Ceiling Fan Instalation


  #1  
Old 06-07-04, 08:10 AM
ASPWebSmith
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Ceiling Fan Instalation

Hi,

I am new to the forum, but I am hoping someone can help me with what I am sure, or at least I hope, is a very simple issue. My fiancÚ asked me to replace the ceiling fan in our bedroom with a new one with more light. I assumed this would be no big deal and agreed. I took down the old ceiling fan no problem and when I did, I found an unexpected number of wires in the junction box:

Total of 9 wires, none labeled or color-coded in any way. There are two bundles of 4 wires each and one single wire. I am pretty sure that the two bundles of wires are positive and negative and the single wire is ground, although I did not get a really good look at them until after I disconnected the old fan so i could be mistaken.

When I connected the new fan the way I thought it should be (that is 4 wires to positive, 4 wires to negative and the single wire to ground) the circuit blows as soon as I power it on. When I disconnected the single wire from the fan's ground, the fan worked, but the light switch that controlled the old fan did nothing. In other words, with the fan's positive wired to one set of four wires and the fan's negative wired to the other set of four wires the fan turns on, but the light switch does nothing. Also, this configuration sparked and shorted after a few minutes so I am pretty sure it was not right.

So now I am hoping that someone on here can give me some clue how to wire this thing, or at least what my problem might be and how to test it. I can have an electrician come in and wire the thing for 5 times what I paid for the fan, but I want badly to avoid that. Any advice is appreciated. Thanx.

Dan
 
  #2  
Old 06-07-04, 08:25 AM
J
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Your symptoms are classic. They happen over and over every day. You have a switch loop. Whenever you have a switch loop, one pair of wires is different from all the rest.

The cardinal rule of fixture replacement is to carefully note the wiring before you disconnect the old fixture, and to connect the new fixture the same way. Despite the fact that following this rule makes the job 100 times easier, it is unfortunate that it is often violated.

So if you know how it was connected before, reconstruct that.

By the way, making an assumption about which wire is grounding is often a fatal mistake. Grounding wires are always green or bare, and it is very, very, very, very dangerous to assume that anything else is a grounding wire.

Chances are that the one wire is the switched power feed, and should be connected to the blue wire of your new fan (so that the switch can control the light). The white wire of the new fan should connect to one of the other bundles of wire, and the black wire from the fan to the other bundle. But which is which? Please don't guess--it will work and you'll think you're okay, but you are left with an unsafe installation. Do you have some kind of circuit tester? If not, go out and spend a couple of bucks on a simple neon circuit tester. With that device, the solution will be easy. Post back when you have the tester.

Also, please tell us the colors of the four wires from your new fan, the city in which you live, and the year in which your house was built.
 
  #3  
Old 06-07-04, 08:34 AM
R
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The single wire that you thought was ground is the hot wire from the switch. it needs to be connected to the hot wire for the light or the fan or both (whatever you want to be controlled by the switch).

If the switch is only to control the light OR the fan, then the other hot wire is to be connected to the hot wires in the ceiling. The returns for the light and fan (there may be one or two) are to be connected to the returns in the ceiling. The ground for the new fan and light gets connected to the grounds.

Again, as John said, you should have connected the new unit the same way the old unit was connected.

One more thing. Don't use the terms positive and negative. They apply to DC, not AC. Those terms mean nothing in an AC circuit. The correct terms are hot, return or neutral or grounded, and ground.
 
  #4  
Old 06-07-04, 08:53 AM
ASPWebSmith
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Originally Posted by John Nelson
Your symptoms are classic. They happen over and over every day. You have a switch loop. Whenever you have a switch loop, one pair of wires is different from all the rest.

The cardinal rule of fixture replacement is to carefully note the wiring before you disconnect the old fixture, and to connect the new fixture the same way. Despite the fact that following this rule makes the job 100 times easier, it is unfortunate that it is often violated.

So if you know how it was connected before, reconstruct that.
Thank you, I consider myself properly chastised. I did label the wires when I pulled the old fan down and I am pretty sure I had them right, but since it did not work, I am now unsure of myself. I am going to go out this afternoon and buy a circuit tester as per your recommendation. No sense getting myself killed over a few bucks. There are four wires from the fan; white, black, black/white, and a green ground connected to the mounting bracket. I screwed the mounting bracket into the ceiling plate. Since I only have one switch, the instructions say to connect the black and the black/white wire to the hot and the white wire to the neutral (am I using the terms correctly now?). SO my question would be, if the single wire is hot and the 4 wires I have labeled are neutral, what do I do with the remaining four wires? I'll post again tonight once I get the tester. Thank you to everyone for your help.
 
  #5  
Old 06-07-04, 09:02 AM
J
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You have a choice about how you want the fan to work:
  1. Wall switch operates only the light, and the fan can be turned on with the pull chain regardless of whether or not the light is on.
  2. Wall switch operates both the light and the fan, and use the pull chains to control them individually.
If you pick the second option, then you will not be using the other bundle of four wires. If you pick the first, you will. Let us know.

I could also help you better if you would answer the questions in my prior post.
 
  #6  
Old 06-07-04, 09:15 AM
ASPWebSmith
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Hi John,

Thank you again for your help. I would like the wall switch to controll the lights and the fan to be controlled just by the pull chain. So that I can use the light switch to shut the lights off and still have the fan running. This is how the old fan worked. The new fan wires are black, white/black, white, and green. I live in Silver Spring, MD and my house was built in 1948.

Any chance you live nearby and want to come over and help with my fan tonight? Beers on me?

Thanks.

Dan
 
  #7  
Old 06-07-04, 09:24 AM
R
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Junction boxes do not necessarily only have cables that pertain to the receptacle outlet, switch or light installed at the junction box. Sometimes junction boxes may have cables that branch off to other outlets.

There are many ways to wire a house. Electricians each have their own style, and wiring is often dictated by building design. Further complicating setups may be that changes and additionas have been made to the wiring after the house was built. After walls and ceilings are in place wiring may take a roundabout route to go from source to switch to light, using many feet of cable, even though the measured distance is only a few feet.

Before you attemnpt to rewire the fan and light, decide how you want it to operate. If the unit has pull chains you may want the fan to be always powered, and operate it by the pull chain. This enables the light to be "off" while the fan is running, which may be disireable at night. Or you may wnat the switch to control both the fan and light. It's your choice (or your fiance's choice).

The likely wire configuration is that one set of four wires is always hot. The other set of four wires is the return, and the single wire is the switched hot.

However, if I were you I would also look at the wiring at the switch. You may be able to wire things (by changing the switch) so that you have two switched, one for the light and one for the fan. Remove the wall plat at the switch and the screws holding the switch in place. Then gently pull the switch out. Do not undo any wires. Describe for us all the wires in the box and how they are connected. Describe the wires that are connected to the switch and any other wirees in the box, whether connected to each other or to nothing. It also helps if we know where the wires come from. For example, if some wires enter from the bottom of the box and others enter from the top of the box you should tell us this.

You should also better describe the wires at the ceiling. Whcih dirtection do they enter from? What color is the insulation? Are there any wires with no insulation?
 
  #8  
Old 06-07-04, 01:02 PM
J
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Don't do a thing until you have the tester (and we tell you what to do with it). Otherwise you might make things worse.

Sorry, Maryland is a bit out of my range.
 
  #9  
Old 06-08-04, 08:16 AM
ASPWebSmith
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Thank you all so much for your help. I went to Home Depot last night and got the tester for $1.98. I went home and tested the wires and found it exactly as you described. One set of 4 wires was hot all the time and the other was neutral. The single wire was hot when the light switch was on and dead when the light switch was off. I also checked and confirmed that the mounting plate was grounded. Armed with this new information I wired the black wire from the fan to the hot bundle of 4 wires and the wihite wire to the neutral bundle, then I wired the black/white wire to the single hot wire and everything worked fine. I closed everything with wire screws and the fan and lights are working perfectly. The fan stays on unless I turn it off with the pull cord and the light is controlled by the light switch. I cannot thank you all enough for your help.

The only remaining problem is that now my fiance wants me to put the old fan up in the extra bedroom. There is no fan in there now, just a regular light fixture. I am feeling pretty confident about all this now, but perhaps I should be more warry? I am definetly not doing it this week so I ahve some time if there is anything I should learn to do before I attempt this... Any thoughts or advice are appreciated. Thanks again, you guys are the best.
 
  #10  
Old 06-08-04, 08:46 AM
R
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Before you attempt this you need to do some investigating. First, investigate the wiring at the light. If it is similar to the wiring you just worked with then you could wire a new light/fan in that manner. However, if it is wired differently then you might end up with a situation where the fan and light would have to be both powered by the switch.

The other concern is the junction box that the light is attached to. You cannot simply attach a fan to just any junction box. To properly support a fan the box must be designed for a fan and installed properly. Simple/plain junction boxes cannot handle the weight and the stress (vibration, etc) of a fan, and will eventually loosen and fall out. Do you have access to the ceiling from above, perhaps from a crawl space or attic? If so then you can easily inspect the existing box and replace it if necessary with a fan rated box. If you don;t have access from above then you will have to do your investigating and possible replacement from below, which may mean some damage to and repair of the ceiling.
 
  #11  
Old 06-08-04, 10:35 AM
J
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Bob said it perfectly. I agree.
 
  #12  
Old 06-08-04, 11:36 AM
ASPWebSmith
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I do have access to the ceiling through the attic, what would I look for to determine if the junction box would support a ceiling fan? Is the box itself different or is it justa question of how it is attached to the beams? I also spoke to an electrician out here (who wanted $75 for the first 30 minutes and $18 for each additional 15 minutes to come out and install the fan) who said I needed a certain size junction box for a ceiling fan? Thanks again.
 
  #13  
Old 06-08-04, 12:17 PM
J
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What is needed to support a fan depends on the weight of the fan. Here's what I'd look for:
  • The box must be metal.
  • The box must be supported from above, not merely attached to the side of a joist.
  • The threads into which the screws that hold the fan go must be more than just a few turns deep.
  • The size of the box is not normally a big issue.
If you have any doubts, go to your home center and buy a fan brace kit.
 
 

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