While replacing some old wall outlets, with new TR outlets, i came across a white wire connected to the hot side of a wall outlet... the black wire in this 14/2 pair is simply capped off in the receptacle box.
There are 3 pairs of 14/2 wires in this receptacle box total. see picture... enter image description here

In this particular 14/2 pair, the white wire is always hot and the black "capped" wire is only hot when the wall switch to the fan is turned "on".

The single pole wall switch that controls the fan has a single 14/2 pair in the receptacle box. The white wire in the wall switch receptacle box is connected to the top brass screw on the switch, the black wire is connected to the bottom brass screw on the switch, and the ground is connected to the ground screw.

The ceiling fan also has a single 14/2 pair in the box. the white is capped with the white from the fan, the black is capped with the black and blue of the fan, the ground is capped with the ground. see picture... enter image description here

My question is, why is there a white wire in a wall outlet that is always hot and somehow mixed in with the ceiling fan??
Removing this white "hot" wire from the outlet appears to kill all power to the switch and fan.
Is this normal/safe??

A little more information... my house was built in 1981 and i'm 90% sure the wiring is original. There was a reno job at some point during those years before i purchased the house. I replaced a ceiling flush mount light with this ceiling fan years ago. It was a simple wiring job as the ceiling receptacle box had one 14/2 pair cable in it, nothing out of the ordinary there... although i wasn't aware of this particular wired outlet then.

=====UPDATE May 7th @ 1:55pm=====

I found the mystery junction box in the attic. I would post a pic but the forum won't let me until i get 10 reputation points....

so this is what is in the junction box: (the 14/2 wire from the wall receptacle box (where the WHITE is HOT), the 14/2 wire from the fan, the 14/2 wire from the switch)

--all 3 black wires are capped together.

--the white wires from the wall and switch are capped together.

--the ground wires are all capped together WITH the WHITE wire of the fan...

Is it safe to leave it like this??? At the very least i think i will replace this old junction box with a newer box that has a cap/lid. This one was simply buried under the insulation with no cap/lid.

I am still 90% certain this is original wiring/configuration from when the house was built as it is all "type NM 14-2 with ground cirtex plastic 600 volts cerro (ul)". If it was changed as part of the reno i would think there would be some newer romex in the mix.

======another update====

well, i was really hoping i wasn't going to have to change this but it looks like i will... to make this a "normal" ceiling fan switch, this is what i think i should do...

Re-purpose the 14/2 wire coming from the wall receptacle box (since it's already there) straight to the switch. Correcting the connection to the wall out (black to brass, white to silver, ground to ground etc.).

Then run the current 14/2 wire from the switch directly to the fan.

Since these wires are not long enough to make the runs i will have to junction them into their own separate 14/2 romex. I'll make these new junction boxes visible in the attic.

I really wish i could post another picture but it would essentially be this (www.do-it-yourself-help.com/wiring_diagram_ceilingfan.html) diagram, scroll down to the "Source at the Switch", 2nd picture. As i said, my "source" wire would be the current "white/hot" 14/2 set as seen in my first in my original post. Although I will correct the connection to the outlet receptacle box (i.e. black to brass, white to silver, ground to ground etc.)

does that make sense?

  • is there more than one switch for this particular ceiling fan / outlet? Your 14/2 you said went to the ceiling fan so the light did not have a separate power line ? Hence how on earth will the wall switch turn on/off only the light - you would need a third wire for that do you find another 14/2 in there ? Assuming you are in the USA - That WHITE being hot is a Code Violation!!!! your reno may have been a DIY. Please refer to the receptacle box as the receptacle box or simply box and not as a receptacle - an AC plug goes into the receptacle which is known as the outlet as well.
    – Ken
    May 7, 2017 at 6:42
  • also you will need to locate where that white HOT wire is connected to - when it is removed; can you measure 120V on that wire ?
    – Ken
    May 7, 2017 at 6:47
  • There is only the one switch for this ceiling fan. This single switch controls power to both the light and fan at the same time. I use the pull chains on the fan to control them separately. I am in the USA. I agree i need to find out where that white hot is going... do you mean when i disconnect it is it still hot?
    – DYarr
    May 7, 2017 at 6:54
  • additionally... Ken, thank you for your assistance here
    – DYarr
    May 7, 2017 at 7:33
  • Can you post a photo of the inside of the switch box? May 7, 2017 at 15:00

1 Answer 1


This white wire feeds a switch loop that provides power to the switch for the fan. Unfortunately, there are several problems here:

  1. This white wire needs to be tagged with black tape to mark it as a hot
  2. It's not clear where the neutral comes from, but it's clearly not coming from the same box as the hot. This is at minimum a 300.3(B)/310.10(H) violation due to the wayward neutral (and a great way to screw up things sensitive to magnetic fields), but may also be a much more egregrious violation due to someone abusing the ground as a neutral.
  3. There's another junction box somewhere in this scheme that's doing something odd. You'll want to find it before doing further fiddling with the circuit.
  • If you post photos of the inside of the mystery-box, I'll update this answer with a more definitive take on what's going on. May 7, 2017 at 11:14
  • 2
    Yep, in 1981 it was common and a cheap way to supply lighting to a room by switching a receptacle in a room (code requirement). Then a few years later everyone started installing ceiling fans. This was an attempt to move the switch from the receptacle to the ceiling fan. Thus the mystery circuiting. May 7, 2017 at 13:32
  • @RetiredMasterElectrician -- haha, I know the drill re: switched receptacles as I have to live with the suckers myself! May 7, 2017 at 15:01
  • I edited the original post with the contents of the junction box i found in the attic. Thank you all so much for your help!
    – DYarr
    May 7, 2017 at 18:01

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