2 red wires in ceiling fixture - how to test?

Old 04-21-03, 07:38 PM
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2 red wires in ceiling fixture - how to test?

I have 2 red wires in the ceiling acting as a black and white wire (but I don't know which is which). I think the person who owned the house before may have done this. I took down the ceiling fan that was there without first noticing that the wires were not black and white (I know, I know).

How should I go about figuring out which wire is "black" (hot) and which is "white"? I have a VOM. There is one wall switch that controls both the fan and its lights.

What would happen if I got them backwards?! I assume the ceiling fan would be "hot," but what would I have to do to get shocked?!
Old 04-21-03, 08:03 PM
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If you get the wires backwards, the fan will still work perfectly, and the metal parts of the fan will not be hot. However, it will not be as safe as it could be, and it's easy to do it correctly, so you should.

If you have a ground, either via a metal box or via a grounding wire, then one of those two wires should read 120 volts to ground and the other should read zero volts to ground.

If you have no ground, then go to Home Depot and spend $15 on a tick tester. This pen-shaped device will easily separate the hot wire from the neutral wire.

If this fixture was wired in the last 50 years, it is almost certainly a code violation to use two red wires. Be on the lookout for other unsafe conditions in your home wiring.
Old 04-22-03, 05:05 AM
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Thanks John! That's exactly what I needed to know. I do have a ground wire (forgot to mention that) connected directly to the metal box, so I'll test the wires and if all else fails head over to Home Depot.

Thanks again!

Old 04-22-03, 06:32 AM
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Are you sure you don't ahve 2 hot wires? One for the light and one for the fan. Posssibly switched separately or just the one for the light is switched.

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