4 cables, 9 wires from ceiling, trying to install ceiling fan

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Old 08-15-17, 09:27 AM
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4 cables, 9 wires from ceiling, trying to install ceiling fan

Hi all,

Giving this forum a shot before giving in to calling an electrician...

My home was built in the 50's. Panel is 200 amp but wiring throughout the house, to my knowledge, was not updated.

I removed an old ceiling fan in my kitchen that was controlled by a light switch on the wall. There are 4 cables in the ceiling box.

Cable 1: red, black, and white wire.
Cables 2, 3, and 4: one black wire and one white wire in each cable.

Here's the pic of the old fan:

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The wiring was:
- All 4 black wires in ceiling wire nutted together, not connected to the fan.
- All 4 whites in ceiling were all wire nutted together with a pigtail, connected to the white wire of the fan.
- The blue and black wires of the fan were wire nutted to the red wire in the ceiling.

I tried replicating that setup with the new ceiling fan I bought:

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Blue and black fan wires to red wire in ceiling
White fan wire to white in ceiling

Nothing happened.

Based on other advice I found on the internet, I tried separating all ceiling wires and testing with a volt meter to find the hot wires.

In this pic, the black and red wires of cable #1 show as hot with the volt meter. None of the other ceiling wires show as hot.

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The wall switch has black, red, and white wires coming to it:

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The problem is that this ceiling box also controls power to:
- 2 kitchen plugs
- Bathroom wall light
- 1 living room plug

Now, when I try to nut together all 4 blacks and all 4 whites, the breaker trips when I turn the power back on.

I've tried nutting pairs of black and white from different cables to see what powers what. Either nothing happens (no power) or the breaker trips.

If anyone has any advice, I'm all ears.
Thanks in advance.
 
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Old 08-15-17, 11:10 AM
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It looks like to me power comes in at the switch. A 3-conductor cable goes to the fan. The black of the 3-conductor cable carries unswitched power to the ceiling box. At the ceiling the black wire connects to other 2- conductor cables that carry power elsewhere. The red provides switched power to the fan.
All 4 black wires in ceiling wire nutted together, not connected to the fan.
- All 4 whites in ceiling were all wire nutted together with a pigtail, connected to the white wire of the fan.
- The blue and black wires of the fan were wire nutted to the red wire in the ceiling.
That sounds correct.
In this pic, the black and red wires of cable #1 show as hot with the volt meter. None of the other ceiling wires show as hot.
If the red only shows hot when the switch is on that would be correct.
Now, when I try to nut together all 4 blacks and all 4 whites, the breaker trips when I turn the power back on.
I'm seeing a bunch of what looks like bare wire crudely cover with tape in your picture. That could be the cause of your short not the connection.
 
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Old 08-15-17, 11:33 AM
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Hi, thanks for the response.

The red wire always tests as hot regardless of whether the switch is in the on or off position.

I did tape some wires because the insulation had cracked off and fell away. Is there something else I should be doing to protect those wires? Thanks.
 
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Old 08-15-17, 01:50 PM
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The red wire always tests as hot regardless of whether the switch is in the on or off
That is wrong. It could be the switch. Try a new switch. If red is still hot all the time then we need to look for why.

Heat shrink tubing would be better but trying to get the tape back off would be a beatch.
 
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Old 08-15-17, 04:45 PM
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Okay, I changed the switch. Red still tests as hot. Any ideas on what to do next? Thanks.
 
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Old 08-15-17, 05:33 PM
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You're not using a non contact tester are you? If you are give it to your kid to play with and get a cheap analog (not digital) multimeter.
 
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Old 08-15-17, 05:56 PM
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Fan

If there is an on/off switch or pull chain on the new fan, that switch must be in the "on" position before the wall switch will work.
 
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Old 08-15-17, 06:30 PM
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Old 08-15-17, 06:33 PM
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Wirepuller, I can't get any power to the fan or the other outlets at this point, but thanks for the suggestion.
 
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Old 08-15-17, 06:37 PM
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I should also mention that the old fan (with a light on it) worked fine using the wiring setup I described in my first post. Im only trying to change the fan because I bought a nicer looking one.
 
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Old 08-15-17, 07:13 PM
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Ray, I'm using this: Dual Range Non-Contact Voltage Tester - NCVT-2 | Klein Tools - For Professionals since 1857
That is not going to work very well for trouble shooting. You need to use a real meter, preferrable an analog or a neon tester like this: Commercial Electric 110/220 VAC Voltage Tester-MS8900H - The Home Depot here is another good option: http://www.homedepot.com/p/Klein-Too...ET60/301107510
 
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Old 08-15-17, 07:38 PM
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Okay, thanks for the suggestions, Tolan. I'll have to find time to go get one. My big question is: assuming that red wire is hot, what do I do then?
 
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Old 08-15-17, 09:36 PM
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My big question is: assuming that red wire is hot, what do I do then?
No reason to believe it is hot at this point. You haven't determined that yet. Lets not get ahead of ourselves. I doubt it is a constant hot.
 
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Old 08-15-17, 10:22 PM
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Fair enough, Ray. Thanks for pointing that out.

Here are two links to analog testers at my local Home Depot:

https://www.homedepot.ca/en/home/p.s...000142062.html

https://www.homedepot.ca/en/home/p.4...000751541.html

Is either one okay or should I get a specific one? These are the only 2 contact testers at my local store.

Thanks.
 
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Old 08-15-17, 11:00 PM
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The second would be the better choice but best is an analog multimeter because you can also use it for continuity tests which can be useful sometimes. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00101Q1JM...a-309338050471
 
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Old 08-16-17, 11:41 AM
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This is the only analog multimeter I can find locally:
https://www.homedepot.ca/en/home/p.a...000749477.html

Will that do?
 

Last edited by Indys; 08-16-17 at 11:42 AM. Reason: spelling
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Old 08-16-17, 12:03 PM
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Yes that is a good choice. Seems a bit pricey but that may be the exchange rate for Canadian dollars.
 
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Old 08-16-17, 02:15 PM
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Thanks, I'll buy that one. Yup, one of the pleasures of living in Canada: we always pay more for stuff than Americans do. Whenever I go to the US it always amazes me how much cheaper most stuff is down there.
 
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Old 08-16-17, 09:18 PM
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Okay, I bought the analog multimeter tonight. No instructions in the box. Tried Googling and searching YouTube for how to use it, but what I've seen so far doesn't seem to apply to my situation. Can anyone give me a link to go to or a quick explanation on how to use this thing for my problem? Thanks.
 
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Old 08-16-17, 10:49 PM
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You disconnect the hot and measure to neutral. One probe on hot, one probe on neutral for that cable. Reading at 120 volts will be slightly less than midscale. Probe color doesn't matter for AC measurements.

 
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Old 08-17-17, 08:01 AM
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Ray, many thanks for your clear and easy to follow instructions on what to do.

Problem is, the results I got don't make sense.

Using the dial setting in your post, the needle didn't move. At all. I made sure to connect one probe to neutral and then the other probe to hot (within the same cable). Nothing. I tried touching hot first then neutral. Nothing.

I tried all of the settings on this meter and the only one that moved the needle was this setting:



(if the pic is too dark, it says "OHM X1K").

Using that setting, here's the results:

Cable 1: Black and white: 120; Red and White: no movement of needle

Cable 2: Black and white: 120

Cable 3: Black and white: no movement of needle

Cable 4: Black and white: no movement of needle

I should also note I did these tests with the breaker off, which I assume is the right way to do it.

Please let me know if I should be trying something else. Thanks.
 

Last edited by Indys; 08-17-17 at 08:05 AM. Reason: insert image
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Old 08-17-17, 10:36 AM
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Okay, got a reading. I Googled more tutorials and found a good one.

With the breaker on:

- Only the black wire of Cable #1 shows 120 volts.
Red wire of Cable #1 shows 0 volts.

FYI: I had to use the setting shown below to get an AC reading:



That section is titled "ACV" if you can't see it.

Assuming I have gotten the proper reading: what should I do now?
 
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Old 08-17-17, 11:32 AM
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Sorry for wrong setting. Never seen a meter set up that way. Good that you found it.
Red wire of Cable #1 shows 0 volts.
What about with the switch on?
 
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Old 08-17-17, 07:11 PM
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No problem, Ray. I'm glad I got the proper reading you needed.

I didn't test the red with the switch in the 'on' position. I'll do that tomorrow morning when I have time and report back. Thanks.
 
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Old 08-18-17, 09:31 AM
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Okay, I tested:

At the switch:

In the ON position, the red wire shows 120 volts.

In the OFF position, the red wire shows 0 volts.

At the wires in ceiling:

In the ON position, the red wire shows 120 volts.

In the OFF position, the red wire shows 0 volts.

Wires in ceiling: the only black that shows as hot with the switch in the OFF position is the black wire from Cable #1.

Hope this helps with the diagnosis.
 

Last edited by Indys; 08-18-17 at 09:39 AM. Reason: more details
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Old 08-18-17, 10:10 AM
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So all the house blacks should be connected together.

All the house whites should be connected together.

The fan white to the house white,

The fan black and blue to house red.
 
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Old 08-18-17, 10:22 AM
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So all the house blacks should be connected together.
I tried that before, and it causes the breaker to trip.

As a recap from my first post:

When I try to nut together all 4 blacks and all 4 whites, the breaker trips when I turn the power back on.

I've tried nutting pairs of black and white from different cables to see what powers what. Either nothing happens (no power) or the breaker trips.
 

Last edited by Indys; 08-18-17 at 10:25 AM. Reason: more info
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Old 08-18-17, 12:47 PM
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Then one of the non hot black wires is shorted, probably to ground. try connecting each of the non hot to the hot one at a time. If a non hot trips the breaker when connected cap and use the other two. Now check what doesn't have power.
 
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Old 08-18-17, 02:06 PM
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Thanks, Ray. Okay, here are the results of that test:

Hot to black A: trips breaker.

Hot to black B: powers bathroom light and living room plug.

Hot to black C: nothing gets power.

Hot to B and C together: same results as black B on its own.

I am missing power to the 2 sets of plugs in the kitchen. The tests don't power these plugs.

I kept all 4 whites nutted together- don't know if that matters.
 

Last edited by Indys; 08-18-17 at 02:17 PM. Reason: More info
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Old 08-18-17, 02:59 PM
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I am missing power to the 2 sets of plugs in the kitchen. The tests don't power these plugs.
Then that is where the problem lies. Could be the cable or a kitchen receptacle. Given the condition of the wires I'd just abandon the wire to the kitchen and install a dedicated 20 amp circuit for the kitchen receptacles. The current setup doesn't meet newer code, finding the problem could be a real easter egg hunt so the simplest to me would be to just upgrade the kitchen wiring.
 
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Old 08-18-17, 03:09 PM
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I don't know how to replace wiring hidden in the walls or how to install a new breaker. Since that is your recommendation I would call a pro for that.

My questions:

1) I'm curious for your best guess: would the pro rewire through that same celiling box to fix those 2 plugs and add a new breaker, or is it typically easier to go a new route? If it helps, my walls and ceilings are plaster. Breaker box is in the basement. Basement ceiling is not covered. Kitchen is directly above breaker box location.

2) If the pro is likely to go another route: can I still install the fan and keep the power on to the bathroom light and living room plug?

Thanks.
 

Last edited by Indys; 08-18-17 at 04:03 PM. Reason: Clarity
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Old 08-22-17, 11:09 AM
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There she blows.

I tried one last time to figure things out before calling a pro.

I removed the ceiling box to inspect the wires, and there was a black wire above the box that had a tiny piece of insulation that had cracked off. That exposed piece of the wire had been touching the box.

I taped over the exposed piece, inspected all other wires, put the box back, and nutted all 4 blacks together and all 4 whites together, adding a pigtail on the white.

Connected house white to fan white.

Connected house red to fan blue and black.

Fan/light works, power restored to all receptacles!

Just a heads up for anyone else who may find this thread and have the same problem.

Thanks to everyone, especially Ray, for the help.
 
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