Can't get new switch working


Old 07-24-04, 03:56 PM
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Can't get new switch working

After replacing several switches in my home, I thought putting in a dimmer for a ceiling fan would be easy. The box has a pair of black, white and ground wires coming in (6 total wires). I didn't write down exactly how the old switch was wired (unfortunately), but I remember it had one white wire connected together with both grounds. The old switch didn't have a ground.

Now, whatever I do (including trying to reconnect the old switch) fails to get any response from the ceiling fan. I've even tried straight wiring everything through (black to black, white to white, etc.) with no switch, and still nothing. There was no other switch controlling the ceiling fan.

Anybody have any ideas as to what I need to do?
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Old 07-24-04, 03:59 PM
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Another note: I've tested, and there's definitely power getting to the ceiling fan. It just won't turn on (nor will the fan light).
Old 07-24-04, 04:05 PM
Join Date: Sep 2000
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It is unfortunately common that a grounding wire is connected to a white wire and thus used as a conductor when a fan is installed. This is done because the installer wanted separate control of the fan and its motor, but didn't have enough wires to do it safey. Fortunately, there are a number of fan wall controls on the market in the $40 range that will do this safely, and not unsafely as you have now.

Tell me how it worked before. What did the wall switch control, just the light, just the fan, or both? If just one, how was the other controlled.

Even if you can figure it out, please do not reconnect it as it was before. That isn't safe!!

By the way, I hope you know that using an ordinary lighting dimmer to control a fan motor will result in a very short motor life. It's okay to use the dimmer to control the light, but not the motor. I think when all is said and done, you're going to end up with that $40 fan wall control. But let's collect some more information first.
Old 07-24-04, 04:09 PM
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At the fan, the wires are connected as follows:
Incoming Fan
---------- ----------
Black --> Green
White --> Blue and Black
Ground --> White

I don't have the install instructions for the fan, but this seems very wrong. Is the wiring at the fan the source of the problem?
Old 07-24-04, 04:10 PM
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The previous switch controlled both the fan motor and the light.
Old 07-24-04, 04:37 PM
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The previous wiring was incredibly unsafe. Just awful! It was wired by a complete idiot.

So your main options are:
  1. Use a regular switch to control both the fan motor and light together.
  2. Use a dimmer switch to control both the fan motor and light together. This will cause your fan motor to start making an awful noise in no time and burn out not too long afterwards.
  3. Replace the cable between the wall and ceiling with one with more wires. If you can do this, you can do just about anything. You could even wire a duplex switch, one for the fan and one for the light, if you wanted to.
  4. Spend $40 on a intelligent wall control. This will give you fan spped control and lighting dimming all from one wall control.
  5. Buy a add-on remote control, which will do about the same thing as the wall-mount, but will be controlled by a hand-held unit. This renders the wall switch useless.
Old 07-24-04, 06:24 PM
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John is exactly right, what you have there is a mess. This is how it should be:

White is grounded conductor (neutral), and should be connected to the white on the fan. The white is also connected internally to the neutral on the lights.

Black is the phase conductor (hot), and should connect to the black on the fan. The blue fan conductor is the power to the light, and can be connected to the black wires if you want constant power to the lights.

Green is the equipment grounding conductor (ground), and goes to the bare copper wire.
This is the usual way to connect a ceiling fan. Go with the $40 fan controller. It will do what you want, but might require some simple wiring changes.
Old 07-24-04, 07:52 PM
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Thanks for your advice, Andy and John.
After reconnecting the ceiling fan and light correctly (I'm no electrical expert, but I was a little concerned when I saw the fan's ground connected to what should have been a "hot" wire), everything is working as expected. I'm planning to replace this fan before the end of the year, so I think I'll stick with the regular switch for now, and see if the new fan comes with a remote before buying the $40 fan control (or bothering with running all four wires). Thanks again.

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