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O/T Electrical question about a ceiling fan

Discussion in 'Off Topic Threads' started by noknock1, Feb 6, 2010.

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  1. noknock1

    noknock1 Active Member

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    O.K., I bought a new ceiling fan with light fixture to replace the original 20+ year old one.

    I have a separate switch in my wall for the fan and a second switch for the light.

    I take down the old ceiling light and see the following:



    I have 14/2 coming in to ceiling where fan is mounted.

    Black hot wire coming out of ceiling is connected to black hot wire on fan.

    White coming out of ceiling (should be neutral) is connected to the blue wire (light) on the fan.

    Bare copper wire coming out of ceiling (what I think should be ground) is connected to the White wire on the fan.



    So am to understand that the ground wire is acting as a neutral?

    Is this safe?


    Why haven’t I gotten shocked when touching the old brass ceiling fan? Is it because it was hanging from the little rubber ball so it was “grounded?”


    I plan on flush mounting my new ceiling fan so it won’t be hanging from the rubber ball.


    I just don’t know enough about electricity to answer this one, I thought when I pulled the light off I would see a red wire as well but to my surprise…..
     
  2. rodbuster

    rodbuster TS Member

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    Do you have a tester to check the black wire and the white wire for power when you turn on each individual switch? I would think that you would have 14/3 with a ground coming to the ceiling fan. Is it possible that the metal box in the ceiling is already grounded?
     
  3. noknock1

    noknock1 Active Member

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    The box in the ceiling is plastic and is connected to some metal piece which is screwed into the side of a ceiling rafter. I went into the attic to make sure it was secure.

    I have the neon light tester and yes, coming out of the ceiling both the black and white wire are HOT. Both switches work, I am just updating the room with a new fan and found this wiring pattern.

    I am just wondering if it safe. If it is, I will just wire the same with the new fan. If it is not safe, then I will do whatever it takes to correct it.
     
  4. noknock1

    noknock1 Active Member

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    I wouldn't know what I was looking at in the switch box. Again I am just wondering if it is safe to hook up the new ceiling fan exactly as the old one was hooked up?

    Or was it wired in an unsafe condition the past two decades? Was I just lucky the house didn't burn down or non of us were shocked when touching the ceiling fan/light, as in changing light bulbs for example...
     
  5. Kooz25

    Kooz25 TS Member

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    I would not hook the the fan up the same way it was. First, it is a code vialation, second when using the ground for a neutral conductor if there is a overload on that wire it has the potentail of burning thru the casing twice as fast as if it where wired correctly. I would try to get a 3 wire to the fan or just use the pull chain for the fan and the switch for the light

    Keith
     
  6. butch's90t

    butch's90t Member

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    Kooz25 is correct. You are lucky no one's been fried or a fire occurred. If you can use the existing wire to pull 14/3 down to the light switch box and hook the white wire to the existing neutral and the bare wire to ground you will be OK. (IF you are connected to a 15 amp breaker and not a 20 amp), If you can't, connect the black wire to the blk and blu wires in the light and use the two chain switches that come with the light. Make sure you remove the white wire off the switch and reconnect to the neutral. HarryC
     
  7. Shooting Jack

    Shooting Jack Active Member

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    It would be a code violation to wire it as it was, although there are probably millions that were wired that way. Thirty years ago when it started being cool to have ceiling fans they were wired that way rather than run a new set of wires. If you just hook it up with the black being hot for the fan and light and white for neutral you can just use the pull switch to turn the fan off and on and it will be in code. Jackie B.
     
  8. noknock1

    noknock1 Active Member

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    O.K. guys thanks for the advice. At this time I just want to use the pull chain to turn the fan on and off. Here are a couple pics. I am not sure what I have to disconnect... In fact I don't see where the bare ground wire is connected to anything except other ground wires.

    I figured since the ground wire in the ceiling is acting as a neutral wire, that I would see the ground wire connected to a switch or wire nutted to a black wire or something? I see nothing of the sorts.

    Thanks again for the help, man sometimes ignorance is bliss, had the wife not talked me into getting a new ceiling fan.... I probably would have never known I was out of code! I am thankful nothing bad happened.


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    [​IMG]
     
  9. skeeljc

    skeeljc Supporting Vendor Supporting Vendor

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    Based on the age of your house if you look inside the main panel the neutrals (white) and grounds (bare) are probably wired to the same strip. That is why the person who wired it used the ground wire as the neutral. It is not to code but it will not burn your house down. You could wire it just like it was and keep both switches functioning.

    The correct (by code) way to wire it would be to run a three wire (three insulated wires plus a bare ground) cable to the fan so there would be a neutral and a ground for the fan plus a hot for the light and a hot for the fan.

    The chance of getting a shock from the fan if it becomes defective are pretty remote since you would have to touch both the fan housing and a ground source.

    Jim Skeel
     
  10. Brian in Oregon

    Brian in Oregon Well-Known Member

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    Well, when retrofitting an old light fixture with a fan, we decided to install a radio control interface module that controls both the light and the fan. This allowed the existing 14-2 wiring to be used. The remote sits in a bracket near the light switch. The remote also has settings for the fan to come on automatically at a temp setting of our choosing. Hunter now makes a remote that fits into the light switch box. It was not available when we set ours up a few years ago.

    The other alternative it to use the switch to provide power to both the light and the fan, and use chain switches on the fan and light to control them.

    But the way yours was previously wired, someone did a potentially dangerous shortcut that violates code.

    Hunter Remote Fan and Light Switch at Home Depot
     
  11. Model Number 12

    Model Number 12 TS Member

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    Mr. Noknock1, you must identify the line side of the wires in the switch box.Here's how to do it. You will need a multi-meter to do this and to verify the correct grounded conductor to the light.

    First-identify the branch circuit at the panel and turn it off.

    2-disconnect all the wires at the switch, make sure that the exposed copper ends are not touching anything.

    3- turn on the circuit, making sure nobody is touching the wires.

    4- with your meter set on "AC VOLTS" touch the end of each black conductor with one probe while touching each end of each white conductor. Do 1 black wire at a time and touch all the white wires.

    5- when your meter shows 120 volts between a black and white wire you have correctly identified the line feed. Now take your meter and go from the black (hot) conductor and touch the bare grounding wires, one at a time. Again, when your meter shows 120 volts you have correctly identified the grounding conductor to the panel.

    6- Turn off the circuit at the panel

    7- Set your meter to read "OHMS" this may be identified as an upside down "horseshoe" symbol.

    8- At the ceiling junction box twist the black and white wires together. Don't overdo it, you just want continuity. Now take your meter and put the probe on the remaining black wire and touch each white wire. When your meter shows continuity you have identified the hot and neutral wires to the light. Disconnect the black and white wires at the light and twist the bare grounding wire to either wire to the light you have just verified. Again touch your probe to the bare wire and the wire to the light you have chosen to use. When your meter shows continuity you have identified the correct grounding wire.

    9- Remove everything else from the switch boxes and blank plate the extra box. At the switch, tie the whites together, tie the grounds together and pigtail a wire off to ground the switch. The blacks go on each post on your switch.

    10- Wire your fan as you have previously said, light and fan wires to the black, white to neatral. Make sure you correctly ground the fan.

    11- Turn on the circuit and sleep better knowing that everything has been wired properly and the safety features of your electrical system are working properly.

    Please Be Careful, MN12 master electrician.
     
  12. noknock1

    noknock1 Active Member

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    Thank you MN12 for the very detailed write up. Thanks again to everyone for all the help. We will see if I can get this done before the super bowl! HAHA. Go Colts!
     
  13. jbbor

    jbbor Active Member

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    Call reputable electrician. They are worth the cost. Fires are expensive and death is permanent. Jimmy Borum
     
  14. nubs

    nubs TS Member

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    I would change that plastic ceiling box to a metal, ceiling fan box. Older plastic
    boxes are not rated for the weight. Metal box is rated for 50# or more, as per
    code.
     
  15. noknock1

    noknock1 Active Member

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    Good advice... Thanks.
     
  16. 635 G

    635 G Well-Known Member

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    Make sure the box is fan rated, the box is secured with a proper brace or stud between the beams & most important don't rely on the screws that go thru the box ears to hang the fan,

    If you care to there are remote controls available that enable you to contol all the functions of a fan/light with a 2 wire & a ground supply.

    Phil Berkowitz--retired electrical contractor
     
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