How to Wire a Ceiling Fan in an Older Home
February 13, 2018 by: Dave Rongey
I am installing a ceiling fan in an old home where there are three wires in the box, how should I connect the wires? How to Connect the Wires Ceiling Fan in an Older Home: The Process for Identifying Wires for a Ceiling Fan.
Connecting Old Electrical Wires to a Ceiling Fan
Electrical Question #1 I am installing a ceiling fan in an old home where there are three wires in the box, how should I connect the wires?
I live in a very old house, about 100 years old, and I am trying to replace a light fixture with a ceiling fan. I’ve followed the necessary steps by getting the mounting bracket in place, installing the light box, pulling through the wires, and now I stop to tell you that three different wires are coming together at this juncture and this throws me off since I have no idea where these wires are leading to. I proceed with the wiring as following the instructions of the ceiling fan; connect everything together and flipped the switch, and then a buzzing sound came from the light switch. I turned off the power to the room and now the ceiling lights in four rooms, all upstairs, do not work, but the outlets work fine. I’ve put the wires back to their original messed up configuration and still nothing works.
This old home electric wiring question came from: Chuck, in Brownville, Maine.
Electrical Question #2
- I installed a new ceiling fan in a spare room. I forgot to take a picture of electrical wiring before hand. All is working fine in that bedroom. In order for the light to stay on in the bathroom, I would turn on the light in the spare room where the new fan is. While the light in the room is not on, the bathroom light works. This time the light in the bathroom doesn’t work. Before connecting the new fan, the ceiling black wire had not been stripped or connected.
This electrical wiring question came from Martha, a Handywoman in Kissimmee, Florida.
Thanks for your electrical wiring questions.
Wiring a Ceiling Fan in an Older Home
- Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced.
- Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools and Voltage Tester or Continuity Tester.
- Estimated Time: Depends on experience and level of problem solving skills and ability to identify older home knob and tube electrical wiring.
- Precaution: Testing live wires is dangerous and should be done by an experienced individual only. Testing using a continuity tester should only be made after the circuit has been identified and turned OFF and Tagged.
How to Connect the Wires Ceiling Fan in an Older Home
Example: The Process for Identifying Wires for a Ceiling Fan
- Identify the Wires
It is very helpful to identify the existing wiring connections before taking any electrical connections or electrical wire splices apart. Wrap strips of colored electrical tape around each wire to match the wiring of the existing light fixture.
- Using a Voltage Tester
The electrical wiring is best revealed when using a voltage tester to identify the neutral and the hot wire and how the switch has been wired to control the light fixture.
- Using a Voltage Tester
- Circuits without a Ground Wire
Because most older homes with all original wiring do not have a ground wire, it may be helpful to have a length of wire to use for testing the wires which can be used as a ground wire where one end of the wire is attached to a water facet or copper water pipe. Identifying the wiring of the wall switch will be helpful as well, and the operation of the switch wires may be identified up at the ceiling fan as well.
- Upgrading Old Electrical Wiring
Old original electrical wiring in older homes should be replaced or upgraded whenever possible to improve the safety and reliability of the home electrical system. In the mean time, care must be taken when working with electrical wiring in an older home because the electrical wiring is typically a cloth type insulation and may not have a visible color to help identify the wires.
What to do with a Spare Wire
There are several reasons why there may be a spare wire, including the following:
- Old wiring methods and routing of the switch wiring.
- Added or altered electrical wiring which was not installed correctly.
- A wire may have slipped out of the new junction box during installation.
More about Wiring Ceiling Fans
How to Install Ceiling Fans
- Take the mystery out of ceiling fan wiring. Ceiling Fans are a great way to lower your energy bill and brighten up one of your favorite rooms.
How to Install Ceiling Fans and Wiring
- Step-by-step pictures – Easy wiring diagrams and installation guide – Light and fan switch variations.
Ceiling Fan Wiring
Light Switch Wiring
Wiring a Light Switch – Diagram 1
- Fully explained pictures and wiring diagrams about wiring light switches describing the most common switches starting with photo diagram 1.
Understanding Electrical Testers
- When working on home electrical wiring using voltage testers can play an important part in electrical safety. Electrical testers enable you to identify electrical circuits and help prevent the possibility of accidental electrical shock.
Types of Electrical Testers
Consult your Local Building Department about Permits and Inspections for all Electric Wiring Projects.
The Safest Way to Test Electrical Devices and Identify Electric Wires!The Non-Contact Electrical Tester
This is a testing tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and is the first test tool I grab to help identify electrical wiring. It is a Non-contact tester that I use to easily Detect Voltage in Cables, Cords, Circuit Breakers, Lighting Fixtures, Switches, Outlets and Wires. Simply insert the end of the tester into an outlet, lamp socket, or hold the end of the tester against the wire you wish to test. Very handy and easy to use.
The Quickest Way to Check for Faulty Electrical Wiring!The Plug-In Outlet Tester
This is the first tool I grab to troubleshoot a problem with outlet circuit wiring. This popular tester is also used by most inspectors to test for power and check the polarity of circuit wiring.
It detects probable improper wiring conditions in standard 110-125 VAC outlets Provides 6 probable wiring conditions that are quick and easy to read for ultimate efficiency Lights indicate if wiring is correct and indicator light chart is included Tests standard 3-wire outlets UL Listed Light indicates if wiring is incorrect Very handy and easy to use.
Strip Off Wire Insulation without Nicking and Damaging the Electric Wire!The Wire Stripper and Wire Cutter
My absolute favorite wire stripping tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and this is the tool I use to safely strip electrical wires.
This handy tool has multiple uses:
The wire gauges are shown on the side of the tool so you know which slot to use for stripping insulation.
The end of the tool can be used to grip and bend wire which is handy for attaching wire onto the screw terminals of switches and outlets..
The wire stripper will work on both solid and stranded wire. This tool is Very Handy and Easy to Use.
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