Bathroom Exhaust Fan Mystery

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Old 02-11-15, 08:02 PM
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Bathroom Exhaust Fan Mystery

I have a small project that I have been working on for the past couple of days that is a complete mystery at this point to me, and I would be most appreciative for some suggestions. I have a bathroom exhaust fan that went out a few days ago. I took the fan out (with 2-prong plug) and tested it in other outlets around the house, and the fan worked in all of them. So then I narrowed it down to the wiring above the fan unit in the ceiling and the switch that controls the fan (dual-switch on wall- 1 controls light and the other switch control the fan).

I started with the wiring in the ceiling. House was built in 1983 so the outlet in the ceiling was a very old two-prong outlet in a metal casing. Didn't get any reading from my contact voltage detector or voltmeter from this old outlet. So I took the old outlet out, and bought a new standard single 20A 3-prong outlet. I have one white and one black wire feeding into this new outlet (these 2 white/black wires are wire capped to the white/black wires and ground wire feeding down from the attic). I wired my new outlet correctly with the 1 white wire going to the ground side of the outlet and the black to the opposite side.

Long story short, in my new outlet I installed, I am getting a 120V reading from my voltmeter and the volt contact pen is reading active current through the new outlet. However, the exhaust fan still does not work when plugged into this new outlet. I even tried a two-prong nightlight and that does not even work in my new outlet next to the exhaust fan unit, yet it continues to give me a reading of 120V coming through this same new outlet. Any thoughts on what this all could mean? I have tried everything at this point and it seems to be a big mystery. Thank you for your time and help!!
 
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Old 02-11-15, 08:23 PM
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First don't use a non contact tester. It is useless for this purpose.
so the outlet in the ceiling was a very old two-prong outlet in a metal casing.
Do you mean the receptacle built in to the fan housing?

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That is part of the fan not your house wiring. It was correct and should should probably not have been replaced. Just no magic parts inside to go bad and if you did replace it how did you do it? No way to get a regular receptacle to fit nor should you.
yet it continues to give me a reading of 120V coming through this same new outlet. Any thoughts on what this all could mean?
It could mean you are using a digital multimeter not an analog multimeter and getting an erroneous reading.

Tell us all the wires and connections at the duplex switch.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 02-11-15 at 08:58 PM.
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Old 02-11-15, 09:25 PM
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Thanks for your help, Ray. I have attached some pictures. The metal receptacle/old outlet on the existing ceiling unit was slightly removed from the actual fan configuration itself. It was located where the new white outlet I installed in the picture is located. But the old receptacle had the outlet built directly into it and the unit was rusted and just looked fried. Not sure it could have been salvaged by the way it looked like moisture had built up in there. There were only two wires coming into the old outlet (one white/one black), and I used those same two wires on this new outlet. Wires still look in good shape.

I have also posted a picture of the duplex switch. It is a little hard to see, but the fan switch has three wires going into it. Two wires back wired directly into the switch (vertical top and bottom), and then the third wire has the copper wrapped around the bottom screw on the switch.






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Old 02-11-15, 09:34 PM
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Old 02-11-15, 09:55 PM
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Here is the picture of the new exhaust fan configuration:

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Old 02-11-15, 09:59 PM
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I have also posted a picture of the duplex switch. It is a little hard to see, but the fan switch has three wires going into it. Two wires back wired directly into the switch (vertical top and bottom), and then the third wire has the copper wrapped around the bottom screw on the switch.




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Old 02-11-15, 10:07 PM
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Well not your problem but what you did to the receptacle needs to be undone and the correct receptacle reinstalled.

Please tell us all the wires and connections at the switch.
 
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Old 02-11-15, 10:19 PM
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Yes, I still kept the old rusted receptacle so I can reinstall it, but will have to find a wiring configuration that will work with the old two-prong plug that was built into the metal frame since it looked like it had been damaged by moisture build up. For the switch, there are three wires coming in. Two are back wired vertically (top and bottom of switch), and the third wire is wrapped around the bottom screw on the switch.
 
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Old 02-12-15, 03:54 AM
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I suspect the connections at the switch have failed or the switch is worn out. Either would allow voltage to show at the receptacle but not power the unit.

You could also plug the fan into the wall receptor see if it is the problem.
 
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Old 02-12-15, 09:22 AM
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The entire bath fan assembly needs to be replaced.
 
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Old 02-12-15, 09:35 AM
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Yes, I still kept the old rusted receptacle so I can reinstall it, but will have to find a wiring configuration that will work with the old two-prong plug that was built into the metal frame since it looked like it had been damaged by moisture build up.
Why did you cfhange the wiring configuration? No need to do that. If the receptacle is in poor shape you may be able to by a new one but I don't know how a plastic receptacle rusts. Could you post a picture?
For the switch, there are three wires coming in. Two are back wired vertically (top and bottom of switch), and the third wire is wrapped around the bottom screw on the switch
Please post a picture.
t looked like it had been damaged by moisture build up
How is the fan vented?
 
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Old 02-12-15, 08:47 PM
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Talking

Just wanted to say thanks for all of the replies. I got home a couple of hours ago from work and decided to install a new switch even though the old switch was giving me a proper readout. The fan works now! Not sure why the old switch was not working even though it was giving the 120V readout with the voltmeter, but problem seems to be solved. Thanks again everyone!
 
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Old 02-12-15, 09:22 PM
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Not sure why the old switch was not working even though it was giving the 120V readout
Because no useful information is obtained taking a reading across the switch. You test it by bypassing it.
 
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