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Old 05-01-2008, 10:17 AM   #1
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Century Home Wiring Issue


I know I can probably find the answer I'm looking for within this site, but quite honestly I've been reading on here for 2 hours and I'm getting frustrated.

I'm trying to install a ceiling fan with light in my living room.
There is a box up in the ceiling that previously had just a plate covering it. (there has never been a fixture there)
I have a double switch on a wall in the living room, and controls nothing (I've checked and it's not associated with any other lights or outlets) so I'm assuming it controls something up in this box.
In the box in the ceiling there are 9 wires (this is what is confusing to me, why 9?)
The wire configuration is as follows:
4 black wires twisted and taped together
3 white wires twisted and and taped together
1 white wire hanging by itself
1 white wire hanging by itself (not a typo - there are 2 white ones hanging by themself not twisted and taped to each other)

I tried undoing the 3 white ones that are bundled together and when I did that, I lost all the power in the living room. But not via a blown fuse. So I'm assuming all power in the living room passes through some/all of those bundled groups of wires.

All the wires are cloth wrapped being my home was constructed in 1910.

How do I determine what is what up there? And is it possible that there is nothing up there that's associated with the double wall switch? And if that's the case then it should still be possible to wire the fan into those wires right?

Any help or clarification would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you so much,
Franklin

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Old 05-01-2008, 11:17 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fradam1976 View Post
I'm trying to install a ceiling fan with light in my living room. There is a box up in the ceiling that previously had just a plate covering it. (there has never been a fixture there) I have a double switch on a wall in the living room, and controls nothing (I've checked and it's not associated with any other lights or outlets) so I'm assuming it controls something up in this box. In the box in the ceiling there are 9 wires (this is what is confusing to me, why 9?)
The wire configuration is as follows:
4 black wires twisted and taped together
3 white wires twisted and and taped together
1 white wire hanging by itself
1 white wire hanging by itself (not a typo - there are 2 white ones hanging by themself not twisted and taped to each other)
I have taken the liberty to attach a sketch showing one possible way that your ceiling box/wall switch box may be wired. This is just a hunch and you'll want to verify it with your eyes and a tester.

Wiring Example.pdf

From my sketch, you'll notice that there are actually ten wires in the ceiling box, not 9 which leads to me to think one of the following: 1. If the house was circuited using armored cable, i.e. BX, then there should be another black in the ceiling and switch boxes that is not in use (take a closer look. My house is 100 years old as well and given the cloth covered wiring and the black electrical boxes[or what remains anyway], sometimes it's hard to see everything). Of course, knowing that it wasn't needed, the original electrician could have cut it out but why anyone would do that would be beyond reason. 2. Your boxes may be connected with old (steel conduit). If this is the case, you should see bushings in the boxes (probably ceramic) where the pipes enter. In this case, the electrician only ran what he needed or anticipated for the application. In this case, I would have expected that he would have run black wires though instead of white as the switch legs.

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Originally Posted by fradam1976 View Post
I tried undoing the 3 white ones that are bundled together and when I did that, I lost all the power in the living room. But not via a blown fuse.
Please keep in mind the following advice: What you did (untwisting the white wires, i.e. the neutrals) with the circuit hot and with a load on it is very dangerous. Next time, take a minute to de-energize the circuit. Before you start untwisting wires, use some form of voltage sensing device to make sure that the wires are actually dead. Once you've verified this, break the black wire half of the circuit first.

Finally, disconnecting the circuit via some means other than opening the breaker would not cause the breaker to trip. Even when you reconnect the circuit under load (again, do NOT work on a live circuit), you may see some small arcs (depending on the load connected) but unless there is a fault in the circuit, the breaker will not trip.

Quote:
So I'm assuming all power in the living room passes through some/all of those bundled groups of wires.
From what you report, it sounds reasonable. In my house, the electrical for the first floor was all installed from the second floor. That is, they installed the boxes and pipe above the first floor ceiling joists and the finished floor on the second level is installed above it on sleepers (very interesting).

Quote:
All the wires are cloth wrapped being my home was constructed in 1910.
Join the club! Mine was built in 1911. I have abated all of the original cloth wiring with the exception of some remaining on the upper floor. When working with the cloth, be careful when handling it. The cloth tends to be difficult to cut cleanly and the insulation is probably rubber which tends to dry rot over time and crack/fall of when disturbed.

Quote:
How do I determine what is what up there? And is it possible that there is nothing up there that's associated with the double wall switch? And if that's the case then it should still be possible to wire the fan into those wires right?
1. See my sketch. Keep in mind that it may NOT reflect your actual conditions.
2. De-energize the circuit and verify that it is dead.
3. Remove the switch box cover and loosen/pull out the switches. Verify the wiring (note: if it is run in conduit, you can tug on the wires at one end while watching the other and see them move. A helper may come in handy at this point).
4. Re-check the ceiling box for that missing wire if not run in pipe.

Get back to us with a follow up!

Jimmy

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Last edited by BigJimmy; 05-01-2008 at 03:50 PM. Reason: Added comment re: breaker not tripping
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Old 05-01-2008, 12:20 PM   #3
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Century Home Wiring Issue


On other thing to add:

If the white wires in your example (i.e. those in the ceiling box that are unconnected) were installed to be used as switch legs, then the original installer may have wrapped them with black tape. By today's standards, when white wires are used for non-neutral applications, they are marked, often with black or red tape, to distinguish their use as a non-grounded conductor. You may want to check this.

Get back with the results,
Jimmy
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Last edited by BigJimmy; 05-01-2008 at 12:21 PM. Reason: D'oh! Spelling errur!
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Old 05-01-2008, 02:39 PM   #4
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BigJimmy is helping you out fine. I'd like to add, get a volt meter and read the instructions on how to use it. I suspect those single two white wires are your light fixture wires. One is a neutral and one is the switched hot wire. A voltmeter will tell you for sure.
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Old 05-01-2008, 06:56 PM   #5
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Century Home Wiring Issue


Well after reading the reply from BigJimmy I was able to figure it out.

The white wires hanging by themselves were the legs for the switches. I used the advice of pulling on them from the switch box and was able to figure out what went to what (and yes I had all the power off for certain this time )

There would have been 10 wires in the ceiling if they had used individual black wires to each switch, but instead they pigtailed the two switches together with one black wire.

And it only took me 7 hours from start to finish to install it all myself, lol. But it was better than wasting my day off goofing off online.

Thanks so much,
Franklin
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Old 05-01-2008, 07:25 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joba Fett View Post
Two hours is nothing.
Keep searching and reading.
Survey Says.... GREAT Answer NOT. If the forum answered all questions like this there wouldn't be anything to read for 2 hours. Next time plz post somewhat of an answer, or don't post at all. Practice what you preach on this forum!!!!!!
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Old 05-01-2008, 09:43 PM   #7
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Another encouraging comment by Joba Fett!!


Life is too short to have a bad attitude!!! Try being upbuilding and supportive for once. That would help more people and maybe you would learn something too Joba.
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Last edited by Cyndi; 05-02-2008 at 11:54 AM.
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Old 05-02-2008, 08:15 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cyndi View Post
Another intellectual comment by Joba Fett!! He has a God Complex. He thinks he is all knowing. What a sad little man!!!

Life is too short to be an A-hole, I mean a Joba Fett, I mean an A-hole.....oh What's the Difference!!!!!!
Cyndi. I think you went over the line with this post. Just because you do not agree with thw way Joba feels when it comes to diy electrical, does not give you the right to call him names.
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Old 05-02-2008, 08:53 AM   #9
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Cyndi. I think you went over the line with this post. Just because you do not agree with thw way Joba feels when it comes to diy electrical, does not give you the right to call him names.

I don't believe he would mind. All he's looking for is a response, be it positive or negative.

Edit: On second thought, he is actually looking for a negative response by the tone of his posts. So it's all good.
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Old 05-02-2008, 09:28 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fradam1976 View Post
Well after reading the reply from BigJimmy I was able to figure it out.

And it only took me 7 hours from start to finish to install it all myself, lol. But it was better than wasting my day off goofing off online.

Thanks so much,
Franklin
Great Franklin. We're all happy it worked out for you and got the job done. It's easier and better to ask here than to search all over the net. And even then you're not sure you found the correct answer. Come back often.
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Old 05-02-2008, 09:46 AM   #11
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JBFan-

Yeh, you're right. He just took a pot shot at me from the beginning and it set me off on the wrong course of response. I do apologize if I offended anyone.......

I'ts not the electrical advice that I disagree with because I haven't seen any from him yet. He only makes newbies regret posting for help as far as I have seen to this point. But you are right, unless he post on the thread that personally affects me, I will keep my opinions of him to myself as others can come to their own conclusion once they read his replies.

Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I'm normally a pretty mellow gal!!
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Old 05-02-2008, 02:04 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by fradam1976 View Post
And it only took me 7 hours from start to finish to install it all myself, lol. But it was better than wasting my day off goofing off online.
Good for you! I'm glad it worked out! And look at it this way: You spent 7 hours but you avoided the cost of bringing in an electrician.
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Old 05-06-2008, 07:35 AM   #13
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Hey Cyndi,

I completely support you. Your responses to Joba have been nothing compared to the crap he flings around at others. I don't think he has any
business posting on a site that's supposed to help people.
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Old 05-06-2008, 04:49 PM   #14
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Handifoot- That's true......however, I don't need to stoop to his level. That's what he wants is to bring out the worst in everyone so that he can get a rise out of them and a negative reply. Kinda like the child that wants attention and if they can't get a pat on the back....they will try for the negative attention. I will continue to give my opinion..but as for name calling.....I don't need to do that. I am sure you all have called him anything that I could think of anyway!!!
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Old 05-07-2008, 01:53 AM   #15
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How big is the box if it has that many wires in it? I rewired a house built in 1942. The wiring was knob-and-tube, and the junctions were all made outside of any kind of fixture boxes. My advice, if you can't figure out which wire goes where, contact an electrician that gives free estimates. When the electrician gets there, offer him a few bucks to come do the job on a saturday, or as a side job. But, don't let his company know. This is the next best thing to do before rewiring a nearly 100 year-old home, which is the best thing to do. Good luck.

Dave

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