Bathroom fan pull chain switch

LINewYorkSeptember 24, 2011

Hi all,

New to the forum and have what should be a pretty easy job to do but got a little confused. Have an old style bathroom fan with a pull chain for on/off. I replaced the fan and want to replace the pull chain switch also so its all new. I bought the switch and the electronics guy advised to make sure I spliced the switch into the hot wire. Whats got me confused (excuse me if it is a dumb question) The 2 prong plug from the fan runs into a 2 hole socket in the fan encasement. Both prongs on the plug are the same size (not polarized) I can put the plug in either way and the fan motor spins the same, the question is, which side is the hot side? Doesnt it change depending on how I plug into the socket?

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Quick update with additional info...The cord attached to the fan is black 2 wire. One wire has white writing on it and the other is blank. I think that usually the wire with the writing would be tha hot wire but if the plug is reversible, does it make any difference?

    Bookmark   September 25, 2011 at 8:11AM
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No reply at all?

    Bookmark   September 25, 2011 at 3:14PM
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While the pull chain switch in a damp environment could be an issue here, I really don't know, and would rather leave that to someone more knowledgeable of any specific code that may address this.

However, from a strictly utilitarian approach, the switch should be wired in before the receptacle in the enclosure that the plug on the fan unit itself plugs into, and of course on the hot side.

Many bath ceiling fan/light enclosures are wired like this (with a plug-in for the fan) but they are then controlled by single, or individual, wall switches.

Where is the current pull chain switch that you wish to replace wired into fixture?

    Bookmark   September 25, 2011 at 6:02PM
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For a single-phase 120V AC motor, the direction of the motor is not determined by the orientation of the power, but rather by the construction of the motor. There is no advantage to polarizing the receptacle in this situation.

I'd recommend using a meter or some other testing device to determine for certain which side of the receptacle is hot.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 9:31AM
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Kurto, Thanks for the reply. I can find out which side of the outlet is hot but then the side of wire which needs to be spliced will change dependant on how the plug is inserted, correct?

    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 6:28PM
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Not if you put the switch in before the receptacle (where it should be anyway).

One side will be hot, the other nuetral.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 7:18PM
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Hi Brick, the outlet is actually up in the duct that encircles the fan. The fan has about a foot long cord on it. Its the standard fan setup that came with the house so there must have been a huge amout of them years ago (house was early 60ies) This really shouldnt be this complicated. I guess Ill just see which side of the outlet is hot and use that side of the cord- and never unplug it. I shouldnt have to anyway. Once its up there I wont be touching it again until the bathroom is gutted and redone.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 10:09PM
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you need to forget about installing the switch on the motor lead and install it on the hot side ahead of the receptacle. if you absolutely insist on installing the switch on the motor lead you need to find some kind of 2 pole switching mechanism as you cannot switch a grounded conductor without also switching it's associated ungrounded conductor(s). it is a very simple task, you are the one complicating it by trying to put the switch where it should not go.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 9:28AM
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The zip cord used for the motor power lead is not designed to be cut and spliced, even inside a fixture enclosure.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 10:05AM
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