Probelm with ceiling fan wire connections

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Old 05-19-12, 07:43 AM
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Probelm with ceiling fan wire connections

Hi all,

I was replacing an existing Hunter fan with a new Hampton Bay one in the kitchen. The current fan is controlled by a Lutron Fan/Light switch - one slider for the lights one the fan and on 3 position switch for the fan itself.

So far so good. I take the old Hunter fan down and am confronted with a wiring setup unlike the other two ceiling fans I've replaced. Here's what it looked like:

Fan Ceiling
--- ------
White -> Tan
Black -> Gray
Black with white stripe -> Black

There was a green ground wire coming from the fan, but no green ground wire coming from the box in the ceiling. The box in the ceiling is metal.

The new fan has the following setup: Blue, Black, White and Green (it has lights built in).

So I'm not sure (a) what wires from the fan go with what wires from the ceiling (I think tan from the ceiling connects to white from the fan) and (b) what to do with the ground wire, or lack of. The old fan's ground wire was not connected to anything as far as I can tell.
 
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Old 05-19-12, 08:04 AM
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What is the house wiring method? Cable or conduit? Tan and gray house wires sound wrong in any case as connected. Gray while uncommon when used is assigned as neutral but you say it was connected to black and normally tan would be unusual for even conduit. Are you really in the US? What city?
 
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Old 05-19-12, 08:48 AM
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It sounds like you're saying that the wiring for the fan you're taking down is white, black and black/white from the fan to tan, gray and black in the ceiling, in that order. If so, then your new fan should almost certainly be connected white to tan (as you thought), black to gray and blue to black. Black with a white stripe is standard Hunter coding for the wire to the light kit, and blue is that coding for many other fans. The black wire in the fan is almost universally the wire to the motor.

All green wires from the fan should be connected to a ground wire in the entering cable and/or to a metal box, using an approved ground screw. If you don't have a ground wire in the entering cable, you can install a ground wire pigtail in the box, again using an approved ground screw, and use that to bond the mounting bracket and splice any fan grounding wires.
 
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Old 05-19-12, 12:00 PM
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Thanks Nashkat1. I should also mention that I just noticed a green ground wire attached to the bracket which held the Hunter fan on the ceiling. So I guess that is how it was grounded, and the wire from the fan separated from the bracket when I took the fan down.

Where do I find a pigtail? Home Depot, or Lowes have that?
 
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Old 05-19-12, 12:19 PM
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I just noticed a green ground wire attached to the bracket which held the Hunter fan on the ceiling. So I guess that is how it was grounded...
Yep, that sounds like it.

Where do I find a pigtail? Home Depot, or Lowes have that?
They might, but probably only if you're ready to buy quite a few of them. I usually just make my own ground tails unless I'm on a job where I'll need a hundred or so. All it is is a length of green-insulated - or bare, for residential apps - copper wire bent and tightened around a green ground screw which is screwed into the box. 12" should be more than enough - just trim off what you don't need.

Could you also answer Ray's questions, please? We're trying to figure out how you got those unusual wire colors -- as it sounds like you are!
 
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Old 05-19-12, 12:39 PM
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Ray

Yes I am in Broward County, Florida. Like I said, the colors of the wires are unusual only in the kitchen; everywhere else they follow the standard colors (I've put up 2 fans and 1 flush mounted hallway light and everything was as expected.) The house was built in 1968. Wiring is copper, not aluminum.

Ok, it looks like the bracket for the new fan has the green ground wire, but again, no green wire from the ceiling. Would it be sufficient just to connect the fan green wire to the bracket green wire, or am I still in the same boat?
 
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Old 05-19-12, 01:16 PM
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I am in Broward County, Florida. Like I said, the colors of the wires are unusual only in the kitchen
Thanks. So are the wires to this ceiling box pulled through conduit?

Ok, it looks like the bracket for the new fan has the green ground wire, but again, no green wire from the ceiling.
And no bare wire either? From either the conduit or the box?

Would it be sufficient just to connect the fan green wire to the bracket green wire, or am I still in the same boat?
You would have an effective path to ground that way iff (if and only if) the box is grounded and the mounting bracket is electrically bonded to the box after it's installed. I wouldn't close this up without installing a conductor to tie the box, the mounting plate and the fan ground wires together.
 
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Old 05-19-12, 01:22 PM
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Before you make any connections you should determine which wire is neutral. You should also determine if the box is grounded. I would do this with an extension cord with ground plugged into a grounded receptacle with a known good ground and a multimeter.

Between the ground of the extension cord measure the voltage to first the gray wire of the ceiling box then to the tan wire of the ceiling box. Which shows 120 volts?

Next measure voltage between the narrow slot of the extension cord and the metal ceiling box. Do you get 120 volts?

Please answer those questions and if you can include a picture of the celing box. http://www.doityourself.com/forum/li...-pictures.html
 

Last edited by ray2047; 05-19-12 at 04:14 PM.
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Old 05-19-12, 01:28 PM
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Yes I think they are pulled through a conduit.

There is neither the bare nor green wire from the ceiling box.

I don't know if the box is grounded or not -- how could I tell? Would it be OK to reuse the screw and green wire from the old fan, and mount it in the box? I see there are holes in there that I could use to screw the wire in (I think).

The whole setup works off of the switch on the wall, the Lutron switch. It is an existing setup, and I assume that the switch is grounded, as the Lutron directions require it to be.

The bracket screws into the ceiling box, but the slots I run the screws through have rubber or plastic around them, so I think that would isolate the box from the bracket.
 
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Old 05-19-12, 02:14 PM
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Yes I think they are pulled through a conduit... There is neither the bare nor green wire from the ceiling box... I don't know if the box is grounded or not -- how could I tell?
The conduit could explain both the path to ground and the unusual wire colors. You could tell if the box was grounded if you were willing to connect a meter between a hot wire and the box - but I would assume it is, if it's supplied with a metal conduit. That conduit provides the path to ground.

Would it be OK to reuse the screw and green wire from the old fan, and mount it in the box? I see there are holes in there that I could use to screw the wire in (I think).
Probably not, for a couple of reasons. One is that the wire probably isn't heavy enough. It was sized to be a fixture ground, not a system ground. You need a piece of #14 AWG copper for a 15 amp circuit or a piece of #12 AWG copper for a 20 amp circuit. The other is that the screw from the old old fan is probably smaller than the holes in the box, as you may have suspected. System ground screws are green, hex-headed 10-32 machine screws. Both Lowes and HD should have those in small packs.

The bracket screws into the ceiling box, but the slots I run the screws through have rubber or plastic around them, so I think that would isolate the box from the bracket.
Bingo! The rubber or plastic grommets are there to dampen vibration, or to reduce its transmission beyond the fan. That's why you need to use a piece of wire to connect the box to the mounting bracket and the fan's ground wires.
 
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Old 05-19-12, 02:32 PM
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Our posts crossed. Please read my post #8 http://www.doityourself.com/forum/li...ml#post1966446
 
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Old 05-19-12, 03:34 PM
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That's pretty slick. I'll have to remember that.

a5char, I think Ray meant to say
measure voltage between the narrow female slot of the extension cord and the metal ceiling box.
to check for voltage... (in post #8)

Mode Note: post # 8 has been corrected.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 05-19-12 at 04:21 PM.
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Old 05-19-12, 03:50 PM
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Here's a picture of the box. There's a lot of paint. The wires are, left to right, black, gray and tan. The notes on the wires show the corresponding wire from the Hunter fan, e.g. tan wire connected to white wire on fan. The wires come out of holes in the box. I *think* they run through a conduit, though I'm not 100%. This is connected to the Lutron Fan/Light slider switch on the wall.

I haven't done the wire test Ray recommended yet.

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Old 05-19-12, 04:18 PM
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Didn't realize you had a dimmer when I gave you the test. Best to remove the dimmer and wire nut the two wires to the dimmer together before doing the tests.

I see no tan or gray wires in your photo, just black and white in the usual variations in shades I would expect in old wiring. Am I missing something?
 
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Old 05-19-12, 04:29 PM
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In the picture it is black, "gray" and tan. The gray may be black just covered in a lot of plaster and paint from whoever put the thing together. But the last wire on the right is definitely tan, not white or black. At any rate, no green or bare wire, and that was one of the dilemmas (the other being how to wire the new fan, but Nashkat1 answered that).
 
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Old 05-19-12, 04:46 PM
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Nope. You just aren't use to looking at old wires. I'm not sure it is conduit. Do the ground test. No need to do the other tests. You misinterpreted the colors.
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Old 05-19-12, 05:18 PM
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Now this is making way more sense. Thank you for the picture. It clarifies that you've got two black hot wires and a white neutral wire feeding your fan-light combo. No tan and no grey.

Use the extension cord trick to determine whether the box is grounded or not. Since that's the only test you need to do now, there's no need to open up the switch box, nor to wire-nut anything together there.

Let us know what you learn from that.

BTW, looking at the holes for the device-mounting screws, it does look like a metal box. And those look like #10 holes, so the box should be rated to support the weight of a fan.

Tech note: You need to contact bare metal with the probe on the box to tell whether it's a path to ground or not. Those shiny holes look like a good place to do that!

Edit to add: First, the fact that you have two blacks and a white between the ceiling and the wall switch pretty much guarantees that that run is made in conduit with wires pulled in. Cables, whether NM or MC or anything else, just aren't made with two hots of the same color. So in case you were still wondering about that, fuhgeddaboutit.

Second, I want to say that I'm really enjoying the way you labeled each wire. That is the way to go on a fixture upgrading project, IMO. Because you did that, there's no doubt about what was connected and working before, even if the wires had not been distinguishable in appearance.

Third, in case you're wondering why we are so insistent on finding a way to connect your fan/light combo to an equipment grounding conductor (a ground), there are two reasons. One, it's good standard practice (and code required) because the ground is a safety valve in case of a direct fault. But two, you and I - all of us - relate to ceiling fans differently than we relate to other ceiling fixtures. We often pull on their switch chains. We put our hand on the control housing twice a year to change the air flow direction. Some of us even take a damp sponge or some Murphy's to them once a season or so. Each of these actions is an opportunity for any potential that has made its way onto the housings to find a less-resistant path to ground through us. Which is basically not a good idea.
 

Last edited by Nashkat1; 05-19-12 at 07:03 PM. Reason: add information.
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Old 05-19-12, 07:49 PM
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For the ground test, which slot is it I put the probe into? The long one or the short one? They both look just as wide on the cord.
 
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Old 05-19-12, 08:16 PM
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For the ground test, which slot is it I put the probe into? The long one or the short one? They both look just as wide on the cord.
They are equally wide. You want to use the one with power in it, which is the shorter one.
 
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Old 05-19-12, 08:26 PM
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Black probe in shorter slot, red probe up against the box. Once the voltage settled it was around 123V. Meter was in VAC mode.

I tried touching the flange where the screw goes, and inside the box itself, same readings once the meter settled down. It is an autoranging meter.
 
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Old 05-19-12, 08:47 PM
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So then just ground to the box as explained by Nash.
 
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Old 05-20-12, 12:52 PM
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Black probe in shorter slot, red probe up against the box. Once the voltage settled it was around 123V. Meter was in VAC mode.

I tried touching the flange where the screw goes, and inside the box itself, same readings once the meter settled down.
Well done, and congratulations! You have a box that is bonded to ground and can be use as a path to ground for your new fan/light combo.

BTW, I don't think we remembered to say "Welcome to the forum!"
 
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Old 05-20-12, 02:13 PM
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Ok, it is done.

Here's the new ground pigtail. Home Depot carries them in packs of 5.

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Here's the completed fan. Fan slider on the wall switch controls the fan, light switch the lights. All's well.

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Thanks again guys for all your help getting this one installed. Learned quite a bit in the process too.
 
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Old 05-20-12, 08:11 PM
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Ok, it is done... All's well.

Thanks again guys for all your help getting this one installed. Learned quite a bit in the process too.
Glad it worked out for you, and thank you for letting us know. Enjoy your new fan - it looks gorgeous!
 
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