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Old 12-31-2010, 03:30 PM   #1
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Wiring a ceiling fan in a 1950's house


A month or so ago we took down a ceiling fan in a spare bedroom to paint the walls and ceiling. The smart thing to do would have been to mark which wires from the ceiling went to which on the fan, but I wasn't thinking about that at the time. So now that I want to put the fan back up, I'm stuck guessing.

The house was built in 1954 and has the old cloth covered wiring coming out of the ceiling.



From looking at the wires and moving the coverings a little bit on them, there seems to not be any indication as to which is supposed to be the white wire and which is the black. The two on the left in the picture, as you can see, are twisted together and then there is the single wire on the right.

The fixture is controlled by a single wall switch. The fan fixture has a black, white, red (marked as "FOR LIGHT" on it), and a green wire. The green is obviously the ground.

Is there a way I can simply determine which wires should be connected together?

Thanks for any help or suggestions you can provide!

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Old 12-31-2010, 03:33 PM   #2
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Wiring a ceiling fan in a 1950's house


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Originally Posted by chrispund View Post
A month or so ago we took down a ceiling fan in a spare bedroom to paint the walls and ceiling. The smart thing to do would have been to mark which wires from the ceiling went to which on the fan, but I wasn't thinking about that at the time. So now that I want to put the fan back up, I'm stuck guessing.

The house was built in 1954 and has the old cloth covered wiring coming out of the ceiling.



From looking at the wires and moving the coverings a little bit on them, there seems to not be any indication as to which is supposed to be the white wire and which is the black. The two on the left in the picture, as you can see, are twisted together and then there is the single wire on the right.

The fixture is controlled by a single wall switch. The fan fixture has a black, white, red (marked as "FOR LIGHT" on it), and a green wire. The green is obviously the ground.

Is there a way I can simply determine which wires should be connected together?

Thanks for any help or suggestions you can provide!
Do you have a plug in the room with a know ground?

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Old 12-31-2010, 03:36 PM   #3
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Wiring a ceiling fan in a 1950's house


There are plugs in the room, I couldnt tell you much more than that about them though. The green ground wire was just slipped in to one of the little clip like looking things on the bracket that is screwed onto the ceiling the picture.
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Old 12-31-2010, 03:38 PM   #4
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Wiring a ceiling fan in a 1950's house


are they the old two slot receptacles or three slot?
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Old 12-31-2010, 03:41 PM   #5
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Wiring a ceiling fan in a 1950's house


They are all 3 slot plugs.
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Old 12-31-2010, 03:43 PM   #6
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Wiring a ceiling fan in a 1950's house


Is this a three wire cable coming from a single bx cable or are there more wires in the back of the box? Do you have any test equipment? You can figure out which is which with a simple neon tester. If you have a good ground there then you can test between the metal of the box and each individual wire to determine which one is hot. The wire looks pretty old so you should consider rewiring the circuit. If you are going to use it then the least you should do is wrap some electrical tape around the individual wire insulation to keep it from disintegrating further.
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Old 12-31-2010, 03:44 PM   #7
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Wiring a ceiling fan in a 1950's house


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They are all 3 slot plugs.
Do you have a multi meter and an grounded extension cord?
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Old 12-31-2010, 03:50 PM   #8
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Wiring a ceiling fan in a 1950's house


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Is this a three wire cable coming from a single bx cable or are there more wires in the back of the box? Do you have any test equipment? You can figure out which is which with a simple neon tester. If you have a good ground there then you can test between the metal of the box and each individual wire to determine which one is hot. The wire looks pretty old so you should consider rewiring the circuit. If you are going to use it then the least you should do is wrap some electrical tape around the individual wire insulation to keep it from disintegrating further.
Thanks for the reply. This is a rental house, so I won't be rewiring anything - nore do I have the skill to do so, electrical is one of those things that scares me haha.

There are three more wires inside the box that are all together under one white cap. See picture below. These were not attached to anything when I took the fan down.

I have no test equipment, meters, etc.

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Old 12-31-2010, 03:51 PM   #9
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Wiring a ceiling fan in a 1950's house


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Do you have a multi meter and an grounded extension cord?
No, I know nothing about electrical work and have no related tools. I was just hoping to be able to put this back up myself rather than having to get someone to come out for $xxx money.
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Old 12-31-2010, 04:00 PM   #10
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Wiring a ceiling fan in a 1950's house


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No, I know nothing about electrical work and have no related tools. I was just hoping to be able to put this back up myself rather than having to get someone to come out for $xxx money.
Well wish i could have helped, but at a min you would need a good ground and a multi meter. I know what i think they are but that's not gonna help you. Maybe someone will come along with better ideas than my own!
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Old 12-31-2010, 04:03 PM   #11
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Wiring a ceiling fan in a 1950's house


You should not be performing electrical work in a rental property. There are liability issues. Contact your landlord.
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Answers based on the National Electrical Code. Local amendments may apply. Check with your local building officials.
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Old 12-31-2010, 04:05 PM   #12
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Wiring a ceiling fan in a 1950's house


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Well wish i could have helped, but at a min you would need a good ground and a multi meter. I know what i think they are but that's not gonna help you. Maybe someone will come along with better ideas than my own!
Okay, thanks for your help so far. Perhaps I'll look at picking up a meter tomorrow, I suppose it would be good for future use as well.

With a meter, what would I be looking for?
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Old 12-31-2010, 04:11 PM   #13
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Wiring a ceiling fan in a 1950's house


Well if you have a good ground! You would have one probe to ground and the other to one of your two wires, doing this the hot one will give you a reading between 115 and 125 volts, the other will give you no reading.
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Old 12-31-2010, 04:49 PM   #14
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Wiring a ceiling fan in a 1950's house


IF you get something like this (from HD; similar at other stores):
http://www.homedepot.com/Electrical-...atalogId=10053
You can touch the probe end to one wire and the other probe to the other: if light lights, you've got power. Should be able to see which one is neutral (white wire) by then touching one probe of meter to metal of ceiling box or ground wire and the other probe to each of the two wires you've got coming out of the ceiling (one at a time). If light lights on one of these tests, then the ceiling wire that lit the lamp should be the "hot" (black) wire.
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Old 01-01-2011, 07:44 AM   #15
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Wiring a ceiling fan in a 1950's house


As Jim said you should not be performing electrical work in a rental property. I have doubts about a ground being present since the fan ground was clipped to the box. Three slot receptacles do not guarantee the presence of a ground in a house of that vintage,visual inspection of the receptacle wiring would be required.

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