Hi, I am attempting to connect a new ceiling fan to an older house.
There was a ceiling fan here but it isnt working. The fan that I will
install has no light.
As the wires are very old its hard to tell which is white and which is
Is there a test that I can do to tell which is which? red or black?
Red or black isn't the object. You want the pair that gives you a 120 volt
circuit. When you remove the existing fan, see which wires it was connected
to. The new fan will probably have three wires on it. Black and white will
usually power the fan and some other color like blue or black with white
stripes will power the light. If your not using a light kit, just don't
connect that wire. If your existing fan had a fan and a light and each had
their own control, you need to determine which wires in the box are fed by
which control and connect the fan accordingly. To simply test the wires to
see which is hot and which is neutral, you can use a light bulb in a pigtail
socket. Touch one lead to a wire in the box and the other lead to the metal
box. Whichever wire in your box gives you a light is your hot wire. This
test is contingent on your electrical system being grounded though.
Why was the old fan not working? If it's the wiring then a new fan won't
help. Why no light on the new one?
Take a good look at the various add-on remote controls you can get for fans.
The one with a temperature sensor on it is VERY handy. This way the wall
switch can be left for controlling the light and the remote automagically
handles the fan.
Color doesn't matter. It SHOULD matter but you're at the mercy of whomever
installed the wire in the first place. Yes, white should be neutral but
ALWAYS check it. Red's supposed to be hot from the wall switch. A simple
voltmeter test should tell you if a wire is live or not. Just test the wire
with the switch on and off and see how it comes out. It's not uncommon for
a ceiling box to have all three; neutral, hot and switched. But it's
likewise just as possible for it to only have neutral and switched. It
depends on where the wire went first, from the breaker to the ceiling or the
You could wire a plug on it and test it with a plug in circuit tester.I
don't know what the actual name of tester is. Plugs into an outlet has two
yellow lights one red light . By how the light you know if your plug is
correct. Test for Open Ground, open neutral, open hot, hot/ground reverse,
hot/neutral reveres and correct. Handy little tool. You can also try and
clean the wires with Koof off or something like that. The wires get
overspray on the when the ceiling is painted .
Yes, if you have a multimeter there are a few different
ways. But, I have to ask:
-- Do the wires have cloth insulation? If so, it
might be deteriorating to the point of becoming a
serious problem. Messing with it can bring about those
problems just by a tug here and a push there.
I only ask because it's common in old houses to find
substandard wiring like that. Been there, had it,
exchanged it. ANYway, on to your question:
-- Black is supposed to be the "hot" wire, the one
that carries 120V ac. Current comes from the mains box
-- White is supposed to be the neutral wire; no
voltage shows on it, in general. Current returns to
the mains box thru it.
You don't give an experience level, so please realize
it can be VERY dangerous, even DEADLY working on
electrical wires without the requisite knowledge of
electricity. IT's no skin off my nose if you kill
yourself or maim yourself into a vegetable, but your
family or friends might care.
Get a cheap multi-meter from Radio Shack or wherever,
that will measure ohms and volts ac.
If there's a wall switch to the fan, turn it ON.
With the wire leads on and the wire ends exposed,
measure between each wire and earth ground, the "third"
wire or conduit or whatever supplies it.
If there is no third wire or conduit or ... , stop.
You cannot safely install a fan. I've no more to say
because it cannot be done safely.
If there is a third wire, measure between each of the
two exposed wires to the earth ground
The "black" wire will show 120V ac to it.
The "white" wire will show zero or very close to 0
Vac. At the 120V ac scale, it'll show zero but you
might see some small voltage if you've set the scale
lower or it's an auto-ranging meter. As long as it's
nearly zero, that's probably OK.
If you should see between, say, 45V and 120V on it,
then STOP. Something is wrong. Nothing more can be
done by the neophyte.
Best bet would be to call an electrician or someone in
the business who is licensed to do electric work. That
way, with a house that old, if the wiring happens to
also be that old, it'll get noticed and you'll be told
It is never a good idea to work on electric
circuitry if you don't nkow anything about it. The
most general rule is NEVER let both hands/arms get near
any of the wires. Electricity can kill in a few
sixteenths of a second.
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