My mom has a ceiling fan with a light kit. When the wall switch (single
toggle) is in the on (up) position the fan will run and when the switch
is in the off position (down) the fan stops running. OK, that is normal.
Here is the problem, the light will only turn on and off using the
chain, and it doesn't matter if the wall switch is in the on or off
position. Wall switch up, light turns on and off with chain. Wall switch
down, light turns on and off with chain. What is going on here?
BTW, this isn't a new problem. She bought the house 6 years ago and it
has just now been brought to my attention.
You have two hots and a neutral in the ceiling box, one hot is switched
and is going to the fan, the unswitched hot is going to the lights. I
would reverse that so the light switch controls the light, then control
the fan from the chains, but that is a personal preference.
OK I'll pull down the cover and look at it. I'm pretty sure every
ceiling fan I've every installed in place of a light fixture only had
black (hot) and a white (neutral) wire. What is the purpose of an
You need to decide if you have a reason to leave the fan on when the
light is off.
It is nice that you have a choice of hot and also a switched conductor
in the box, but you could put both on the switched so nothing is on
when you turn off the switch.
In our kitchen we often want the fan running in the daytime when we
most certainly do NOT need the lights on.
In a bedroom the same is true. You may very well want the fan running
all night, but certainly don't want the lights on.
Same in a living room.
The only "hot" in the box is unswitched, bur it is then "dropped" to
the switch, which returns the power on the white wire, which is
supposed to be marked with black tape to indicate it is "live". You
will find one cable (romex) coming in that is live at all times, and
the black from it will be connected to the black of a second cable
that goes to the switch. The light is also connected to that black
wire, and the fan is connected to the white that returns frm the
switch (the switched "live". Both share the neutral of the "feed"
cable. Switch the wires for the line side of the fan and light, the
light will work on the switch, and the fan will work only with it's
Another option is you MAY have a 3 wire coming through the switch box
(extremely unlikely) with the black switched and the red run straight
through. Possible, but EXTREMELY unlikely. Again, switching the feeds
on the light and fan(reversing them) will have the same effect.
It could have two hots but it doesn't need two hots. One hot as the
supply is all that's needed. Then a two conductor from there to the
wall switch. That provides all that's needed to have the fan side
always hot and controlled by the pull cord and the light side runs
thru the two conductor to be turned on and off. Or switch the fan and
light if you want it the other way.
The wouse was wired for just a light, with a "drop switch" setup..
Power and neutral go to the ceiling box - neutral fastened to the
light, power carried down to the switch and back up to the light.
When the fan was installed. the fan was wired in place of the light,
and the light was connected across the power and neutral in the box.
More common is to connect the light to the wall switch and the fan to
the live so the fan runs on the pullchain, switch off or on - and the
light is controlled by the wall switch. Just need to switch 2 wires at
Argh! Half of the information is not visible due to camera angle. :<
Before doing anything, verify power to the branch circuit is off.
Turn the light on, verify the bulb is illuminated. Kill the
breaker, verify the bulb is OFF. Make sure no one mucks with the
[Note, I suspect at least ne other outlet/fixture is powered AFTER
this point; see notes below. You might want to identify that
so you know how leisurely your repair can be -- before "someone"
gets annoyed that they are reading in the dark, etc.]
It looks like the ROMEX at top right is bringing power *to* the box
(or, taking it FROM the box and carrying it off to some other Jbox
down the line). There appear to be *two* more ROMEX (?) lines
not visible behind the fam mounting bracket at the lower left.
One of these will be in a similar role as the ROMEX in the upper
right (i.e., bringing power in or carrying it farther down the line).
The *other* (not visible) ROMEX will be the drop to the wall switch.
It currently has it's white wire connected to the two blacks (and blue).
This supplies power (hot) to the wall switch.
[N.B. This white wire should be "taped black" -- i.e., have a piece
of black electrical tape wrapped around it to indicate "this wire
is serving the role of a BLACK/hot wire in this circuit"]
After passing through the switch, this wire returns as the mating
BLACK wire in that strand of ROMEX and is connected to the black
pigtail of the appliance -- i.e., the FAN connection (from your
description of the circuit's operation).
The LIGHT gets power through the blue pigtail -- i.e., ALWAYS (as
it bypasses the switch entirely).
FAN and LIGHT share the white, common "neutral" pigtail (which is
always connected to the neutrals from the ROMEX's that are passing
*through* the box.
If you want the FAN *and* LIGHT to both be "gated" by the wall switch
(i.e., neither will operate unless the switch is ON), then MOVE
the blue pigtail to the wire nut that has the black pigtail
(so, that wirenut will now have black and blue pigtails AND the
"switched black" lead returning from the wall switch).
Don't just naively add the blue wire to the black/black wires.
Make sure the wire hasn't degraded from being twisted in its
previous connection, now untwisted, etc. You may have to trim
off any damaged ends and remove some more insulation to have
"good wire" to play with.
Make sure the two blacks and white-taped-black are also firmly
twisted back together before reattaching the wire nut.
Make sure none of the wires will end up pinched in the box
or by the fan bracket! Remember, fan is designed to wobble
N.B. You can often rewire the *appliance* as well. So, you can arrange
for the pull chain to control the FAN and have the LIGHT be "on
all the time" (i.e., whenever the wall switch is ON, the light comes
on; the fan can also be gated on/off through the switch OR can
have power available at all times and turned on/off via the pull
[This latter is how I prefer to have ceiling fans wired; I *always*
want the light to be easily available and will suffer the inconvenience
of having to pull a chain for the fan!]
Do yourself a favor and put a cable clamp on the piece of ROMEX coming in
from the top right. If the one (two?) at the bottom left is missing a
clamp as well, add one there. You may have to remove the box (at least two
wood screws visible) to get it *into* the knockout on the Jbox... and, may
have a bit of work required to get the whole assembly back up into the
ceiling without enlarging the hole in the drywall. Can't attest to the
stiffness of the support (to which the box AND fan support) are connected
but fans like to introduce vibrations while operating; you don't want
to discover that you're slowly wearing a hole through the insulation where
that ROMEX passes through the knockout (rough edge of Jbox opening).
Also, verify the ground (bare) wire from the "invisible" ROMEX's are actually
present and bonded to the case -- and the other ground wire. Otherwise,
something is not seeing a ground!
On 12/7/2015 11:41 AM, Don Y wrote:
[apologies as I realize the wire/wire nut references may have been ambiguous.
Edited to try to clarify...]
Print a copy of the picture (B&W is OK) and get a marker to label
each wire -- "can't tell the players without a program!"
I.e., the ROMEX at upper right and *one* of the ones at lower left
are "passing through" the box. The black wires of each are tied together
in the RIGHT RED wire nut -- and the white wires tied together in the
LEFT RED wire nut.
The drop connects it's white wire to the RIGHT RED wire nut that
brings HOT *through* the Jbox; the black conductor for the drop
connects to the black pigtail in the YELLOW wire nut.
I.e., the YELLOW wire nut is only HOT when the wall switch is ON.
I.e., the RIGHT RED wire nut is ALWAYS HOT (when the circuit breaker
The LEFT RED wire nut is ALWAYS NEUTRAL.
The YELLOW wire nut is (wall) SWITCHED HOT.
That's the RIGHT RED wire nut.
Note that the wire nuts are different colors for a reason; the
RED will accept more wire (total "twisted" thickness) than the
yellow. So, you may find the YELLOW won't fit in place of the
RIGHT RED wirenut (when you're putting everything back together,
don't swap the wirenuts).
It looks like this is all #14AWG so RED and YELLOW should each
accommodate what you have, here... but "just in case", something
you can watch for!
If you opt to remove the fan bracket to make it easier to
access the wires (or, to remove the box to install the
suggested cable clamps), note how the wires are routed
*through* the fan bracket (remember, fan wobbles *on*
I can't verify that the Jbox used is actually suitable (rating)
to carry the mechanical load (wobble, wobble) of the fan.
The points at which the fan bracket connects to the box
should, ideally, transfer the weight directly up to the
base of the Jbox -- and the wooden support to which it
is attached. Note the special mounts in the below
located at upper right and lower left. Read inscription stamped
[Most DIYers don't think through what they are doing and just
do what LOOKS like it MIGHT be correct. Ditto for handyman
hires, etc. Remember, there's a REASON for all these rules! :>]
Everything snipped because the aioe news server - which I've never used
before - doesn't like several lines of quoted text.
Thanks for the help, Don. Installed the clamps and moved the blue wire
to the switched black wire. Didn't have to pull the box to install the
clamps. This house has a walk-in attic, but that room doesn't have any
flooring over it. So I was able to put the clamps through the holes from
above. Fan and light both working from wall switch now. Mom is happy!
I'd be more concerned about the missing (?) ground connections
(though they may simply have been hidden in the photo) and whether
or not the Jbox was rated to support a fan (mechanical) load...
The missing ground(s) can be a safety hazard for the other boxes
that are fed *from* this one (in addition to the wall switch which
should also have a grounded connection).
The mechanical rating of the box can cause the fan to come
tumbling down... :<
Another tip: make sure the cowling that fits up against the
ceiling has a little bit of slop between it and the ceiling.
If you snug it up tight to the ceiling, then as the fan
wobbles, it will crack the ceiling.
Not if it is installed properly - the fan hangs on a "U" joint or
"gimball" and can pivot anywhere it wants without moving the canopy.
If the canopy is moving, the box is moving, and it will soon come
Proper installation is canopy tight to the ceiling
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