Convert 3-bulb light from hardwired to plug

Discussion in 'Electrical and Wiring' started by zannej, Jul 6, 2014.

  1. Jul 6, 2014 #1

    zannej

    zannej

    zannej

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2014
    Messages:
    1,595
    Likes Received:
    533
    I got a nice 3-bulb bathroom light for just under $50 (I'm proud of myself for catching the sale just in time-- I'd been wanting that lamp for awhile but it was too expensive).
    This lamp:
    Derby Collection 20 3/4" Wide Chrome Bathroom Light Fixture
    [​IMG]
    (it matches the porcelain and chrome theme in my bathroom)

    It can use three 100 watt bulbs. I want to install it over my bathroom mirror, but there is currently no wiring for that area and I don't want to go poking holes in my walls and risk puncturing something hidden or end up damaging the wall. I would like to hook the lamp's wiring up to a plug that I can plug in to an outlet. Additionally, I would like to attach a switch to turn the power on and off. (Another option would be to get a surge suppressor or extension cord with an on/off switch). Or maybe just a little plug with an on/off switch like grounded switch plug or this Belkin power switch plug (I like the design of the second one although I am dubious about Belkin brand).

    I can't tell if it comes with the ground wire attached and I can't tell what gauge wires it has. So, how do I determine the wire gauge?

    Also, does anyone know of any kits specifically for converting hardwired fixtures to plug-in fixtures? The guides I've read online usually involve taking an existing wire with plug and cutting the end off. The tutorials showed something like this snap in socket cord set being cut.

    I was hoping to find a kit with just bare wires and a plug. Possibly one with a switch already on it. The idea is to run the cord behind some sort of trim and have it somewhat hidden under a little shelf or something so it won't be as obvious.

    I want to get the most bang for my buck.

    Any suggestions or advice? Any product recommendations?

    Additionally, any bulb recommendations?
     
  2. Jul 6, 2014 #2

    slownsteady

    slownsteady

    slownsteady

    Administrator Staff Member Admin Moderator

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2009
    Messages:
    6,541
    Likes Received:
    1,174
    I'm not so sure I would recommend this. the exposed wire and small switch you are looking for are invitations to shock hazard so close to the bathroom sink (anywhere in the bathroom actually). Add a GFCI outlet to this setup, and by the time you're done you will have one ugly setup supporting your beautiful light.

    All that being said: in it's simplest form, all you need is a plug and an inline switch. If you are hell-bent on pursuing this, try to find a "touchless" switch (maybe a motion detector) so no wet hands can be involved.
     
    zannej likes this.
  3. Jul 6, 2014 #3

    slownsteady

    slownsteady

    slownsteady

    Administrator Staff Member Admin Moderator

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2009
    Messages:
    6,541
    Likes Received:
    1,174
    If there is tile or wallpaper that you don't want to disturb, try wiring correctly by accessing the opposite side of the wall.
     
    zannej likes this.
  4. Jul 6, 2014 #4

    zannej

    zannej

    zannej

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2014
    Messages:
    1,595
    Likes Received:
    533
    Hmm.. Thank you for your reply, slownsteady. You've given me a lot to consider. I would not leave any of the wires just bare-- I would cover any exposed wire so it couldn't be touched. But I do get what you mean about the wet hands issue.

    My plan was to take a board and route a path on the underside and have holes to allow the wire to run while hidden (I would route the edges of the board to give it a more beveled look so it wouldn't just look like an ugly boards slapped up). I was going to try to configure some trim to hide the cords along the corner where I would run it down the wall and maybe put a narrow shelf on the side wall to hide the cord as it ran along to the GFCI outlet. I actually need to test that to make sure that it is indeed GFCI, since the wiring in this house was never great and was even worse after it was tampered with by tenants (they actually stole one of the circuit boxes, some light switches, outlets, and phone jacks (the latter was done after we moved back and changed the locks-- they kicked the front door in and broke the frame).

    I know it won't be the prettiest thing in the world. I intended to plug it in to a GFCI outlet that is actually fairly far from the sink.

    I see what you mean about wet hands. There have been a few times when my regular bathroom wall switch gave me a slight zap when I flipped the switch with damp hands.

    If it is properly grounded, would this still be a problem?

    I actually considered asking about one of the touch plates that turn things on or off with a touch. I know that isn't touchless though. I haven't had much luck with the touch switches. I put one on a table lamp and it worked briefly but then the lamp got knocked over and it didn't work anymore. Then the flimsy wire was ripped in half by one of my cats. I considered some sort of battery powered remote switch, but I tend to have terrible luck with battery life on things like that.

    Unfortunately the other side of the wall is covered in such a way that I can't access it. This would actually only be a temporary setup as I plan to take the light with me when I move (just not sure how long that would be) and I've been considering getting an actually hardwired connection run. I currently only have one light (a ceiling light/heat/vent fan) that does not work anymore (its been in the house for at least 30 years).

    Its not that there is any wallpaper or anything, I have printed wall panels that are no longer produced. I'm wary of cutting in to them. Then there is the attic to contend with. There is no easy way to get in to it and nobody has gone in there in several years.

    Ideally I would like to run a hardwire, but I don't know if that is feasible at this time. Its going to take a lot of wire and I'm not sure of the best way to run it and keep it protected from rodents in the attic. I'd also need to figure out how to attach it to the circuit breaker. I do have a friend that could do it, but he's very busy and doesn't have time.

    I'll try to work on a sketch of what I'm thinking of doing.
     
  5. Jul 7, 2014 #5

    Wuzzat?

    Wuzzat?

    Wuzzat?

    Well-Known Member Sponsor

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2010
    Messages:
    2,471
    Likes Received:
    175
    #16 wire is 0.051" diameter, #18: 0.04", #20: 0.032". A 1/16" drill bit is 0.0625" dia. so you can eyeball the relative diameters.

    Paper clip wire is maybe 0.040".
    If you hang 10 or 20 of these on a horizontal drill bit and have them abut each other, you can measure the length of this array and then divide by 10 or 20 to get a pretty decent measurement of the clip wire diameter. Then the clip wire becomes your wire gauge.

    Any Wirenut splices should be in a flame-resistant enclosure. I've used a short copper tube for this purpose. :D
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2014
    zannej likes this.
  6. Jul 7, 2014 #6

    zannej

    zannej

    zannej

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2014
    Messages:
    1,595
    Likes Received:
    533
    Thank you, Wuzzat. I'm glad you mentioned the wirenut splices needing to be in flame resistant enclosure. I hadn't thought of that.

    I may still end up needing to put a small hole in the wall where the light will go. Its not so much cutting holes in the wall as it is actually being able to run wire to the hole from the attic or inside the walls. That is what is giving me grief. I can't actually get in to the attic. I used my tallest ladder that fits in the house and it was too short for me to reach. Being 5'5" can suck sometimes.


    This is what my wall panels look like (not the best pic since I was getting a photo of the floor I was installing).
    [​IMG]

    Here is my craptastic not-to-scale rough sketch of my vanity, sink, mirror, and the power outlet (which is turned on its side). I was too lazy to draw in the faucet bc I really suck at drawing faucets in MS Paint. The current mirror has gold-colored trim which does not really go with the color scheme. I will use it elsewhere.
    [​IMG]

    Here is a crappy rough sketch of the changes I am considering. I would add a bit of a backsplash up a few inches because currently there is just a strip of ugly raw wood. The corner molding is also raw wood. I have a new mirror that has a shelf that I would put up-- I wish I knew how to attach it to a between-the-studs box so I could convert it in to a medicine cabinet. Anyway, this is with the backsplash, a little shelf on the side above the outlet (I am considering putting it below the outlet instead), a routed white board above the mirror that goes all the way to the corner and has the light (I don't think it would be quite that large in comparison but I just pasted it there).
    [​IMG]

    Here is the sketch showing how I am thinking of running the electrical (behind the board, down behind the corner molding (obviously I would not put any nails in the area the cord will run) and then under the shelf. If I decide to put the shelf lower I would run the wire out of the molding above and then plug it in to the outlet.
    [​IMG]

    I would leave any finalized more detailed sketches printed out for the next homeowners but replace the light with a cheaper lamp with equivalent watts.

    So, do you think this would work?
     
  7. Jul 7, 2014 #7

    nealtw

    nealtw

    nealtw

    Contractor retired

    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2010
    Messages:
    23,892
    Likes Received:
    3,117
    Do it right the first time, and ask questions on how to wire this properly.
    You have a bathroom light now, Ceiling?
    Do you hyave access to the attic, if there is an attic above this.
     
    zannej likes this.
  8. Jul 7, 2014 #8

    havasu

    havasu

    havasu

    Guest

    IMHO, either do it correctly or don't do it at all. Chasing Romex through the walls is not hard, just time consuming.
     
    zannej likes this.
  9. Jul 7, 2014 #9

    zannej

    zannej

    zannej

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2014
    Messages:
    1,595
    Likes Received:
    533
    By doing it right, you mean hardwiring, right?

    As for attic access, yes and no. Yes there is attic space above it but I can't get up there until I get a taller ladder that will still fit inside the house. I really don't want to go up there because I don't know if it is safe, but if converting to plug poses an electrocution or fire hazard, then it would be best to hardwire.

    Assuming that I can get in to the attic and run the wire, would I have to run it through the ceiling joists or could I just lay it on top but in some sort of fire-proof protective sleeve? I know most of the wiring in my house is just loose wires running along.

    The next issue would be hooking up and then locating a switch for it. I'm still tempted to do the hiding a wire behind stuff but have one of those metal touch pads (usually used for dimming lights, but I just want it for on and off).

    nealtw, I have a light/heat/fan vent thingy but it is over 30 years old and doesn't work. I can't even figure out how to open it up to change the bulb. I plan to replace it with a newer energy efficient model.

    Thanks for the replies!
     
  10. Jul 7, 2014 #10

    nealtw

    nealtw

    nealtw

    Contractor retired

    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2010
    Messages:
    23,892
    Likes Received:
    3,117
    To replace the fan and check on venting for it you will likely have to get up in the attic, you can take power from the light in the fan unit and drill one hole into the wall above the sink. Proper wire does not have to be fireproofed and yes you can run wire across the joists. Cut hole in the wall for a lite box bring the wire into the box attach it and install the light.
    It's easy if you say it fast, but it is almost that simple. Working on that old fan at the same time would be good. Post some pics of that maybe we can help with it, motors are replaceable.
     
    havasu likes this.
  11. Jul 7, 2014 #11

    Wuzzat?

    Wuzzat?

    Wuzzat?

    Well-Known Member Sponsor

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2010
    Messages:
    2,471
    Likes Received:
    175
    If you go with a flexible cord don't forget to make a strain relief so that yanking on the cord doesn't stress the splices.
     
    zannej likes this.
  12. Jul 8, 2014 #12

    slownsteady

    slownsteady

    slownsteady

    Administrator Staff Member Admin Moderator

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2009
    Messages:
    6,541
    Likes Received:
    1,174
    Start by replacing the ceiling light unit. That will give you some light and let you get used to doing some electrical work.

    You know that you will probably not be able to sell the house with the makeshift wiring that you want to do. Any reputable home inspector will flag that. I am sure that it is not code anywhere in this country.

    You mentioned that you get a little shock every once in a while from the existing switch. That is probably bad news and you should look into that before anything else.

    You really must get up into that attic. If it's not safe to work in, it's probably not safe in general. Bring a piece or two of plywood up with you to lay across the joists so you can work without worrying about putting your foot through the ceiling. And take care of the rodent problem ASAP. If they are up there, then they are everywhere. And that's not good for all the wiring in your house.

    Now that I'm thinking about it, just keep that nice new fixture in the box and save it for your new house. You have plenty of other things to do.
     
    nealtw and zannej like this.
  13. Jul 8, 2014 #13

    Wuzzat?

    Wuzzat?

    Wuzzat?

    Well-Known Member Sponsor

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2010
    Messages:
    2,471
    Likes Received:
    175
    Agreed.

    There's a slight potential difference between the switch and whatever else conductive surfaces your body parts were touching at the time.
    Assuming ~1 mA of current flowed through your ~1 kohm wet-skin+body+wet-skin resistance, this potential difference might be 1vac or more.
    The first step is to measure the voltage between these two points. The next step, how much current & power this voltage can possibly deliver, is slightly more complex.

    It may not be fatal but you ought to trace this down. If you can rent this
    http://www.testequipmentdepot.com/ideal/circuit-analyzer/61-165.htm?gclid=CJuM-8fTtr8CFTJn7AodREwA4A
    you'll be way ahead of almost everyone as to being informed about your house wiring.

    BTW, bathroom lighting can be tricky in order to avoid unflattering lighting angles. Lighting from the sides seems to be OK in all cases.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2014
    zannej likes this.
  14. Jul 8, 2014 #14

    nealtw

    nealtw

    nealtw

    Contractor retired

    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2010
    Messages:
    23,892
    Likes Received:
    3,117
    The little shock could be static.
     
    zannej likes this.
  15. Jul 9, 2014 #15

    Wuzzat?

    Wuzzat?

    Wuzzat?

    Well-Known Member Sponsor

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2010
    Messages:
    2,471
    Likes Received:
    175
    I'd think the OP's damp hands would have bled off a static charge. Dunno', though.
    Getting a meter and doing some poking around can't hurt.
     
    zannej likes this.
  16. Jul 9, 2014 #16

    nealtw

    nealtw

    nealtw

    Contractor retired

    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2010
    Messages:
    23,892
    Likes Received:
    3,117
    To bleed off static you need to touch something grounded, name one thing in the bathroom that you can touch that is grounded. Ya, the screw on the switch face plate.
     
    zannej likes this.
  17. Jul 9, 2014 #17

    zannej

    zannej

    zannej

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2014
    Messages:
    1,595
    Likes Received:
    533
    Thanks for the feedback and advice. I actually have been thinking about just saving the light for another house. But now my mother is waffling about selling the place and moving again. She keeps changing her mind. One minute she wants to ditch this place and move and the next she doesn't want to consider moving. She says she is too old to have a mortgage and she doesn't want to spend more than $75k buying a house (but she wants 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, 3k sq ft, and at least 5 acres of land-- so.... not gonna happen).

    I don't know if this house ever had a home inspection done on it. We got a private loan from a friend to buy it because the bank refused (they didn't cover rural homes at that time).

    For some reason my parents didn't get a home inspection when they bought the place. As for the zap, I think sometimes I got zapped even with dry hands. There was a visible spark sometimes. I'm now thinking that maybe I should call my A/C guy who said he does some electrical work and see if I can get his help with some of this stuff. Its just going to cost some $ and I don't know when he'll be available.
     
  18. Jul 9, 2014 #18

    bud16415

    bud16415

    bud16415

    Fixer Upper Staff Member Admin Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2013
    Messages:
    4,653
    Likes Received:
    1,597
    I don’t think I saw it mentioned and it might be something you could do yourself and not be that disruptive to the room and also be to code and much safer than this plug in idea.

    That would be use one of the surface mounted track wiring systems. Here is a how to on doing it.

    http://www.homedepot.com/c/powering_fixutres_with_raceway_HT_PG_EL
     
    zannej likes this.
  19. Jul 9, 2014 #19

    Wuzzat?

    Wuzzat?

    Wuzzat?

    Well-Known Member Sponsor

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2010
    Messages:
    2,471
    Likes Received:
    175
    Basement floor concrete provides a conductive path to ground.
    I don't know if dry tile or dry grout on a bathroom floor is conductive. If it is, it would need to be touching a water pipe to give the path to ground.
     
  20. Jul 11, 2014 #20

    zannej

    zannej

    zannej

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2014
    Messages:
    1,595
    Likes Received:
    533
    Thanks, Bud. I read the link and noticed this:
    Raceway is designed for indoor applications in dry areas and must be properly grounded.

    I don't think it would be rated for a bathroom. And I would still have to plug it in to an outlet.

    Wuzzat, I have linoleum floors. Not sure if that makes a difference or not.

    Right now there is a mystery odor in the house and its making me sick. I don't know WTF it is... I think its coming from the laundry room. It almost smells like melting plastic but I'm not sure.
     

Share This Page