equipment and the instrument should be removed from service. No attempt should be made to repair a lead or probe in which a defect is found. Any defective lead or probe should be destroyed and replaced with a new one. [FONT=Calibri]Commentary ends [/FONT]

(5) Operation Verification. When test instruments are used for testing the absence of voltage on conductors or circuit parts operating at 50 volts or more, the operation of the test instrument shall be verified before and after an absence of voltage test is performed.

ANSI/ISA-61010-1 (82.02.01)/UL 61010-1, Safety Requirements for Electrical Equipment for Measurement, Control, and Laboratory Use – Part 1:
Category IV = service equipment
Category III = at least 30 feet from service equipment
Category II = receptacles and switches at least 60 feet from service equipment
Category I = electronic equipment
No category= throw the thing in the trash
-No contact voltage testers = never trust one as they are liars (my comments)-
The thing I like the best about non-contact voltage testers are that sometimes it will say it is hot but it is not and then sometimes it will say it is not but it is hot.
My take on these testers is really simple. If it says it is hot then prove that it is hot with a real meter.
If it says that it is not hot then prove it with a real meter.
If I am going to be doing all this proving then why even waste my time using one?

What makes someone qualified to use a voltage tester?

Qualified Person. One who has skills and knowledge related to the construction and operation of the electrical equipment and installations and has received safety training to recognize and avoid the hazards involved. 70, 2011]

For a person to be considered qualified, he or she must understand electrical hazards associated with the work task being contemplated. Before selecting the necessary protective equipment (PPE), he or she also must understand the proper application and the limitations of PPE and tools such as voltage testers. A qualified person must have the ability to recognize all electrical hazards that might be associated with the work task being considered.
An employee could be qualified to perform one work task and not qualified to perform a different task. A qualified employee must understand the construction and operation of the equipment or circuit associated with the contemplated work task.
The latest revision of the OSHA definition for qualified person (1910.399 8/07) includes the phrase “has demonstrated skills.” To meet this requirement, the person has to actually demonstrate that he/she can perform the task. A dress rehearsal using appropriate PPE for the task will ensure that the employee can perform the task with the lighting limitations of the flash suit hood and the dexterity limitations of voltage-rated gloves with leather protectors.
A qualified person must understand how to select appropriate test equipment and apply that equipment to the work task. He or she must be trained to understand and apply the details of the electrical safety program and procedures provided the employer.
A qualified person must be able to perform a hazard/risk analysis and to react appropriately to all hazards associated with the work task. Although licensing programs administered by state and local governments typically have training requirements a candidate must meet prior to being examined and again periodically after procuring the license, the license in and of itself does not make a person qualified for all tasks that he or she may encounter. Electrical work requires continuing education and demonstration of the necessary skills in order to maintain the requisite skill level to work safely. Part of being a qualified person is recognizing that energized electrical work is permitted only under the conditions specified in 130.2(A)]( [FONT=Calibri]Commentary ends[/FONT]

I too use a non-contact on a regular basis. It is Category rated.

Yes, they are not the most comprehesive tool available. I consider it more of an indicator and I test with a Wiggy to ensure the power is off. If you understand the limitations they can be valuable tools. You may get a false positive, but I have never gotten a false negative.

Sorry…my advice is hire a licensed electrician.

I will go along with that Paul! I had one of those fancy screw driver type recommended by CSA and it would go off even if I was close without contact. I don’t trust or use them anymore.

Interesting Mike. First, could you provide us the specific NFPA 70E section that states non contact voltage detectors are “no good”?

Then could you provide us with the specific OSHA standard that states non contact voltage detectors are “no good”, whether it be from CFR 1910 (General Industry Standard) or CFR 1926 (Construction Standard)?

I have attached 3 photos of 3 different types of non contact voltage detectors I own. The 2 still in the packages I was given by reps of the respective company (Fluke and Milwaukee). The other one I have used almost daily for several years.

Notice all 3 have the category IV rating clearly marked, as well as the voltage range.

Also note that I clearly stated they have limitations and MUST BE TESTED BEFORE AND AFTER EACH USE.

By the way, I never had mine lie to me. As a matter of fact, it has never spoken, at least that I know of. Nor have I ever had voltage on my arm, at least intentionally anyways.

Yes, they can/will trigger in close proximity to energized circuits and equipment. They can be made to respond by rubbing against your arm. Neither of which has ever caused me any issue or concern.

Yes, they are not perfect, but alas, neither is a contact meter. Last week I found a Fluke T100 with a faulty lead a guy was using. Showed 0 volts on a 480 volt circuit with it live. One of the leads would lose connection internally if it was strained a certain way. By the way, he was not using the Test, Measure, Retest method either. He just didnt understand the potential danger that comes with using ANY piece of electrical test equipment , whether it has leads or not.

Thank you Bill as I have never saw one that was rated now I have

I agree with Paul’s advice as well.