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Old 07-13-2011, 06:18 AM   #1
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Smoke, sparks and pops from ceiling fan - need assistance on proper wiring


Hi there..

I installed a harbor breeze springfiled fan about 1.5 years ago..thought i did it right but things always seems amiss

Wall switch was a GE speed control unit and the "dimmer" on it controlled motor and light speed/brightness and it made a loud hum at low speeds until it was turned up a bit..

Anyways 2 weeks ago out of nowhere with just the fan running and lights off got some popping noises, a little smoke and a little shooting blue flame out of the fan..was quite a way to wake up..

I don't want to write the fan off just yet - it seems fine upon taking it down and looking at it.

Pretty sure that either the speed control should not have been used with the motor and/or it was miswired in the ceiling..

I don't hve pics of how it was wired..not enough arms/hands to take a pic when i was taking it down.

But you can see in the pic here that something was def wrong..got some partially fried wire housings..if you cant make out the pic there's 3 wider guage house wires in the box with a smaller guage white and black wire attached to the center house and the right house wire.

Already bought a simple on off switch and want to try rewiring for switch = light turn on / off and chain for the motor..

Can you please tell me what you think might have gone wrong and what would be the correct way to go about wiring in the fashion i just mentioned? I know this is bordering on "get an electrician you dummy" but i really do think there was a basic improper setup that be quickly fixed.

Thanks!

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Old 07-13-2011, 06:51 AM   #2
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Smoke, sparks and pops from ceiling fan - need assistance on proper wiring


There is a multi part capacitor for starting the motor, in the canopy. That can be the problem, they occasionally go poof. Little, usually square part with 2-4 wires sticking out. But running a motor on the wrong type of dimmer can damage the motor. The hum you hear is a cry for help, wrong type dimmer control. Use only a dimmer rated for fan motors.

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Old 07-13-2011, 07:00 AM   #3
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Smoke, sparks and pops from ceiling fan - need assistance on proper wiring


it was a GE "spped control" until apparently for fans but i dont know yet if even a legit fan control was acceptable for this fan, or voltages etc for that matter.
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Old 07-13-2011, 11:14 AM   #4
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Smoke, sparks and pops from ceiling fan - need assistance on proper wiring


If you're saying that there was a "dimmer" control on the speed control which simultaneously affected both the fan speed and light brightness, then it was wired wrong and that probably contributed to damaging the fan.
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Old 07-13-2011, 07:59 PM   #5
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Smoke, sparks and pops from ceiling fan - need assistance on proper wiring


Motors don't run on electricity, they run on smoke.

The electricity is only required to keep the smoke in.

Once the smoke gets out, the fan is no good.

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Old 07-13-2011, 08:44 PM   #6
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Smoke, sparks and pops from ceiling fan - need assistance on proper wiring


Quote:
Originally Posted by kbsparky View Post
Motors don't run on electricity, they run on smoke.

The electricity is only required to keep the smoke in.

Once the smoke gets out, the fan is no good.

I knew there was a reason I liked your line of thinking
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Old 07-16-2011, 12:42 PM   #7
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Smoke, sparks and pops from ceiling fan - need assistance on proper wiring


Hi there,

just knocking this out today. Ok so:

The fan innards seem ok, at least visually so I'm going to proceed or try to see if I can correct all of this with a basic switch and proper wiring in the ceiling. I think both sides of the equation were wrong..

Outlet just has 2 wires, both black and i cant seem to find a ground. i have a new single pol switch im going to install. Both black outlet wires are reading as hot. Does it magtter which one goes to the top or bottom screw on the new switch?

I bought a rated ceiling fan box for the ceiling just in case the exsisting wasnt...is there a proper way to diagnose if the exsisting is or is not rated. I think my tester is indicating there might be some current going through the box itself due to poor wiring up there maybe..

As for the wiring up there it looks like i have 3 total feeds coming into the box: 2 of them (each with 2 sets of wires, both black and white i believe) are defintately older and a thicker gauge and don't look to be in the best of shape, and also one pair of newer, skinnier gauge...it seems as though all 3 pairs are connected or looped together somehow...all feed are hot too..

Should i take off the box anyways for inspection and then i'll be able to take and provide a better picture or the setup or do you think you have enough info? Thanks!
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Old 07-16-2011, 07:55 PM   #8
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Smoke, sparks and pops from ceiling fan - need assistance on proper wiring


Quote:
Originally Posted by kbsparky View Post
Motors don't run on electricity, they run on smoke.

The electricity is only required to keep the smoke in.

Once the smoke gets out, the fan is no good.

sounds more like they installed a lawn mower instead of a ceiling fan.
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Old 07-16-2011, 09:17 PM   #9
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Smoke, sparks and pops from ceiling fan - need assistance on proper wiring


Quote:
Originally Posted by kbsparky View Post
Motors don't run on electricity, they run on smoke.

The electricity is only required to keep the smoke in.

Once the smoke gets out, the fan is no good.

Yup, just like dark absorbers. They're the thing in the ceiling sucks all the darkness out of a room when they are activated
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Old 07-16-2011, 10:34 PM   #10
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Smoke, sparks and pops from ceiling fan - need assistance on proper wiring


here's a diagram of the situation in my ceiling box. I know I tied the fan into the uncapped whire at location C but dont remember what i did with the fan's black and blue..when i took it off i didnt have enough slack to leave wires in tact.

Seeking to have wall switch turn on/off light only and have pull chain operate fan.

If the attachment is too small, save to desktop and open with paint. ty!
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Old 07-16-2011, 11:30 PM   #11
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Smoke, sparks and pops from ceiling fan - need assistance on proper wiring


So, Zstopa, kudos for trying to figure it out. But..... you've got a couple problems:

1. You are burning a lot of calories for a ceiling fan that could be replaced for $75. Part of DIY is learning/playing/taking things apart. But part of DIY is also knowing when to call it a day, park your ceiling fan on your tool bench, and walk away. I've pried apart many a defective item for fun, but some things don't merit fixing.

2. Your plan to have a switch control the light and chain control the fan is going to fail unless you have the right combo of wires in your switch box. If you only have a switch loop at the switch or if you only have the old wiring (shown in the picture) at the switch - then your plan will likely result in a switch that can turn the both fan and light on and off. But not independent action, unless you futz around with the control boxes inside the fan canopy. There are other ways to accomplish what you want to do, but pending confirmation that the fan isn't destined for the dump.... See #1 or #3

3. The problem with cheap things (like your made-in-china fan from the big box store) is that when they fail they tend to end up costing you more than a better quality item would have in the first place (how's that for one convoluted abuse of the english language ). You will have to find out what part of the fan failed - something BROKE - hence the sparks/smoke/etc.

Rewiring or reconnecting your jBox and switch is not going to fix whatever went poof.

And, if one thing went poof, it may not have been the only point of failure.

And, just to be a REAL stick in the mud... are you renting? able to do electrical work in your jurisdiction? do you have HOer's/renter's insurance?

There are REAL SAFETY ISSUES at stake here. Old wiring + inexperience = MAJOR FIRE RISK.

Don't let our flippant comments discourage you. Just know that most on the best part of the forum (electrical) are just trying to help you do it right or to save you from the same mistakes we have made.....
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Old 07-16-2011, 11:35 PM   #12
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Smoke, sparks and pops from ceiling fan - need assistance on proper wiring


Quote:
Originally Posted by zstopa View Post
here's a diagram of the situation in my ceiling box. I know I tied the fan into the uncapped whire at location C but dont remember what i did with the fan's black and blue..when i took it off i didnt have enough slack to leave wires in tact.

Seeking to have wall switch turn on/off light only and have pull chain operate fan.

If the attachment is too small, save to desktop and open with paint. ty!
I looked at your diagram - good job at showing us what is going on. I am worried that you don't have a great idea of theory or application. It's time to start doing some reading on the forum about how electrical systems work. If you are interested I've got the name of a great book about old wiring systems.

The uncapped wire at 'c' is a pigtail. The 'black' wires may not all be hot (often with old wiring it is impossible to tell by appearance what is hot and what is neutral).

You are going to have to let us know what is going on in the switch box before we can start making guesses as to what is going on in the ceiling.

And lastly, Zstopa, please please please tell me that you have switched off the breaker that controls this circuit and confirmed that the power is off with some sort of voltage tester. If you do not have this basic tool, then it is time to step away from the wiring.
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Old 07-16-2011, 11:48 PM   #13
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Smoke, sparks and pops from ceiling fan - need assistance on proper wiring


there are 2 black wires at the switch, resembling 3 out of the 4 pairs in the ceiling box (a 4-2wire box).

The fan isnt the issue..its completely fine. Total wattage from the bulbs was greater than the fixture allows, the wall switch was improper for the fan and the wiring was not correct in the ceiling - resolved 1 and 2 and seeking help on 3.
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Old 07-17-2011, 12:00 AM   #14
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Smoke, sparks and pops from ceiling fan - need assistance on proper wiring


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The fan isnt the issue..its completely fine.
This is what you said, "Anyways 2 weeks ago out of nowhere with just the fan running and lights off got some popping noises, a little smoke and a little shooting blue flame out of the fan..was quite a way to wake up.."

You really think the fan is just fine???
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Old 07-17-2011, 05:59 AM   #15
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