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Wiring Problems from Ceiling Fan w/ light to Light Fixture

I had a ceiling fan with a light that I want to replace with fixture.  The box in the ceiling has a set of 3 wires (2-black & 1 white -capped red in pic), a set of 2 wires (2-black -capped white and yellow), a black wire (capped white) and the green ground wire.  The set of 3 wires (capped in red), include a Feed wire directly from the breaker (marked with green tape), while the other black wire feeds other rooms in the apartment, and the white, I'm assuming comes from the switch in this room. The lone black wire, I'm assuming is coming from the switch as well.  The switch box only has 1 black, 1 white, and copper wire.  I have no idea what the set of 2 wires is for, it wasn't attached to anything on the ceiling fan.  Can any explain how to correctly hook up the wires to make the fixture work?  By the way, the fixture has 1 black, 1 white, a copper wire.  I've attached a pic just in case my explanation is not clear.  

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Posted 2015-07-03T19:37:08+0000  by SamE413 SamE413
You have an interesting little mess there.  First off, that isn't a fan box but since you're doing away with the fan it probably doesn't matter anymore.  But the box looks relatively new which kind of makes me wonder what exactly is going on.

Since you have what appears to be conduit coming in at about the 3:30 position and a pair of metallic cables (likely type AC) at the 12-1 o'clock.  I can't tell from the picture but I assume the white (neutral) wires from the two metallic cables connect under the tan/yellow wire nut at about the 2 o'clock position  Now where conduit is prevalent (like Chicagoland) the use of metallic cable is generally restricted to remodel applications where it isn't possible to use conduit.  I might think that originally the box was wired so that power came up from the wall switch but somewhere along the way that got changed.

Now I think that power is coming in on one of the two metallic cables and the black and white wires going out in the conduit are the switch loop.  The other metallic cable takes power somewhere else.  Does the wall switch have a black and a white wire attached to it?   Do you have any electrical test equipment like a multimeter or non-contact tester?

Assuming you have power at the two black wires, you should also have power at the white wire at the switch.  Disconnect the white wire from the two black wires.  Power should disappear at the switch.  If that happens you have a switch loop:

  1.  You need to replace the white wire with another color wire.  Red would be a good choice because it helps keep things organized.  If you happen to have a spool of black that works too.  It can not be white, gray, or green.
  2. The new wire needs to be the correct size for the circuit.  Check the breaker.  If it's a 15 amp breaker, use 14 gauge wire, 20 amp use 12 ga. wire.  Solid is easier to work with than stranded.
  3. If you need instructions for pulling the new wire, let me know and we can walk through that.
  4. Connect the old black wire to the bottom of the switch and the new (red) wire to the top of the switch.
  5. For wiring you new fixture - black wire to the new (red) wire, white wire to the two white wires under the tan/yellow wire nut, and bare copper to the green wire (or you can eliminate the green wire entirely and attach it directly to the green screw).

Hope this helps, let me know if you have any question.  Make sure you turn off the power before making any connections!

Posted 2015-07-04T00:59:53+0000  by Adam444
Thanks for replying Adam444

To answer your question, Yes, the wall switch has 1 white, 1 black, and ground wire.  That's it.

Also, to be clear with your assessment, the conduit at the 3:30 position comes from the wall switch, and includes the only white wire in the whole ceiling box.

The two conduits at the 12-1 o'clock position have no white wires.  The wires are all black (2 from 12 o'clock/ 3 from 1 o'clock) and consist of a sort of "cloth" type insulation.  With my voltage detector, I've found that from the conduit at 1 o'clock is coming direct from the breaker.  In particular, the wire marked with green tape (next to ground wire below).

Through my process of elimination, I've also found that the one wire from the conduit at 12 o'clock (showing in new pic as hanging alone), feeds the rest of the apartment.  

Finally, The wires included in the tan/yellow nut, did not connect to anything in the ceiling fan that I removed.  From the beginning, I have not touched this set of wires in my attempt to figure it all out because I assumed since they weren't being used in the ceiling fan, I would not need them for the fixture.

Let me know if this added information changes your assessment and remedy?

Much appreciated!

Posted 2015-07-04T19:58:57+0000  by SamE413
Well, let's start with the really bad's illegal for unqualified persons (and unless you're a licensed electrician, that means you) to do electrical work in multi-family dwellings (apartments, condos, etc.) even if you happen to own the property.

The other bit of bad news is that rubber insulation of that old cloth covered wire has a nasty habit of becoming brittle over time.  You need to be very, very careful working with it and disturb it as little as possible, keeping a careful eye out for any cracked insulation.  I ran into a similar situation a few years back and changing one light fixture ended with rewiring the half the house.

So where was the white wire (neutral) of the old fan connected to?  It's pretty normal for the insulation of that cold metallic cable to discolor over time and what was once white appear dark tan, brown, gray, or almost black.  Those two metallic cables should have a "hot" and a "neutral" the metal jacket served as the ground.  At some point they discovered that the jacket alone wasn't a good ground so a thin aluminum strip was added to increase conductivity (type AC cable).  Two "hot" wires would normally be used for 240v circuits (e.g., ovens, dryers, etc.) but that seems really unlikely in a ceiling box.

That green tape around one of the old wires has me a little worried too but it seems as it was originally connected with the other black wire and white coming up from the switch.  Maybe somebody was just trying to keep track of wires and only had green tape???

Do you have a multimeter, be willing to purchase one, or have one you can borrow?

If nothing else, this is an excellent example of why it is so important to do things "right" when it comes to electricity.  Beyond the obvious hazards, you can see what a nightmare one little box has become.  Imagine what happens if you need to rewire and the rest of the place looks like this!
Posted 2015-07-05T03:07:24+0000  by Adam444
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