Basic Ceiling Fan Wiring

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  #1  
Old 06-07-04, 11:27 AM
johnvt
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Basic Ceiling Fan Wiring

I'm a real beginer at wiring especially at celing fan wiring and I want to hook up a ceiling fan w/ light in a room that has no ceiling fixtures. There already is a switch that powers an outlet in the room. I want to keep the outlet always on and have the switch power the ceiling fan that I will install. I do not want two switches. I want the switch to give power to the fan and I'll pull the cord on the fan to turn the light on/off or the fan on/off. How do I wire this? I'm not sure what wire to get and have no idea how to hook any pieces of this up. I can't tell where the source is coming in from the current installation and need more explanation of what I'm supposed to look for. Please advise on what wire to get and what to do. Thanks in advance
 
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  #2  
Old 06-07-04, 12:31 PM
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Well, everything you say is possible. You'll need a new cable from the switch box to the ceiling (I hope you have an accessible attic over this room), and you may or may not need some rewiring at the receptacle.

The first thing to do is shut off the breaker, gently pull out the wall switch without disconnecting anything, and tell us everything you see--all the cables, all the wires, all the connections.
 
  #3  
Old 06-08-04, 07:00 AM
johnvt
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My configuration has changed a little...

I went home moved everything out of the room, to get it ready to paint and install the fan/light. I found another switch on the wall in the corner that I never noticed behind some boxes. So the setup is actually two switches that control one outlet. I'm assuming that a receptacle is the same thing as an outlet but I mean outlet where you plug things into. The outlet is fully controlled by the two switches meaning that both parts are on or off with the switch instead of one half always on and one part controlled by the switch. I checked all outlets and the switches both full control only one outlet in this room. What I want to do is install a ceiling fan and now have both switches control the fan/light. I'll still use the fan pull cords to turn the light on/off fan on/off and have the switches give power to the whole fan or not. I would like to make the outlet always on.

I looked at the outlet and it has one wire going into it with a white/black/copper wire to it. Behind both switches have a red wire. Both switches had alot of wires behind them. One switch had a pigtail(i think that is what it is called when you tie a bunch of wires together) of white and a pigtail of black behind it. The other switch appeared to have a pigtail of just white. Does that sound right? I have easy access to the attic above the ceiling and easy access to a crawlspace under the floor. Which way would you recommend wiring it, I'm thinking the attic down to a switch or to an outlet but I'm not sure how to do that yet.

On a previous project, I installed a fan and exchanged it with a light in one of the other bedrooms and the wire that was there for the ceiling light was black/white/copper. Should that be the wire I get for the new fan? I'm thinking that would be the one since all the other ceiling lights in my house use that... I think its 14/2. None of the other fans or lights have dual switches to control fan/light so I've never seen a red wire until now.

One thing, when I turned the breaker off I noticed that two rooms are on the same breaker. The second room next to this one has the same configuration, two switches controlling one outlet and no ceiling light. I wanted to put up a fan/light in this room also but didn't realize that they were on the same breaker. I would think that two fans with two lights would be able to be on the same breaker. I don't think there would be a time when both lights/fans would need to be on but I would hope the breaker would be able to handle this??? The only thing else in these rooms is a lamp(may go away if enought light in the room with fan) clock, tv, vcr, dvr and thats it. I would think that there would be enough power for all that (keeping fingers crossed). I think there is about 8 outlets total between the two rooms. I don't have any more breakers available in the house if the rooms were needed to split into two. My computer room has more plugged into it with a fan/light and several computers with large montiors and its been fine.

I hope I explained all this ok. Please let me know the best way to do this:

which wire to get
where to run the wire to (outlet or which switch)
how to wire this (specifically which wires go where and how to tie together or which screw to put on ( I have no clue about this) )
how to turn the outlet always on
if this could be done in the second room on the same breaker as well.


Thanks.
 
  #4  
Old 06-08-04, 09:52 AM
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We try to use the word "receptacle" to refer to one of those things on the wall that you can plug a lamp into. And the term "duplex receptacle" is a unit you can plug two lamps into. Although in layman's terms, "outlet" is often used to mean this, in official electrical terms, the word "outlet" means something else.

The word "pigtail" is often misused. It refers to a short section of wire used to connect a wire nut to a screw or to another wire nut. But many people use the term to refer to any set of wires connected by a wire nut. This is a misuse of the term. A set of wires connected by a wire nut is just a set of wires connected by a wire nut. It's not a pigtail.

The fact that this receptacle is controlled by two 3-way switches instead of one single-pole switch changes things considerably, and it makes the job a lot more complicated. I can't just tell you how to do it all at once. So the job will take longer. I can guide you through it if you want. Are you up for it? You may need to go buy some electrical test equipment if you don't already have some.

But for heavens sakes, don't just start ripping things apart and reconnecting them in ways you hope will work. If we're not methodical, the task is hopeless.
 
  #5  
Old 06-08-04, 10:46 AM
johnvt
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Thanks for the info. I've learned alot the last couple days about wiring and what things are called. I've tried to read as many forums and internet searches but can't seem to find an easy explanation for my setup. I'm up for the task. Please guide me. I was hoping to not have to buy a book or only do this as a last resort, I've spent alot of money lately and $30+ wiring books was not in the budget.

I'm not going to rip things out or start wiring without some knowledge of what I'm dealing with. From what I've found it looks like I would run the new wire from the new fan to the switch without the power source ( the one with just the white wire nut). Then I would connect the white with the wire nut of white and black to the switch. I would have to remove the black on the switch there (which is probably the receptacle) and tie it into power to set the receptacle as always "hot". Thats about all I've discovered so far. I'm ready when you are.

Thanks
 
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Old 06-08-04, 11:40 AM
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The fact that the two rooms are on the same breaker is of little consequence. Fan motors use very little power. If anything, you might need to limit the wattage of lighting on the fan.

Before we get too far along, I'm going to need even more detail than you've given me so far. For example, you talked about a "bunch" of wires connected together. I need to know exactly how many is in a bunch. I also need to know exactly which wires are connected to the switch and how they are connected. The colors of the screws will be important.

Leaving the receptacle switched will be a lot easier than making it unswitched. Did you have your heart set on an unswitched receptacle? The problem is that there is no "always hot" wire at the second switch.

Have you picked out a fan yet? Many fans come these days with a remote control, but I'd recommend you get one without one, or not use it if it comes with one.
 
  #7  
Old 06-09-04, 07:37 AM
johnvt
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I was hoping to have the receptacle always on but getting the fan hooked up correctly and as easy as possible works better for me. I hope this is what you need:

I analyzed all the switches and receptacles and this is what I found:

* indicates a wire coming in or in from outside the box. A color indicates a wire inside of a main wire like white/black/red/copper as part of a white wire.

Switch 1 has 3 wires* coming into it from the back. 2 are white* and one is black*, I can't tell if it has black tape or is black*. The two white* are coming in from the top left and right. The black* is coming in from the bottom right. One of the white* wires has a red wire with it and the other two wires* just have black/white/copper. Looking at the switch head on, the red wire is in the upper red corner going into the back of the switch. There is a normal silver or black screw but nothing is on it. The red wire goes into the switch. The upper right corner has a silver or black screw with nothing on it. Into the back of the switch here is a black wire from one of the wires* in. This black wire is unqiue since all the other black wires are tied together at this switch except for this wire. The bottom right is a black copper screw with a black wire in the back, nothing on the screw. This black wire is nutted with the blacks from the other two wires* in (i.e. all the blacks from all the wires* in except for the upper right black wire). This makes a nut of 3 black wires. The bottom left screw has a copper wire on the screw. This screw is green in color. Seperately, all the whites from all the wires* in are nutted together, 3 in total. All the copper wires are banded together.

Switch 2 has two wires* coming in from the back. One is white* coming from the top and one is black* (tape or black in color) coming in from the bottom). Looking at this switch head on gives the red wire (coming in from the white* wire) into the top left of the switch. Nothing is on the screw here and it is also silver or black in color. The upper right has the black wire coming in from the white* wire. It is in the back of the switch and there is nothing on this silver or black screw. The bottom right has the black wire into the back of the screw coming from the black* wire in. There is nothing on this copper screw. The bottom left screw, green in color, has a copper wire on it. All the copper wires are banded together.

The receptacle has one white* wire coming into it. Looking head on gives the white connected to the top left, black wire to top right, and copper to bottom left. These positions are more in the middle but I think you understand.

That is all I could see. Thanks for all your help. Let me know what else you need to know. Also could you tell me the best way to get a wire to the switch/receptacle from the fan. Either up the wall or down, which switch/receptacle to run to, any advice you'd have. Thanks.
 
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Old 06-09-04, 11:49 AM
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Okay, a bit more terminology first. A "wire" in an individual conductor. A group of wires inside the same sheathing is a "cable". It is confusing to try to use the same word ("wire") to refer to both, even if you do say "wire*" when you mean cable.

Also, from here on out, we're going to ignore the bare wires. Don't mention them, and I won't mention them either, but it is understood that all bare wires and green wires and green screws are interconnected in each box.

Also note that "going into the back of the switch" is ambiguous. It makes a difference which hole it goes in. Each hole is next to a screw, so it's helpful to say "the hole in the upper-left corner next to the silver screw".

Also note that there is a big difference between a "silver" screw and a "black" screw. A screw is either one or the other. I don't know what you mean when you say, "a silver or black screw." Is is silver, or is is black? I need to know.

When you say, "there is a black wire from one of the wires* in", it is insufficient to say "one of the wires* in". I need to know which one of the cables. For reference purposes, you should number the cables 1, 2 and 3, and then you can refer to cable#2.

When you described switch #2, you told me where the red and black wires from the white cable went, and where the black wire from the black cable went, but you didn't mention the white wires. It is essential to account for all the wires in your description.

Sorry to be so anal, but the devil is in the details, and if you get the details wrong, you're dead!

Despite all my whining about your description, I think I've got the picture. However, to be sure, and to give you some practice, I'd like to have you repeat your description in clearer terms. Sorry to make you do this extra work, but I'm trying not to kill you.
 
  #9  
Old 06-09-04, 12:39 PM
johnvt
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No Problem, I would rather explain this again then be dead. I appreciate your patience on this. I cannot tell the difference between silver or black screws. I compared the two and they both look more black than silver so they will be black and they look the same color. There is a great deal of paint and dust on them and I've tried to scrape off and still cant tell. I will call them both black because they appear this way to me more than silver. I can 100% tell which screw is copper and which screw is green for sure. I am labeling cables at each component. I in no way mean cable #2 at switch 1 is the same cable #2 at switch 2. Thats what your for , I've labeled the cables at each switch to reference to.

here I go again:

Switch 1:
Looking at it straight on:
Cable #1 is white and has white wire, black wire
Cable #2 is white and has white wire, black wire, red wire
Cable #3 is black and has white wire, black wire
- red wire from cable #2 connected in the upper left hand corner next to the black screw
- black wire from cable #2 connected in the upper right hand corner next to the black screw
- black wire from black wire nut connected in the bottom right hand corner next to copper screw ( this wire is wire nutted with Cable #1 and Cable #3 black wires)
- The white wires of Cable #1, Cable #2, and Cable #3 are all wire nutted together

Switch 2:
Looking at it straight on:
Cable #1 is black and has white wire, black wire
Cable #2 is white and has white wire, black wire, red wire
- red wire from cable #2 connected in the upper left hand corner next to the black screw
- black wire from cable #2 connected in the upper right hand corner next to the black screw
- black wire from cable #1 connected in the lower right hand corner next to the copper screw
- The white wires of cable #1 and cable #2 are wire nutted together

receptacle
Looking at it straight on:
Cable #1 is white and has white wire, black wire
- white wire from cable #1 connected in the upper left hand corner next to silver screw
- black wire from cable #1 connected in the upper right hand corner next to silver screw

I hope this is a clearer image. Thanks
 
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Old 06-09-04, 12:59 PM
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Okay. That's very clear. Thanks.

The next thing to do is find out whether the breaker that controls the power to these cables is a 15-amp or a 20-amp breaker. Also, if you can tell, is the wire you're looking at 12-gauge or 14-gauge wire? We can do without this last piece of information if we have to.

Next question: Did you have your heart set on having that receptacle unswitched? It will require you to run an extra cable from switch#1 to the receptacle to make that happen. Is it worth it to you? Changing the receptacle from switched to unswitched is a separate project from installing the ceiling fan.
 
  #11  
Old 06-09-04, 01:04 PM
johnvt
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I need instructions on how to determine the guage of the wire and the amps of the breaker? Please advise me on how to do these two things.

We can keep the receptacle switched for now. I'll tackle that at a later date and time or maybe I can live with it being switched.
 
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Old 06-09-04, 01:16 PM
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Have you been shutting off the breaker in order to provide me the information about the wiring? If so, what is the number written on the handle of the breaker?
 
  #13  
Old 06-09-04, 01:23 PM
johnvt
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Its a 20 amp breaker for the room I'm working in.
 
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Old 06-09-04, 01:37 PM
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So that means we need 12-gauge copper wire. I am assuming that all the wire you are looking at is also copper. If it is aluminum, be sure to tell me.

Specifically, you need some 12/2 with ground NM-B cable. So go to your home center and buy some. I'd probably get a 100-foot roll. That should be enough for both of your fan projects with some left over. Most home centers sell the Southwire brand, which makes this cable with a yellow sheathing. You'll also need some tools. I'm not sure what you have now, but you definitely need wire cutters, a wire stripper, a circuit test light, a cable stripper, needlenosed pliers, some assorted wire nuts (yellow and red), and some cable staples. You'll also need a fan brace kit with a fan-rated box for mounting your new fan. You probably also want a drywall saw, and you're going to need a drill and hammer.

You are going to run a length of this new 12/2 from the switch#2 box to the ceiling location of your new ceiling fan. Strip about a foot of sheathing off each end and stick it into the box at each end with about 1/2" of the sheathing protruding into the box. To get it into the switch box, you're going to need to drill a hole in the top plate above the box. Drop a small cord or chain through the hole and fish it into the switch box with a coat hanger through one of the available holes. Use the cord or chain to pull your cable into the box. Then you will need to staple the cable to the joists in the attic every few feet, and about six inches from the new ceiling box.

Connection instructions will follow later, but that will get you started.
 
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Old 06-09-04, 01:50 PM
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Oh, I almost forgot. If you prefer, you may run that new cable from the ceiling to the receptacle box rather than from the ceiling to the switch#2 box. But don't run it to the switch#1 box.
 
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Old 06-09-04, 02:07 PM
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One more thing. While you're at the home center, pick up a book or two on home wiring. If you don't want to buy them, you can enter "home wiring" in the word search of your local public library. But you need to read a book or two to familiarize yourself with safety procedures and proper wiring techniques (such as how to strip sheathing, how to strip wire, how to apply a wire nut, how to wrap a wire around a screw, how to drive a staple, how to fish cable, etc.).
 
  #17  
Old 06-10-04, 06:08 AM
johnvt
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I have purchased the 12/2 cable from lowes. I purchased the fan brace kit and ceiling box. i installed the brace with ceiling box last night in the attic for the spot where the fan will go. I cut a hole in the center of the room and installed.

I am in possession of wire cutters, a wire stripper, a cable stripper, needlenosed pliers, some assorted wire nuts (yellow and red), and some cable staples, drill, hammer, and something that will work instead of a dry wall saw,
It did a pretty good job making the hole.

I do not have a circuit test light. Is this a volt-meter? if not what would you recommend I get? I don't have a volt-meter currently.

I am going to run the cable to switch #2 over the weekend and I'll report back to you when I do this ( i may get to it this evening).

I have a home improvement book which talks about the proper ways to do those things. It doesn't give me the info I need for a 3-way switch, there example has a dimmer at switch #2 and doesnt show me the connections. Also It doesn't tell me how to handle the receptacle wiring either. It does mention all the basics about wire stripping, wire stapleing, etc.
 
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Old 06-10-04, 06:38 AM
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What you're going to do at switch #2 is pretty simple. Let's call your new 12/2 Cable#3, which is in addition to Cable #1 and Cable #2 that are already at switch #2.
  1. Connect the white wire from Cable #3 in with the white wires from the other two cables.
  2. Take the black wire from Cable #1 off the lower right connection to the switch. Use a wire nut to connect it to the black wire from Cable #3, and to a three-inch section of black wire (called a pigtail).
  3. Connect the other end of this pigtail back to the lower right screw where you removed the black wire from Cable #1.
One more note on technique. The wires stuck into the holes on the back of these devices are called "backstabs". This kind of connection make a poor connection that is subject to failure. So we always advise using the screw instead. A backstab, and the screw right next to it, are electrically equivalent. Follow your book's directions on the correct way to use a wire nut and the correct way to put a wire under a screw.

You can dispense with the circuit test light for now. It's a good thing to have if you do electrical work, but you probably won't need it for this job. But it only costs $2. I'm not talking about a voltmeter (which often does more harm than good in the hands of a novice). I'm just talking about a simple neon light with two probes.
 
  #19  
Old 06-14-04, 06:25 AM
johnvt
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That worked Great! Thanks for all your help, I couldn't have done it without your help. Getting the wire through the wall was more challenging and frusttrating then I thought but once I got that it was really easy! Thanks again!
 
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Old 06-14-04, 11:13 AM
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Good job. Glad to hear it went well.
 
  #21  
Old 10-10-04, 11:48 AM
johnvt
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Help Again.....

I'm putting in fan number 2 and I'm really lost at how to wire this one. I learned alot from the last experience but I need some help on this one.

I have a 2 switches (a 3-way switch) that currently controls a receptacle. With one of these three way switches is a single switch that controls an outside light so at this fixture there are two switches ( a 2-way and 3-way)

I've opened up the boxes and here is the layout:

I'm ignoring the copper wires I know the amps and the wire guage for this. I have attic access a hole cut and if possible I would like to run the ceiling fan to switch #3 since I cannot get to the access over switches #1 and switches #2 in my attic
and I don't need to control the light seperately from the fan

Switch #1 is the 2-way (don't care about this one)
Switch #2 is the 3-way to receptacle that I want to control the fan
Switch #3 is the 3-way that I want to control the fan off of

Here Goes:

Cable #1 (location at 2-way/3-way switch)
This is a black cable with Black, White, Copper
The black of this cable goes to upper right of switch #1
The white is wire-nutted to Cable #3 white and Cable #4 white

Cable #2 (location at 2-way/3-way switch)
This is a white cable with Black, White, Red, Copper
White goes to upper left of switch #2
Red goes to upper right of switch #2
Black goes to Cable #4 black

Cable #3 (location at 2-way/3-way switch)
This is a black cable with Black, White, Copper
White is nutted with Cable #1 and Cable #4
Black is nutted to switch #1 bottom right and to Cable #2 Black

Cable #4 (location at 2-way/3-way switch)
This is a black cable with Black, White, Copper
White is wired to Cable #1 and Cable #3
Black is wirted to switch #2 bottom right

Cable #5 (location switch #3)
This is a white cable with Black, White, Red, Copper
White goes to upper right of switch #3
Black goes to bottom right of switch #3
Red goes to upper left of switch #3

Cable #6 (location receptacle)
This is a black cable with Black, White, Copper
These are tied to the receptabcle


redundant but checks my description:


switch #1:
The upper right of this switch (the top of it without the copper GND) is the black of Cable #1
The bottom right of this switch(the bottom right is this and the bottom left is GND) goes to Cable #3 and black of Cable #2

switch #2 (this is part of the switch I want to tie to):
The white of this is Cable #2
The red of this is Cable #2
The black of this is Cable #4 black

switch #3 (this is part of the switch I want to tie to):
The red, black, and white are tied to cable #5

From what I've learned I would like to run a wire from the ceiling fan I'll put in to switch #3. I would tie the blacks
to the bottom right of the switch and remove the white, wire nutting it with the white from the fan leaving it
off the switch

I need to do some work at the 2-way/3-way switch location to make the receptacle only on and not tied to switch #2 and
make switch #2 and switch #3 control my fan. My guess is I would take the black for the receptacle
(Cable #4 black tied to switch #2 bottom right) and tie this to the black of Cable #3 to make the receptacle always on
I do not know what to do with Switch #2 to make this configuration work.
Also , the reds and whites on switche #2 and switch #3 seem wrong to me with the reds and whites not matching the normal locations.

I'm not sure how to do all this, Please help. Thanks and your help is very appreciated.
 
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Old 10-10-04, 12:49 PM
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Moderator: Please split this thread starting with the post above. All the stuff above that is irrelevant to this question, and nobody wants to read it.

Sorry, but this cannot be done with a new cable from the ceiling to the switch 3 box. You can run your new cable from the ceiling to the switch 1&2 box, or to the receptacle box, but not to the switch 3 box.

If you run the cable to the switch 1&2 box, you will have the option of making the receptacle unswitched. If you instead run the cable to the receptacle box, it will need to remain switched.

Two other options that are a little farther out:
(1) If you are willing to give up control of the fan from the switch 1&2 box, you can run the new cable from the ceiling to the switch 3 box. This however, will render switch 2 completely useless.
(2) If you can run more cable behind the wall between the existing boxes, anything is possible. Of course it's pretty much always true that anything is possible with enough extra wire.

By the way, terrific description! You did have one typo in your description of cable 2. You said "Black goes to Cable #4 black", but you clearly meant "Black goes to Cable #3 black". Also, just so you know, when describing a 3-way switch, you should always tell us which of the three screws is black colored. In this case, I figured it out (bottom right), but it would have made things a bit easier if you had specified.
 
  #23  
Old 10-10-04, 01:17 PM
johnvt
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I was hoping you werent going to say that about running the wire to switch #3.

Can this be done?

Switch #3 control the new fan

Switch #2 control a new light fixture that I would install, i.e. 2 recessed lights over the doorway near Switches 1 and 2

I wouldn't care about the receptacle but I would prefer it always on. If so please guide me. If this can't be done, let me know and I'll make a decsion about what to do with the fan. Thanks for the prompt reply
 
  #24  
Old 10-10-04, 01:34 PM
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Yes, you could replace the 3-way switch at #2 with a single-pole switch to control two new lights. You would need to run a new cable from the new lights to switch #2, or a new cable from the new lights to the switched receptacle. If you choose the former, you can make the receptacle switched or unswitched. If you choose the latter, you can must leave the receptacle switched. However, I thought you said that it would be too difficult to run a new cable to this box.

And yes, if you do the above, you can change the 3-way switch at #3 with a single-pole switch that provides the only control of the new fan. You could even put a duplex switch here and run black/red/white cable from the ceiling to this box to have independent control of the fan and its light.

What do you want?
 
  #25  
Old 10-10-04, 01:41 PM
johnvt
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Yes it is difficult to run to switch #2 but I'll find a way. It may be easier to go to the receptacle I'll have to see. The difficulty is that the switch is located at the exterior of my house since this is the wall right when you walk in and the roof is slooping alot at this point but I'll figure out a way to run a wire to the switch or the receptacle. I'll write and ask for guidance when I get a wire ran for that project.

As for the fan, I'd like to take switch #3 and have it control the fan only. That will be the rest of this weekends project and the recessed lighting for later.

Please tell me the wire connections to do this. Will I need a new switch here or can I use the 3 way one to control just the fan? Thanks
 
  #26  
Old 10-10-04, 02:15 PM
johnvt
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oh yeah, I won't be running a red, black, white wire to switch #3, just a black/white one to control the fan/light together. Thanks
 
  #27  
Old 10-10-04, 02:19 PM
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This is simple. I'll use the shorthand B2 to refer to the black wire from cable 2. I'll also refer to the new cable you run to the ceiling box as cable 7.

At the switch 1&2 box:
  • Disconnect W2 from switch 2. Connect W2 instead to the other three white wires (W1, W3 and W4).
  • Remove B4 from the switch, and connect B4 instead to B3 and B2. This makes the receptacle always hot.
  • At this point, switch 2 has only one wire connected to it (R2) and the switch does nothing.
At switch 3 box:
  • Remove W5 from the switch. Connect W5 instead to W7.
  • Connect B7 to the screw vacated by W5.
Wire your fan as usual. Connect the B7 to the black and blue wires from the fan, and W7 to the white wire from the fan.

Now switch 2 will be useless as I said before. Switch 3 will control the fan motor and light together. It might be that switch 3 is upside down (up is off and down is on). If that's true, then you can either flip it over, or reverse the B7 and R5 wire connections.

Note that this will leave anyone coming after you total confused. You can reduce the confusion a bit by removing and capping off the red wire from switch 2 and switch 3. It's no longer doing anything.
 
  #28  
Old 10-11-04, 01:21 PM
johnvt
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Thank You! That worked great for the ceiling fan! I'll email this thread again when I do the lighting. I appreciate your help, I wouldn't have figured that one out on my own
 
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