Announcement

Announcement Module
Collapse

How To Post Images

Want to know the how to upload images to your posts? Image Posting Tutorial
See more
See less

Light and ceiling fan: why would all wires be hot when the wall light switch off

Page Title Module
Move Remove Collapse
X
Conversation Detail Module
Collapse
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Light and ceiling fan: why would all wires be hot when the wall light switch off

    Hi. New to this forum and I have very little knowledge about electricity, as I'm sure I will prove. I moved into an old farmhouse. There exists 2 wire cable (black & white in flexible metal conduit) throughout the house. There was an existing flourescent light fixture that we decided to remove and replace with a ceiling fan. I turned the wall light switch off (only 1 light switch controls the light I believe) and was surprised that my GT-11 Voltage detector was still strongly detecting current in the wires and ballast(?). Thinking nothing of it, I switched the breaker off, removed the existing light and installed my ceiling fan. This ceiling fan has an up light, a down light, a fan motor and a remote to control the three of these. When I turn the wall light switch on, the up light works fine as does the fan. However, I can't get the downlight to work.

    So, this sent me exploring and I found the following that is puzzeling me:

    WALL LIGHT SWITCH in ON position:
    the main black wire (supply wire to fan) is hot and the white is not (which I think is correct). I do not get a voltage reading on the blue wire (marked "to downlight) and I am also not getting a voltage detection on the black or white wires directly at the down light bulb socket (both lead me to think the internal wiring of the fan is the problem). However,...

    WALL LIGHT SWITCH in OFF position:
    nothing operates (lights or fan) but ALL wires detect hot (have voltage). This includes both the main black and white plus the blue wire plus both black and white at the down bulb socket. In fact I don't even need to touch any of the wires since my voltage detector goes off before I touch them. It is as if every wire is hot and this is creating an electrical field.

    I know a switch can leak voltage but I don't understand why every wire would read hot with the wall light switch off, especially if the fan lights and fan does not work? I bought 2 of these fans and tested the 2nd one, too, and had similar results in that I cannot get the downlight to work. I thought it was the fan wiring but could I be so unlucky to get to bogus fans? My thinking is after I originally turned off the wall light switch and I was STILL getting a strong voltage detection on the ballasts & wiring in the original flourescent light fixture that something with the house wiring (supply wires) is incorrectly wired.

    Any thoughts? Anyone?


    Thanks a lot. Keith
    Last edited by kmiller612; 11-19-2009, 06:43 AM. Reason: because I don't know much about electricity

  • #2
    Re: Light and ceiling fan: why would all wires be hot when the wall light switch off

    How many wires are in the ceiling box the fan is mounted to? It sounds like the fan is fed from the ceiling box and they switched the neutral at the wall switch. So they are breaking the neutral at the switch. The correct way would be like this: If you have a hot (all the time) at the ceiling box and the neutral from the same cable, and another cable with black and white wires in it feeding the switch, the white wire for the switch leg should be connected to the hot feed coming into the ceiling box and re-identified as hot with a Sharpie or black electrical tape at both ends. The black wire from that switch leg comes back from the switch and feeds the fan and the up and down lights. The white wire from the fan gets tied into the neutral from the hot feed coming into the ceiling box.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Light and ceiling fan: why would all wires be hot when the wall light switch off

      Thanks for the reply. there is only 1 cable (2 wires) coming into the ceiling box. The 2 wires are black and white. If the white wire is also hot, wouldn't that mean there is a 2nd switch somewhere that controls this light, too? We can find it but in an old farmhouse that switch could've been covered up long ago.

      I am going to take apart the switch and see what is going on. Another 1 hour project turning into 8.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Light and ceiling fan: why would all wires be hot when the wall light switch off

        I have never used the GT-11 voltage detector, but I would probably suggest a different voltage meter to see what the voltage are that your detecting,

        I have ran in to this type of readings using electronic multi meters, and I have always just called it Phantom voltage, (it is a real reading, but there is only there when there is not any Resistance against it, you take an analog meter and it will not read it as voltage, as there is more resistance in the circuitry),

        it may be that the (white neutral wire) is just carrying returning power from some other source, and the detector is picking it up do to some reason, even tho the voltage potential of that electricity to the earth is very low, or It may just be picking up an induced voltage from and adjacent run of wire,

        http://www.nema.org/stds/eng-bulleti...ulletin-88.pdf
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phantom_voltage

        you have one wire caring electricity into (normally black) the light/fan and one to take it away, (normally white),

        If you have two switches on the two wires you would either be cutting off the incoming or the out going flow of power, and you can not have two incoming with out a out going path, All you would do is cut off the out going flow of power thus shutting off the light and fan, and the electrical in the fan would be energized but not flowing,
        the recommend is to cut the power on the incoming side so the appliance is not energized,

        I would check to see how or what the switch settings on the fan are as far as the lights go, (with the set up you have you will not be able to control the fan and light separately from the wall switch all you can do is turn power on to it or off,
        then on the fan there may be pull strings that will turn on or off the lights (they are separate wires as some people will put in an addition power wire to the fan to control the fan and lights separately, but that would take two separate hot wires running to the fan, with at least one neutral wire in the box.
        Push sticks/blocks Save Fingers
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        "The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good."
        attributed to Samuel Johnson
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        PUBLIC NOTICE: Due to recent budget cuts, the rising cost of electricity, gas, and oil...plus the current state of the economy............the light at the end of the tunnel, has been turned off.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Light and ceiling fan: why would all wires be hot when the wall light switch off

          Originally posted by kmiller612 View Post
          Thanks for the reply. there is only 1 cable (2 wires) coming into the ceiling box. The 2 wires are black and white. If the white wire is also hot, wouldn't that mean there is a 2nd switch somewhere that controls this light, too? We can find it but in an old farmhouse that switch could've been covered up long ago.

          I am going to take apart the switch and see what is going on. Another 1 hour project turning into 8.
          If this is an old house you may have a switched neutral problem. In the old days, people believed that if you wired a fixture "backwards", in other words with a hard hot connection and the switch breaking the neutral wire, you would not get a spark when the switch was flipped and the switch would last longer. The problem, of course, is that the fixture always has voltage and an unwary homeowner without a voltage tester can get a helluva shock while doing something as simple as changing a lightbulb.

          This may or may not mean anything, but are the wires connected to the wall switch the white ones or the black ones?

          If it proves to be the case that you do have a switched neutral then you probably have lots of switched neutrals. Be careful in that house.
          Last edited by jimboburnsy; 11-19-2009, 11:22 AM.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Light and ceiling fan: why would all wires be hot when the wall light switch off

            Originally posted by jimboburnsy View Post
            If this is an old house you may have a switched neutral problem. In the old days, people believed that if you wired a fixture "backwards", in other words with a hard hot connection and the switch breaking the neutral wire, you would not get a spark when the switch was flipped and the switch would last longer. The problem, of course, is that the fixture always has voltage and an unwary homeowner without a voltage tester can get a helluva shock while doing something as simple as changing a lightbulb.

            This may or may not mean anything, but are the wires connected to the wall switch the white ones or the black ones?

            If it proves to be the case that you do have a switched neutral then you probably have lots of switched neutrals. Be careful in that house.
            I run into this alot .

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Light and ceiling fan: why would all wires be hot when the wall light switch off

              Originally posted by CLDS View Post
              I run into this alot .
              I learned volumes about it in an instant once. Been pretty careful ever since.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Light and ceiling fan: why would all wires be hot when the wall light switch off

                ah ha.... I took the wall switch plate cover off (happens to be a 4 switch plate) and this is what I found (see attached image & pic).

                I know this is old wiring/switches but would this explain my problems??? Thanks.

                FYI....in diagram

                red lines and orange lines are black wires. Blue lines are white wires.

                switch A controls the fan.

                Cables are labeled 1-6 and switches are obviously A-D (haven't found out what switch D controls yet).
                Attached Files
                Last edited by kmiller612; 11-19-2009, 03:11 PM. Reason: clarify

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Light and ceiling fan: why would all wires be hot when the wall light switch off

                  Originally posted by kmiller612 View Post
                  ah ha.... I took the wall switch plate cover off (happens to be a 4 switch plate) and this is what I found (see attached image & pic).

                  I know this is old wiring/switches but would this explain my problems??? Thanks.

                  FYI....in diagram

                  red lines and orange lines are black wires. Blue lines are white wires.

                  switch A controls the fan.

                  Cables are labeled 1-6 and switches are obviously A-D (haven't found out what switch D controls yet).
                  Unless the white wire on #1 is your feed you don't appear to have a switched neutral.

                  Switches can and do spontaneously go bad and the older they get the more they like to screw up. You may just have a bad switch or switches. The first thing I would try would be to go to the hardware store and spend about $5 on new ones and a new wall plate. I would replace "A" with a single-pole 20A switch (probably overkill), the rest can be the cheapo 15A skinny suckers.

                  EDIT: "A" isn't some weird 3 position switch is it? Like a "center-off" switch? I also wouldn't be able to resist un-taping, un-crimping, cleaning and re-connecting with wire nuts per the diagram.
                  Last edited by jimboburnsy; 11-19-2009, 03:57 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Light and ceiling fan: why would all wires be hot when the wall light switch off

                    No, Switch 'A' isn't a 3 position switch. I don't know which wire is the feed yet - maybe cable 2 since it is the only one not switched? Since there are 5 wires used and 4 switches I guess it could be either of these. I'm sure these switches are old - it is a good idea to replace them all. As far as the "birdsnest" of wire and taped splices, this scares me. I can't get the wires to give much extra by pulling on the them and I'm afraid if I pull them too hard I am going to cut the old cloth wrap over the wire and cause more problems. This fan was supposed to be a relatively quick and simple job - curses to these old houses!! There is a ceiling fan that was previously installed. When I pull the light chain to turn on the light my outside spot light goes on real dim. If I turn on the spot light the ceiling fan won't work. I'm sure the wiring in this whole house will be an indirect journey but I should learn a lot. Thanks for your reply.
                    Last edited by kmiller612; 11-19-2009, 04:21 PM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Light and ceiling fan: why would all wires be hot when the wall light switch off

                      Originally posted by kmiller612 View Post
                      No, Switch 'A' isn't a 3 position switch. I don't know which wire is the feed yet - maybe cable 2 since it is the only one not switched? Since there are 5 wires used and 4 switches I guess it could be either of these. I'm sure these switches are old - it is a good idea to replace them all. As far as the "birdsnest" of wire and taped splices, this scares me. I can't get the wires to give much extra by pulling on the them and I'm afraid if I pull them too hard I am going to cut the old cloth wrap over the wire and cause more problems. This fan was supposed to be a relatively quick and simple job - curses to these old houses!! There is a ceiling fan that was previously installed. When I pull the light chain to turn on the light my outside spot light goes on real dim. If I turn on the spot light the ceiling fan won't work. I'm sure the wiring in this whole house will be an indirect journey but I should learn a lot. Thanks for your reply.
                      Oh, by the way, one of those pictures gives the impression that you may have aluminum wiring. If that is the case and you replace the switches make sure the new ones can be used with aluminum. Good luck, sounds like you have a real project in the works.
                      Last edited by jimboburnsy; 11-19-2009, 04:26 PM.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Light and ceiling fan: why would all wires be hot when the wall light switch off

                        gt-11. i have one. it tells me when there is "some" power. nothing else. get yourself a multimeter and a cord from a known source. as in a recp that's working. then test. breid.................

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Light and ceiling fan: why would all wires be hot when the wall light switch off

                          While I was doing my investigation I decided to call Hampton Bay, the home depot brand ceiling fan company. They didn't hesitate or ask questions saying the remote receivers are bad and they sent me 2 out which I should receive in 5 business days. When I searched online I found 2 other posts about people having the same problem. Murphy's law.....

                          I'm still looking into the wiring...we will see. Thanks to everyone for their input and expertise.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Light and ceiling fan: why would all wires be hot when the wall light switch off

                            Originally posted by kmiller612 View Post
                            While I was doing my investigation I decided to call Hampton Bay, the home depot brand ceiling fan company. They didn't hesitate or ask questions saying the remote receivers are bad and they sent me 2 out which I should receive in 5 business days. When I searched online I found 2 other posts about people having the same problem. Murphy's law.....

                            I'm still looking into the wiring...we will see. Thanks to everyone for their input and expertise.
                            I meant to say the first thing you should do is call Hampton Bay and ask what just what'n the hell they think they're doing over there...

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Light and ceiling fan: why would all wires be hot when the wall light switch off

                              Just to chime in regarding ceiling fans, I hve NOT been impressed with those quick-connects inside those light kits that somehow mess up the fan operation. The crimps are often loose, wires are constantly pinched, and that "black box" is often smoked.

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X