Switches with two Hots, Light not working

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  #1  
Old 05-04-14, 06:17 PM
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Switches with two Hots, Light not working

All:

I am looking for some help here. We have a pretty new house that we built. I am having an issue with two of our fans that are on the same circuit, and unfortunately, the electrician will not call me back. Before I go through having someone else come in, I was hoping to see if this is something I could remedy.

So.. The lightbulb in my fan burnt out. It is one of those GUS type squat bulbs, so not an easy find. I found one at the lighting store that sold the fan, but didn't get it right away. Anyway, during that time, the fan always worked. The fan works by remote only, there are no pull cables. The fan is wired through what looks like two switches. Anyway, during the winter we never used the fan. I finally picked up the lightbulb and installed it, and the light didn't come on, neither did the fan! Now, oddly enough, my son's fan, different fan, different room, also is not working right. The bulbs burned out at one point when I cut the breaker, and it seems as if it doesn't want to work anymore. I installed new bulbs, and the light will not turn on. Side note, my son's closet light is on the same circuit, and I have had to change the bulb 4 times now, in the 9 months we've lived here!?!?!

Anyway, I am trying to diagnose our fan first. The remote lights up when you hit a button, so the remote it working. There is no receiver in the fan. It is the type that automatically pairs when you give power to the fan, and hold the power button on the remote within two minutes. So, there is another issue, right? I have a double gang plate on the wall, which I never understood, since we only have the fan w/light, and they are only controlled via remote, not wall switches. I took the plate off, and examined the switches. The right side of the right switch has two hots and a ground. This group of wires has a band around it, labeled light. The left switch has two hots and a ground on it, and this group has a band around it, labeled receptacle. There is a group of whites behind, all wired together. There is a red coming in, that is just pulled back, and never used.

I have tried every receptacle in our room, both top and bottom, and nothing is turned off by the "receptacle" switch. When the fan did work, we needed to have the right combo of switches to make it work. I tried a non-contact voltage detector, and found hot in the bottom of each switch when off, and in top and bottom when on. I measured with a multimeter, and showing about 125V from either hot to ground, and 50 or so volts from hot to hot on the same switch. From what I've read, this means you can count that as 0? Anyway, when I take the socket off the fan to expose the wires, I tried the non-contact detector, and got nothing. I tried all 4 combinations of up/down on the switches. Tried the multimeter on the socket itself. Got 0 reading.

So, any idea on what is going on? I have 4 romex cables in the box. The 3 way (with red) is going to the common screw, and the other 3 cables only have the black/white/ground. I am including two pictures of the wall box, if that helps. Thanks in advance, and sorry for the long post!

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  #2  
Old 05-04-14, 08:49 PM
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Welcome to the forums.

Try a small CFL (compact fluorescent) bulb in the closet light. It will give you the same light at less wattage. It's the heat that kills the bulbs.

You have power at the switches. The next logical step would be to see if you have power at the box above the fan. The fan does have a receiver..... it just happens to be a self learning type.
If you find power at the fan box then maybe the fan lost it's remote programming. It would best if you have a voltmeter or voltage tester so you can check between the fan hot and neutral. Your non contact tester could show power but if you were missing the neutral it wouldn't work.
 
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Old 05-04-14, 08:53 PM
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Let's get the terminology straight first. When you say that there are two hot leads, do you mean that all the switches are in the off position & 2 wires still test hot? That doesn't sound right. Even if the fan/light fixture is controlled by the remote, it's probably still switched at the wall. It certainly not hot from the panel box.

Put both switches in the off position & make a note of what is hot. There is usually just one hot lead. Then turn on the switch that has the hot lead & see what else gets hot & see if the fan works.
 
  #4  
Old 05-05-14, 07:15 PM
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PJMax:

I will try the CFL. It is inside a globe, so the light emitted isn't that great. But if I can get a higher wattage CFL, that might kill two birds with one stone..

I did know there was a built-in self learning receiver. Too bad my lighting guy didn't. They ordered me a new receiver/remote, which will not work with this type of fan. Anyway, I did try to check the socket for any voltage with my multimeter, and got nadda. I was hoping not to have to take the fan down. It is a vaulted ceiling, so it is a good 12-15 feet high. Plus it is pretty much over my bed. So, would be pretty tough to have to worry about unhooking all the wires while trying to hold this fan up. And re-installing will NOT be fun! Oh well, guess I have no choice here.

Pulpo:

You are right. I did not state the issue correctly, and jumbled up my words. I meant the two hot screws had wires (the in and the out) but the neutral screw had nothing. When the switch is off, only the bottom is hot. When it is on, both are hot. I am 99% sure that both switches were independent, but I will have to double-check. At this point, I can't say I'm positive.
 
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Old 05-05-14, 07:38 PM
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I meant the two hot screws had wires (the in and the out) but the neutral screw had nothing.
Mechanical switches without extra functions do not have a neutral screw.
 
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Old 05-05-14, 08:36 PM
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dcusick, you still didn't finish my test. You clarified the status of one of the switches. What about the second switch, in that box?? Is one terminal hot when both switches are off? Is it hot when one switch is on? Is it never hot? BTW, nada only has one D in it.
 
  #7  
Old 05-06-14, 08:33 AM
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Ray:

By no extra functions, what exactly do you mean? The two switches I have, the one labeled light has a neutral screw with nothing connected to it, and the other, labeled receptacle, does not have a neutral screw at all. The light one has a black common screw as well, so I'm guessing that could be used as a three way? Neither are three way, nor perform any other function I'm aware of, so a little confused as to why the switches are different.

Pulpo:
I did say that I was pretty sure the switches were independent, by which I meant that the bottom screw of both switches were hot no matter the state of the other. But, I am not 100%. I will have to test that for sure when I get home from work today, and report back. I am home tomorrow, so hopefully I will be able to pull the fan down, and check to ensure the power is getting to the fixture.
 
  #8  
Old 05-06-14, 03:38 PM
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The black screw looks out of place & it looks like a white wire is going to it. That also looks out of place. You might want to change that switch.
 
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Old 05-06-14, 03:44 PM
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Extra functions would be lighted switch or timer. A single location switch (not a 3-way) should only have two brass screws. A 3-way switch may have a white wire but the wire is not a neutral (grounded conductor) and by code should have been remarked red or black or any color but gray or green to indicate it is an ungrounded conductor..
 
  #10  
Old 05-06-14, 08:44 PM
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Pulpo:
The black screw looks out of place & it looks like a white wire is going to it. That also looks out of place. You might want to change that switch.
Yeah, it looks that way, but they are both black. Not sure the standard, but our electrician did the rough work, and then didn't cover up any of the boxes. When the painter came in, he sprayed all the walls with primer, so just about all of our wires were painted with it! If you look closely, you'll see the wire is speckled with paint, not exactly white. Does make life fun to figure this stuff out though! Maybe I'll switch it out for a single-pole, just to be sure.

Also, I finished up that test you were asking. The two switches are definitely 100% independent. With both switches off, I get 125V across each bottom screw to it's partner ground, and 0V on the top screw to ground. And then I get 125V across the top screw and ground after switching each switch on. Again, neither switch has to be on, to get juice in the other.

Ray:
Thanks for the clarification. You can probably see from the pictures, that one of the romex's coming in is 12/3. That black from that 12/3 cable is going to the black/common screw. The red, is just bent back, and not being used at all. The neutral screw on that same switch is also unused. At this point, I have two thoughts.. A) The electrician was planning on making this a 3-way switch. Hence the 12/3 cable during the roughing. After, realized it wasn't, so only used two wires. B) The electrician only had a 3-way switch left, as opposed to a single-pole switch, and lazily just installed it, instead of waiting and getting the proper switch. B) could be related to A), but still just plain lazy.


I am home tomorrow. So, I'm going to try to take the fan down, so I can check the voltage coming to the unit. I have some spare light fixtures as well, I can try to wire up real quick, to see what happens. Could definitely be a way to rule out mechanical failure on the fan. I will report back with my findings.
 
  #11  
Old 05-06-14, 08:51 PM
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The neutral screw on that same switch is also unused
Again a 3-way mechanical switch does not have a neutral. It has two travelers and a common.
 
  #12  
Old 05-06-14, 08:58 PM
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Again, I apologize for using the wrong terminology. I understand it isn't neutral, it acts as a traveler from switch to switch or switch to fixture. Regardless, seems as if the switch itself is a 3-way, but only being used as a single-pole.
 
  #13  
Old 05-06-14, 09:52 PM
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Using wrong terms confuses the issue. Also travelers are never connected to the light. Only a common is connected to the light. If these are not used as 3-ways and you are sure there is not an abandoned second 3-way replace with single location switches as suggested by Pulpo. First verify that only one wire to each switch is hot. Disconnect the two wires on the switch and using an analog multimeter measure between each wire and the metal box. Only one should show 120 volts. If that is found to be true connect to your new SPST switch.
 
  #14  
Old 05-07-14, 02:48 AM
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Let me ask one other clarification question. Is there a jumper wire that connects the 2 switches? A jumper goes from one switch directly to the other.
 
  #15  
Old 05-07-14, 07:12 AM
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our electrician did the rough work, and then didn't cover up any of the boxes. When the painter came in, he sprayed all the walls with primer, so just about all of our wires were painted with it!
Sloppy painter! .......................
 
  #16  
Old 05-07-14, 07:22 AM
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The switches sound like they are operating properly.

I suspect a failed connection, but am still waiting on the test results requested earlier.
 
  #17  
Old 05-07-14, 10:41 AM
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Okay. Luckily, the fan has a canopy that I was able to pull down, without having to take the entire fan down. Made life a little easier for the moment. Anyway, checked the incoming black and ground, and found 125V in the ceiling before the fixture. I then took a spare fixture I had, and wired it up real quick. Flipped the switch, and the light came right on.

So, now I guess I need to figure out if the issue is the fan/light fixture, or the self-learning receiver/remote. Any ideas on how I can do that? I found the manual and tried following the programming instructions that were in there for the remote. It didn't work at all. Unfortunately, the receiver seems to be built in to the fan, so I cannot jump the receiver and take it out of the picture easily. Anyone have any ideas on how to properly test this? It is a Kichler 300133 MCH fan, if that helps anyone.
 
  #18  
Old 05-07-14, 05:28 PM
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If you have juice in the ceiling, buy a fan/light that doesn't use a remote. Return the existing light for a refund or store credit.
 
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