Ceiling Fan installation

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Old 05-18-12, 08:20 PM
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Ceiling Fan installation

Hello all,

I'm hoping you can help me out - I have a ceiling fan that is wired up but not working. I feel like I have checked and doubled checked each connection 100 times but still no go. I am not sure exactly what information you'll need from me, so I will just spell out the entire situation and you can ask if you need more details.

What used to exist:
- There was no pre-existing light fixture. House was built in 1985.
- There is attic access, and a light bulb in the attic with a 14/2 (I think - black/white/bare) sheathed wire running to it.
- The room was lit using a stand lamp plugged into a wall outlet that would go on and off with a standard light switch.
- In the box behind the light switch there was a black wire, a white wire, and a bare wire that came into the box, sheathed.
- The black wire went into the top of the switch, and the white wire came out of the bottom of the switch. The bare wire was just bunched up and not attached to anything...

First steps:
- Cut a hole in the ceiling, and mounted a support and round box to the 2x4's in the attic.
- Ran a 12/3 (didn't know squat about gauges until after I bought the wire - this stuff is a pain to bend) from the fan box, through the attic, down through the stud to the existing wall switch box.
- Replaced the switch box with a bigger box, to house two switches. It's the blue plastic kind, with the little flipper tabs.

Initial wiring:
- Fan had Black, Striped Black, and White wires coming out of it, as well as some green grounds in different places. Using the yellow winged wire nuts I attached:
---Fan Green to Attic Bare
---Fan Black to Attic Black
---Fan Striped Black to Attic Red
---Fan White to Attic White
- The wire run from the attic, down through the drywall to the switch box was wired in the following way to the existing wires that had previously been on the switch:
---Attic Black to bottom of Switch B.
---Attic Red to bottom of Switch A.
---Attic White to Wall White
---Attic Bare to Wall Bare and green screws on both switches.
---Wall Black pig tailed to top of both Switch A and Switch B.

After mounting the switches, and finishing putting together the fan, I turned the power back on.
Here is where it got weird:
- When Switch B was on by itself, the fan blades rotated, though not at full speed.
- When Switch A was on by itself, the lightbulbs in the fan came on, but not at full strength. This is not a fan with a dimmer switch or anything - it's pretty basic. Hunter model 28682 for those interested.
- When Switch A was on by itself, the stand lamp plugged into the wall outlet would come on, but not at full strength.
- If I pulled the drawstring on the fan to turn off the lights, the stand lamp and the fan bulbs would both go out.
- When Switches A and B were both on, everything was on, but at even lower power.

So at this point I have two problems:
- Everything is at low power
- The fan light bulbs and the wall outlet are wired together somehow.

I decided to pull the plug on the stand lamp to see if the fan would still work. It did not. But when I plugged the stand lamp back in, nothing came back on. Neither the blades nor the lightbulbs, nor the stand lamp. I assumed I had kicked the breaker, so I went downstairs and checked - nope, the breaker was still on. I turned it off, waited a while, turned it back on, and nothing still. So I turned it back off and called a few people I know who have limited electrical experience.

Troubleshooting round 1:

- The first thing someone mentioned was that there should be a Black wire going into the original switch, and a Black wire coming out - not a Black in and White out. Otherwise that would make the switch "terminal", which I guess doesn't make sense as to how it would control the outlet with the stand lamp. They suggested that someone must have run a segment of wire to the switch and used the White in that wire as a second Black instead of running two wires - one to the switch and one back from the switch. Without being able to get into the drywall to see what it looks like in there, I can't say. But I took the Wall White and the Wall Black that had originally gone into the switch and nutted them together without any switch. That fixed the outlet - the stand lamp is now working at full strength, no longer tied to a switch.
- Next I spliced a 14/2 into the 14/2 attached to the light bulb in the attic, and ran it down through the drywall to the switch box. I did this in a blue plastic junction box with yellow wire nuts.
- Now I used the Black/White/Bare from the "Spliced Attic" and did the connections the same way I had done with the previous wiring:
---Attic Black to bottom of Switch B.
---Attic Red to bottom of Switch A.
---Attic White to Spliced Attic White
---Attic Bare to Spliced Attic Bare and green screws on both switches.
---Spliced Attic Black pig tailed to top of both Switch A and Switch B.
- Fired up the breaker box, and flipped the switches, and nothing, AGAIN. The lightbulb in the attic was still working, which means I spliced the wires back together well enough, I suppose.


Troubleshooting round 2:
- I have a Voltage Sensor that is wireless, ie it reads a signal in the vicinity without actually touching it to any wires. This is actually turning out to be a pain in the butt because there are multiple wires all in the same area and I can't tell which it's picking up sometimes. Regardless, if I hold it near the fan, it beeps like crazy. If I hold it near the switches, it beeps like crazy. I think this means that I am getting power to the fan, but the fan isn't working.
- To me this meant the fan's fuse was blown during some of my earlier shenanigans. I called the fan company and asked them where to get a fuse. They said they don't sell them, and I'd have to get a whole new lighting assembly, which is what all of the wires are attached to. Since they were not privy to my earlier wiring shenanigans, they offered to send me a new one... don't judge me!
- I swapped out the lighting assemblies. Flipped the switch, and NOTHING.

Now I have absolutely no clue what could be wrong. I went around and double checked every connection to make sure all the wires were firmly in the nuts - nothing loose or shaky. I even unattached and reattached most of the nuts to make sure they were good. And I can't get the damned thing to work. Any thoughts or ideas would be greatly appreciated. I am sure there is some due diligence that I am not doing, and that's where the problem will be.

Thanks for taking the time to read and offer any thoughts!
John
 
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Old 05-18-12, 08:41 PM
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In the original switch wiring you had a constant white hot and the switch controlled black. The white was not a neutral which is needed to complete the circuit.
 
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Old 05-18-12, 10:15 PM
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So joining it to the black is the correct way to ensure that the outlet will work correctly and without a switch?

Also, will running a wire from the attic light bulb be the correct neutral/hot/ground combo? Is there a way for me to check that?
 
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Old 05-18-12, 10:50 PM
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In the box with the receptacle the switch controlled, you should find a cable bringing power in and a cable going to the switch, and there may be another cable or two. Some of the wires will be mis-matched in color. The likeliest situation is that the white wire in the cable going to the switch is spliced to the feed-in black wire and the black from the switch is terminated to the receptacle.

Pull the receptacle out of the box. Re-do the wiring so that all of the black wires are together and all of the white wires are together. Inspect the "hot" side of the receptacle to see if the bridge between the two terminal screws has been removed or broken open. If it has, buy a new receptacle. Connect the new or existing receptacle to the spliced-together black wires with a black pigtail, and to the spliced-together white wires with a white pigtail.

Remove the cable you ran from the attic light to the switch box.

Connect the fan the way you initially did. Connect the two switches the way you originally did,

Turn the power back on.
 
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Old 05-19-12, 11:22 PM
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I will look into that and give it a shot if it is as you say. But just to further my knowledge of wiring, I'd like to pose a question. I assumed that I could run a cable from any functioning cable to the switches, and it would power the fan. Is that not the case? Power is going down the cable, right through my junction and into the attic light. Would it not divert and go to the switches and on to the fan as well?
 
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Old 05-20-12, 06:19 AM
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I assumed that I could run a cable from any functioning cable to the switches, and it would power the fan. Is that not the case?
That depends. Did you verify that had brought a complete circuit into the switch box by using a meter to check the line-to-neutral voltage?
 
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Old 05-20-12, 07:31 AM
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No - I don't have one of the physical two pronged sensors. As indicated I am regretting the choice I made when buying the wireless one. It's good to tell me there is no juice running through an area and I won't electrocute myself to death, but I can't verify an individual circuit. They are like 8 bucks - I think I might just run to the hardware store and buy one.

So is it possible that the splices could be done correctly, but it would not be a "complete circuit"? Or would it not being a complete circuit indicate my connections are bad? I only ask because I double checked them, and if my standards of calling it "good" are wrong, then I will need to revisit my wire-nutting method.
 
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Old 05-20-12, 07:38 AM
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A complete circuit needs a path for the voltage to go out to the lamp or receptacle as well as a path back. A switch loop is just the supply. Despite the white color it is not a neutral and does not supply the missing part of the circuit.
 
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Old 05-20-12, 12:53 PM
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It became clear, when you said in your first post
- The room was lit using a stand lamp plugged into a wall outlet that would go on and off with a standard light switch.
- In the box behind the light switch there was a black wire, a white wire, and a bare wire that came into the box, sheathed.
that you had a switch loop from the receptacle to the switch, which meant there was no neutral in the switch box. You didn't have a complete circuit there, and that's why your first wiring setup didn't work. If the white wire in the switch box had been a neutral, as you assumed it was, your first wiring setup would have worked.

PCBoss named the problem in the second post:
The white was not a neutral which is needed to complete the circuit.
I understood from your next post (#3) that you wanted
to ensure that the outlet will work correctly and without a switch
in addition to being able to power and control your fan and light from two switches in the original switch location.

So, in the fourth post, I described what you needed to do to change the single 2-wire cable between the receptacle box and the switch box to be a circuit feed instead of a switch loop. That's all that needs to be done to meet your requests.

I didn't respond to your questions about the connection from the attic light for three reasons:
  • That connection wasn't and isn't needed,
  • It might introduce a second circuit, which can lead to problems, and
  • I didn't see that you described securing the new cable, which must be done to comply with the code. Not seeing that suggested that you only ran the cable as a test strategy.
Once you remove that new cable from the attic light and wire everything as described in post #4, your receptacle, your fan and your light should work exactly as you have said you want them to.

When you ask
is it possible that... it not being a complete circuit [might] indicate my connections are bad? I only ask because I double checked them, and if my standards of calling it "good" are wrong, then I will need to revisit my wire-nutting method.
my comment is that wires are joined by splicing them together, and that a wire nut is installed to protect and insulate the splice. If you made a properly twisted and trimmed splice before capping it with a well-twisted wire nut, then you are working at the accepted standard.
 
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Old 05-21-12, 09:32 PM
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You nailed the wiring in the receptacle right on. Here are three pics of the receptacle after I wired it in. I think the bridge is missing on the hot side, as you indicated it might be. I am going to replace the receptacle tomorrow, and see if it works. Presumably it will not work if I try to use this receptacle without the bridge? They are cheap so I don't mind picking one up - I am just curious.

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Thank you very much for your help to date. I really appreciate the detailed posts and explanations. I will do some reading on switch loops before I embark on my next project.

I will update the post with the results after I get a new receptacle

Thanks again!
John
 
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Old 05-21-12, 10:23 PM
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Don't use the back stabs on the new one. They are somewhat less reliable then the screws.
 
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Old 05-22-12, 10:10 AM
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Thank you for the clear pictures! A few comments:

Yes, the bridge between the two hot terminals has been removed, so that the switch would only control one of the two receptacles while the other was always hot. Having said that, connecting each of the two terminals to the ungrounded conductors with its own pigtail enables each receptacle to be always hot. It may be non-standard, but it'll work. IOW, you can install a new receptacle with both bridges in place if you want to but you don't have to.

If you replace the duplex receptacle, remove one of the two hot-side pigtails. The hot (black) splice should look like the neutral splice: in, out and one pigtail.

Speaking of the neutral splice: it may be the way you found it, but there is bare conductor showing outside the wire nut. You need to correct that code violation. Undo the splice, straighten the conductors, and line the three wires up so that the ends of the insulation are even. Then splice the conductors with at least three full twists. Trim a little off the tip if that winds up straggly and then twist the wire nut on.

And speaking of wire nuts, I notice that you have one red, on the ground wires, and two yellows, on the two sets of current-carrying conductors. In general, red wire nuts have more capacity than yellow ones. I would change this so that the hot and neutral splices each has a red wire nut and the grounds have a yellow one. A preference.

Ray already advised you to terminate the pigtails around the screws and not into the back-stabs. I'll add to that that your pictures show a bit of uninsulated conductor outside the receptacle on each of the hot wires. That's a clear violation and downright dangerous. If you're going to terminate a conductor in a back-stab or a back-clamp terminal, you need to first compare the length of the exposed conductor to the "wire strip gauge" you'll find molded into the back of the device, and trim it so that the bare wire is just that long - or a hair shorter.

Having said that, I would always crimp the stripped wire around a screw rather than stick it in a back-stab, for the reason Ray gave.

One more point: always wrap the bare conductor around the terminal screw clockwise, the way the ground wire is done in your photo, so that tightening the screw will tighten, rather than loosen, the fit of the wire to the screw. And, to continue the point about not allowing any bare conductor to show behind the device, you should strip, trim and bend the wire so that the end of the wire insulation is right next to the screw head as the bare conductor emerges to make the termination. Tighten all of the terminal screws, not just the two you connected to.

Looking good so far!
 
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Old 05-23-12, 08:06 PM
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Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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I made sure all the splices conformed to your descriptions, and everything is on the up and up - more than I can say for the person who ran the original wiring! I am going to install 3 more, and it's nice to have the process in place. You've greatly enhanced my knowledge, and I very much appreciate it!
 
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Old 05-23-12, 08:21 PM
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Enjoy the fruits of your labors. thanks for the feedback.
 
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Old 05-23-12, 10:13 PM
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Thank you for telling us that it turned out well, and thank you, especially, for the picture of the finished installation!
 
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