Wiring a fan and lights

annietyeMarch 11, 2011

Hello, I have a question about replacing a few switches. My bathroom has a light/fan unit that has one main light, one secondary light and the fan. Each of the three receptacles has its own switch and operates independently of the others.

I replaced some drywall and decided to swap out the switches, but I didn't think about noting the wiring scheme (stupid, I know!). Now I'm wondering how to get the new switches in place.

The box has two cables, I believe they are a 14/2 line and a 14/4 load (with black, white, pink, and blue wires). The old switches were wired so that one had a black line and a pink load, one had pink for both line and load, and the third had blue for both line and load.

I am a bit confused about rewiring so that each switch is operable independently of the others. Suggestions? Thanks!

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terribletom

Just taking description of the switch terminals, and disregarding line versus load differentiations, we have:

1 switch with 1 black 1 pink
1 switch with 2 pinks
1 switch with 2 blues

That gives us totals of 1 black, 3 pinks and 2 blues.
And then we know there is at least 1 white (in the "14/4").

Guessing that one of the conductors of the "14/2" is also a white, that suggests 1 black, 2 whites, 3 pinks and 2 blues for a grand total of 8. Any way you slice it, that's too many for 1 x 14/2 and 1 x 14/4.

There have to have been some other connections within the box. For example, was the black from the 14/2 by any chance connected with one or more wirenuts to short black, pink and blue pigtails?

Even that wouldn't fully explain the two pink loads, but I'm just trying to make some progress understanding this problem.

Cheers, Tom

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 12:43PM
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annietye

Thanks a lot Tom, I was having similar trouble with the math! I am kicking myself for not taking a picture of the wiring scheme before gleefully disassembling it (I'm great at demo).

I believe that there was initially one switch (14/2, no ground). At some point the other two switches were added, with the 14/4 running from the ceiling into the 2-gang box (with the pink/pink and blue/blue), then into the box with the initial switch (black/pink).

Does that give you any additional information? I appreciate your taking time to help me!

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 12:54PM
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annietye

P.S. My plan was to connect the black load to the pink and blue loads with a wire nut, and then the pink and blue lines with the white line. Does that sound reasonable?

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 1:01PM
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terribletom

"P.S. My plan was to connect the black load to the pink and blue loads with a wire nut, and then the pink and blue lines with the white line. Does that sound reasonable?"

Uh, nope, it sure doesn't. Unless you knew for certain that a white wire is used as a hot feed in a switch loop (possible, but should have been re-marked as such by the installer), the last thing I'd do is connect a white of unknown parentage to any other color.

One point of confusion to me concerns how you are distinguishing between line and load. (In this context, "line" refers to incoming power whereas "load" refers to outgoing or switched power. With ordinary household single-pole switches, there is no practical difference between line or load terminals. But when trying to reconstruct how something was wired, the difference is very important.)

Connecting the black load to pink and blue loads would have the probable effect of turning on all three outlets whenever the switch feeding the black is on. (That is, if anything happens at all other than a short circuit.)

We may be fighting some difficulties in terminology and I haven't a clue how you're identifying one wire as a "load" and another as a "line", on the basis of what is known.

My suggestion is that you take the covers off the receptacle boxes and record the wire colors connected to the receptacle terminals, noting which colors are attached to brass (hot) screws and which are attached to silver (neutral screws). Also make a note if you seen any black wire, in any of the receptacle boxes, connected to a white wire.

Reinstating a previous question: Were there wirenutted pigtails in that box? If so, are they intact or what? Please describe.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 1:41PM
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terribletom

Adding a question: Is the "14/4" really a cable or are there individual conductors run in conduit?

BTW, the word "cable" refers to several conductors bound together in the same sheath. While 14/4 cable with white, black, red and blue conductors does exist (mostly for three-phase work), it is not very common in residential wiring in the U.S. Just wondering.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 1:49PM
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hendricus

I have a similar setup with a fan/heat/light combo. My 12/2 is the power and neutral in. The 12/4 is neutral from the fixture on the white with all the others powering the fixture.

My setup in the switch box is power black to all the switches. Incoming white/neutral to fixture white/neutral. All outgoing colors go on the other terminal of the switches.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 7:25PM
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terribletom

"My setup in the switch box is power black to all the switches. Incoming white/neutral to fixture white/neutral. All outgoing colors go on the other terminal of the switches."

That makes perfectly good sense, in which case the incoming 14/2 black would be pigtailed to each of the three switches.

If the pigtails were 2 pinks and one blue, I suppose that might match the OP's details.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2011 at 12:16PM
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annietye

When I removed the old outlets there were wire nuts with pigtails, but I cannot remember what was connected to what! (Lesson learned!) I thought this would be a simple case of replacing a few old, ugly switches and didn't make any note of how it was wired up.

I understand that there's not a practical difference between line and load in a single pole switch, but as you mention, I will need to know what comes from the source as I rewire. I've tried to use 'line' to represent upstream and 'load' to represent downstream current. I'm sorry if I'm using the terms incorrectly and appreciate your help!

When I say 14/4 I mean one Romex-type cable with four plastic wrapped wires (black, white, baby blue and pink [these things are literally easter egg pastel]) and one bare ground wire (that was not connected in the original set-up).

The scheme hendricus provided is helpful, thank you both!!

    Bookmark   March 14, 2011 at 5:42PM
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annietye

Got it! Thank you! Pigtailed black to the hot terminals for each switch and used the colors as the outgoing to the lights/fan.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2011 at 7:07PM
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