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Old 06-01-2007, 12:41 PM   #1
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which is hot


I live in an older home (1850's). I am trying to install a ceiling fan. Here is my problem.

The existing conductor is cloth bound 14 ga. stranded wire, controlled by a switch with no ground. Both individual wires are also cloth bound, with a black coating (not plastic). How do I determine which is hot, and which is neutral?

Thanks in advance for any help.

Marc

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Old 06-01-2007, 12:53 PM   #2
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which is hot


Well I guess I'll shy away from telling you how to rewire the firehazard of a situation you have here.... hook up the two wires to a light, turn it on. If it doesn't work switch them.

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Old 06-01-2007, 01:08 PM   #3
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which is hot


do not guess and check. Someone will be along with a proper method of determining which is which.

Do you know how the wire is ran? Modern wiring goes from the breaker to the switch, then switch to the light. Mine (1912) goes to the light first then to the switch which was very confusing at first.

Any way of knowing when the electrical was installed? It would have been well after the house was built I believe. That may help someone provide you with an answer.

Good luck. If the cloth insulation is damaged at all or frail (breaks easily) you should hire someone to rewire everything. They may not have to cut into the walls very much.
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Old 06-01-2007, 02:33 PM   #4
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You cannot determin which wire is the hot one by hooking up a light and see if it works. It will work either way you connect it.
However, you don't want the light socket's inside shell (treaded part) to be hot. That is why you can only plug stuff into a wall recepatacle one way. One blade is bigger than the other.

Connecting the fan is the same way. It will work with both wires regardless of the connection.

To find the hot at the ceiling fan box: Open the switch box on the wall that goes up to the the fan box. The wire that is connected to the switch and goes up to the ceiling box is the hot.

If these wires are brittle and very short (hard to connect to) you should have them replaced.
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Old 06-01-2007, 04:31 PM   #5
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which is hot


use a multimeter set to AC voltage. measure from each wire to a known ground source (like a water line).

The hot will measure 120v to ground.

The neutral will measure 0v to ground.

(The neutral and ground are tied together at the fuse box)

or you could lick each wire... one will give you a surprise
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Old 06-02-2007, 10:10 AM   #6
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which is hot


Johnny, You are correct regarding the checks with a multimeter. However, Bonawizer said he had only two wires. I am assuming he has no bare ground wire or metal box to connect his meter lead too. Unless he ran a wire from a known neutral or ground, his meter leads would never reach. That is why I suggested he look for it using the switch box on the wall.
As far as licking the wire. I would not suggest this type of activity. if the person performing this stupid act was not grounded himself he would get no shock. Now licking both wires at once would do the trick......LOL
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Old 06-02-2007, 11:44 AM   #7
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which is hot


A cheap tester with give you what you need. Hook it up like it was an outlet, it will show no ground of course - but it will show reversed or not.
I have an old house, and I've never seen stranded wire used - maybe and old pro could comment on that, but I would suspect a juction box somewhere, or a poor DIY install.
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Old 06-02-2007, 11:59 AM   #8
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The only way to accurately determine which is hot is to check each wire against a known grounded source. This could be an extension cord plugged into a known grounded outlet and each wire checked against the wide slot of the receptacle end and/or the ground pin slot. Checking at the switch is not accurate because the switch could be installed on the neutral wire, not uncommon in older work.
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Old 06-02-2007, 04:17 PM   #9
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which is hot


ever heard of a wiggy? hook up any two wires and it will identify which is hot (magnetism - yes, its true).
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Old 06-02-2007, 06:19 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brantmacga View Post
ever heard of a wiggy? hook up any two wires and it will identify which is hot (magnetism - yes, its true).
ANY two wires and this will identify the hot? Can you explain how this works?
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Old 06-02-2007, 11:40 PM   #11
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wiggy works on magnetism. it has a red lead and a black lead. it has a clear top w/ disc inside, one half being black, the other red. if black is connected to the hot, the black half will point up. if red is connected, then the red will point up.
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Old 06-02-2007, 11:57 PM   #12
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electromagnetism
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Old 06-03-2007, 07:17 AM   #13
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I have used Wiggys but never owned one. I did not know they could tell polarity with AC wiring. I have several newer testers that do this. None are the "solenoid" type.
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Old 06-03-2007, 08:21 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by brantmacga View Post
wiggy works on magnetism. it has a red lead and a black lead. it has a clear top w/ disc inside, one half being black, the other red. if black is connected to the hot, the black half will point up. if red is connected, then the red will point up.
According to my Wiggy, that only works for DC circuits.
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Old 06-03-2007, 08:37 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HouseHelper View Post
According to my Wiggy, that only works for DC circuits.
That's what I thought. How can a solenoid tell polarity of an AC circuit?

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