Green, orange, white wires from 1950's house - which is what?
My house was built in 1950 - originally about 850 square feet, but it was expanded to almost double in 1995. The wiring in the old part of the house is still pretty much what it was in 1950, and in the old master bedroom, the wires for the ceiling fixture are white, green, and orange. When my brother and I tried to install a new ceiling fan, we noticed that the two green wires had been taped off and were not being used. With the circuit breaker on, but the switch off, the green wires have 115 volts running through them when tested with either the white or orange wires. The white and green wires (the ones that were connected to the previous fixture) have no current when the switch is off but have 115 volts when the switch is on. We think that the white is hot and that the orange is neutral but are not sure - it could be the other way around.
What should be do with the green wires? Do they pose a danger? We got the fan to work but have not been successful with the light unit. I am going to check the wire connections this evening, if DB has enough energy left.
BTW, we have one circuit breaker that apparently does not turn anything at all off, and it is in the old part of the circuit box. Is this normal? The previous owner did a lot of his own work, and he did a terrible job of installing the previous ceiling fan. He used a wood screw instead of a machine screw to hold the fixture to the J box, and we had to retap the hole in order to replace that with a machine screw. The heater in the attic makes access to the J box from above very difficult, and it would be extremely difficult to replace the ceiling mounting box anyway, but at least it is very solidly in place.
Can anyone explain the standard wiring for houses built before 1959? I'm particularly concerned about the green wires.