Troubleshooting a ceiling fan installation

Old 07-08-15, 08:22 AM
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Troubleshooting a ceiling fan installation

Hi everyone,

I'm a new homeowner and long time DIY'er. I've got a good bit of experience with home electrical wiring which is why my current problem is driving me up a wall. Hopefully someone can help me with this problem and save what's left of my sanity.

I'm installing a ceiling fan in my daughter's room where there was previously no ceiling light or fan. The room has a receptacle where the bottom half is always on and the top half is controlled by the light switch beside the bedroom door. The wiring is set up so power from the breaker box goes into the bottom of the junction box and connects to the bottom of the receptacle. The receptacle is a new, back wired, two plug grounded receptacle; your standard "power outlet."

The top half of the receptacle has a 2-conductor cable connected to it that goes up the wall, through the attic and comes back down to the switch by the door. The "hot side connector plate" of the receptacle has been snipped so the switch controls the top plug of the receptacle.

What I've done is, in the attic, broken the black wire in the 2-conductor cable and connected another 2-conductor cable run that leads to where the ceiling fan is at. I've connected the black wire in the new run to the black wire leading from the receptacle and the white wire from the new run to the black wire leading to the light switch. This places the ceiling fan in series with the light switch and the switch should now control both the fan and the top half of the receptacle.

Unfortunately it doesnt.

No matter what I do I cant get power to go to the ceiling fan. I've rewired the new 2-conductor cable run and the receptacle every way I can possibly think of. I've even gone so far as to remove the receptacle, use wire nuts to connect the wires in the junction box and then connected the new 2-conductor cable directly to the lead from the receptacle, basically wiring the fan directly into power. Nothing.

I have a voltage detector (Shop Southwire Analog Voltage Detector at that absolutely screams when I check the cable run going to the fan but no matter what I do I cant get power to the fan itself.

As a troubleshooting measure I've disconnected the fan from the new 2-conductor cable, connected a receptacle and then plugged a lamp in for testing and nothing happens. There's no power at the end of the cable run even though my detector says there is.

My next step is to simply replace the new 2-conductor cable run that I've installed. Everything else in the circuit has been tested and is working as normal. The only thing I can think of is that the new cable I installed is bad somehow and needs to be replaced...

If anyone can give me any thoughts about what might be going on I'd truly appreciate it.
Old 07-08-15, 08:59 AM
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I am confused because you mention a junction box and the outlet. Are these separate or is the the junction box you mention the outlet box?

Toss the no contact tester. They are hit or miss at best. You need a tester that you actually touch to the conductors. I like old fashioned style analog meters that have a needle that swings back and forth. Digital meters and some testers that just have indicator lights are digital and can sometimes give erroneous readings.
Old 07-08-15, 09:31 AM
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I have a voltage detector (Shop Southwire Analog Voltage Detector at that absolutely screams when I check the cable run going to the fan but no matter what I do I cant get power to the fan itself.
They sell thousands of them every day and most people have the same complaint because they aren't for troubleshooting, but for a quick check to see if power is in the general area. PD has the best suggestion, pitch it and get a reliable tester. The non-contact testers have their place, but must be followed up with a real testing device or multimeter for accuracy.
Old 07-08-15, 09:23 PM
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Your power goes directly to the receptacle. Then a two wire cable breaks the hot to one half of the receptacle. That two wire cable that goes from the receptacle to the switch is called a switch loop and does not contain a neutral wire. You can't tap any usable power along that switch loop.

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