Bath exhaust fan/light wire nightmare

Reply

  #1  
Old 10-17-08, 09:12 AM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Houston
Posts: 9
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Unhappy Bath exhaust fan/light wire nightmare

Greetings all! I'm in Houston.

The small amount of mold in my bathroom bloomed into a FOREST during the humid days - without electricity - following hurricane Ike. Disgusting. I'm trying to replace the 1968 single light fixture in my bathroom with an exhaust fan/light. I've cut a hole in the roof, installed the roof vent and dropped the hose down into the attic. (Not bad for an old lady.)

I like doing projects, but I do have a HUGE amount of respect (aka fear) when it comes to lecktricity! I really wanted to do this and thought I had it figured out. But, when I uncovered the wiring in the bathroom ceiling, OMG! (still trembling)

I don't know the proper lingo to be able to accurately describe my issues to all of you professionals, so I took pictures. <a href="http://www.childcareoffice.com/bathrm.html">Please click here for pictures.</a>

Do I need to run a new wire (romex?) down to the switch? If not, how do I wire the new switch? Most importantly, I am stumped as to the existing wiring in the old light fixture. It is SCARY. Is it SAFE? Is it possible to wire up the new fan/light to that cluster?

Any advice will be greatly appreciated! I will NOT be offended by anyone who tells me, "Listen lady, you need to hire a professional!" I am a computer geek by profession. If I can help you with your computer software or hardware, I am happy to do so.

Thanks in advance to all who take the time to read!
 
Sponsored Links
  #2  
Old 10-17-08, 11:41 AM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 14,911
Received 24 Votes on 20 Posts
Firstly, those were some very comprehensive photos.

The brown wires were probably the white wires that have aged thru time and/or heat.

The brown wire tied into the blacks indicates a switch loop. A switch loop is where a 2 wire cable is run to a switch and power is brought into the fixture. The power to feed the switch is taken down on the white and a switched hot is brought back up on the switched black.

Ungrounded circuits are not permited to be extended. It looks like some of your wiring may have a ground. Is the ground wrapped back along the cable jacket under the clamps?

If I understand your pic of the existing switch you have a switch loop. You would need to get power from somewhere else to power your fan/lite combo. A switch loop does not have the neutral you need for a complete circuit.

Did your house get flooed or just lose power? If it got flooded the wiring should be replaced anyway. I can provide a link regarding this.

Follow up so we know how to procede.
 
  #3  
Old 10-17-08, 01:45 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Houston
Posts: 9
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Gettin' some more pictures

Thank you, pcboss, for your response! I've been checking in expecting no responses at all. Or at best, "Listen lady, you need to hire a professional!" You have given me dangerous hope.

Since I'm not sure about the wiring in the ceiling, I will go and turn off the MAIN breaker to the house. I'll take another picture or two of exactly what's behind the box and clamps. I'll be back on in just a bit with the pics.

edit: No, we only experienced power outtage, fences/trees down. No flooding, thank goodness!

THANK YOU again!

I'm happy to help you if you ever need a pc geek!
 
  #4  
Old 10-17-08, 02:57 PM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 14,911
Received 24 Votes on 20 Posts
Even if the wiring is unground there is the option to run a new circuit so that you can have your exhaust fan.

One question that might change how to do this would be if the fan/lite is over a tub or shower. Draw a vertical line from the footprint of the tub or shower. Is the fan outside this area or inside?
 
  #5  
Old 10-17-08, 04:13 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Houston
Posts: 9
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Updated picture

Thanks again, pcboss.

No, the tub/shower is not directly under the fixture. It is about 2 feet away.

I've posted an additional picture (Fig. 13) of the wires that feed into the existing box (clamps removed).

I hope that this helps. After close examination of the photo, it does appear that the "brown" wires used to be white! Is this safe?
 
  #6  
Old 10-17-08, 05:06 PM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 14,911
Received 24 Votes on 20 Posts
The white wires turning brown would really only be an issue if the insulation has degraded and turned crisp. If it has I would suggest that heat shrink tubing be slipped over the wires to restore the insulation. As you said in picture 6 that the wire caps cracked under light pressure it seems that the wires have seen a lot of heat.

The other issue you might be dealing with is called box fill. The octagonal box you have looks like it is 1 1/2 inches deep. This is allowed to have 7 #14 wires or 6 #12s. It looks like the box may be overfilled currently. Using your pics you said you have 4 cables. 4 cables x 2 conductors = 8 plus one for the ground makes 9. This does not leave any room to install another cable. Perhaps this box could be turned up into the attic and an extension ring installed for additional volume.
 
  #7  
Old 10-18-08, 12:03 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Houston
Posts: 9
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Thank you. Yes, the existing wires are crisp. I hope to be able to strip them back.

Yes, the box is an issue. I still have to remove the existing box so I can cut the hole in the ceiling to install the new fan/light. Not sure what to do about the box. (?)

(I do apologize for my ignorance.)

I added three new pictures, FIG. 14, 15, 16. It is my attempt to show how I *think* the new wiring and connections should be made to the box, fan/light and switch after adding a new cable "5". I assume that cable 3 pair currently goes to the switch? All of them could be completely wrong. I know that I will have to purchase larger wire nuts for the box connections than the yellow ones I bought for the fan/light.

I appreciate your patience in viewing pictures. <a href="http://www.childcareoffice.com/bathrm.html">Please click here for pictures.</a>
 
  #8  
Old 10-18-08, 04:17 PM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 14,911
Received 24 Votes on 20 Posts
Do you think it would be possible for you to replace the current wire to the switch with a new 3 wire + ground cable? You would fish it down the wall into switch box. The old wire could be abandoned.

Let me know so we can decide the next course of action.
 
  #9  
Old 10-18-08, 04:47 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Houston
Posts: 9
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Yes, pcboss! I discussed this with my cousin yesterday evening. Just wasn't exactly sure how that would be connected so that I could picture it. (?)

Also, any suggestion on what I should do for the box? Or, how the ground wires will connect for a new box (junction?) in the attic before I feed the new 3 wire + gr into the fan/light box?

Thank you for your help.
 
  #10  
Old 10-18-08, 05:14 PM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 14,911
Received 24 Votes on 20 Posts
It might be possible just to turn the existing box up so that it is accessible from the attic. An extension box can be added to add additional volume so that other cables could be added.

What I hoped that you could do was to abandon the existing cable down to the switch and replace it with a 3 wire cable (black, red, white and ground). Again the white would feed the common side of the new switch. Do not remove the tab as shown in your pics. The other side of the switch would be the black and red switched hots up to the junction box. Another 3 wire cable would be added from the junction box to the fan housing. The white from this cable would attach to the bundle of whites in the existing fixture box. The black and red would splice to the black and red from the wire coming up from the switch.

As for the grounding they make green ground screws with a 10-32 thread. You should see a tapped hole in the back of the existing box where this screw would install. All the ground wires need to be pulled into the box and spliced together along with the new grounds. One of the grounds from that bundle would go under the ground screw.

Let me know if this is becoming clear as mud.
 
  #11  
Old 10-18-08, 05:32 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Houston
Posts: 9
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
MUCH to my surprise, I actually think I understand what you are saying. I will have to draw another picture to show you, just to make certain. (Drawing pictures may be elementary on my part, but I am afraid of electricity and what could happen if I do this incorrectly.)

When you say that I should "turn the existing box up" in the attic, do you mean for me to turn it facing up? If so, I would need to mount it elsewhere so as to make room to install the fan/light in its place. If I do that (pardon my ignorance), doesn't it need to be covered after I get it rewired since it will be facing up?

Thank you for your patience!
 
  #12  
Old 10-18-08, 05:39 PM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 14,911
Received 24 Votes on 20 Posts
Yes, when I said turned up I meant that the open part would be facing up into the attic.

Yes it should be resecured once it is far enough out of the way for the fan housing. The wiring should be secured within 12" of the box also.

A blank cover plate would be installed to cover the open face of the box.
 
  #13  
Old 10-18-08, 06:08 PM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 14,911
Received 24 Votes on 20 Posts
I just looked at your pics again. In pic 16 the feed to the switch would go to BL3 or BL5. W3 and W5 would be the switched hots ie the black and red from the new cable. The ground wire would splice to the green from the fan housing. The 2 whites from the housing would attach to the white from the new cable. One of the blacks from the housing would splice to the black from the new cable. The other black or blue would attach to the red from the new cable.
 
  #14  
Old 10-20-08, 08:41 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Houston
Posts: 9
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Thanks pcboss. I hope my new drawing is correct. I changed the page a bit. FIG. 10 is existing box wiring. FIG. 11 is my drawing of what I *believe* to be the correct way to wire everything (fingers crossed). <b><a href="http://www.childcareoffice.com/bathrm.html">Please click here for pictures.</a></b>
 
  #15  
Old 10-21-08, 02:21 AM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 14,911
Received 24 Votes on 20 Posts
Bingo, the only thing left to add would be to re-indentify the white wire in the 3 wire cable as a hot. Use black or red electrical tape or color the insulation with a magic marker on both ends.

Be sure to splice all the grounds and the box with the ground screw.
 
  #16  
Old 10-26-08, 08:50 AM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Houston
Posts: 9
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
THANK YOU pcboss! I plan to do this wiring today. I'll be SURE to post back to you with my success! Thank you again for your expertise!
 
  #17  
Old 10-26-08, 10:10 AM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 14,911
Received 24 Votes on 20 Posts
Yes, please post back I have been waiting to hear of your sucess.
 
  #18  
Old 10-27-08, 01:28 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Houston
Posts: 9
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
pcboss: The next time you find yourself in Houston, stop by and turn on the LIGHT and/or FAN in my bathroom!

And, please do stay for dinner!

It did take me a LONG time in the attic to wire the new cables, new junction box and fan housing. Cutting back the existing cables to a non-crumbling state didn't leave much room for forgiveness. But, it is all secured properly. And, the ground wires were connected as you said.

Best of all, no breakers tripped, and the house didn't burn down last night!

I can't thank you enough for your assistance! If you're ever in need of some technical assistance for a computer problem, do not hesitate to ask me!

THANK YOU again!

LadyHou
 
Reply

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Display Modes
 
Ask a Question
Question Title:
Description:
Your question will be posted in: