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I have 2 ceiling fan boxes wired (and properly anchored to a beam), with 12-3 wire and separately switched. Obviously the intention was for somebody to eventually hang 2 fans with integrated lights and allow the lights and fans to be controlled independently of each other (i.e. 2 lights on one switch, 2 fans on the other). I don't want to use lights on the fans and instead would like to install separate lights physically separate from the fans. The idea being to run new 12-2 wire from the fan box, using the switched red to power the fans and connecting the black on the new wire to the switched black in the fan box to power the lights and connecting the neutral in the box to the neutral of the new wire and likewise for ground. Assuming if this is allowed that I wouldn't need to use 12-3 and carry around the unused switched red.

Can I do that and still meet code, or do I need to run a brand new circuit for the lights? I'm not at home at the moment, and I'm assuming the red and black hot wire are both on the same phase since I don't recall there being a double-ganged breaker or having to switch them off individually when I tested them a couple weeks ago.

The reasons I'd like to avoid a new cable are:

  1. The switches are on an exterior concrete block wall with a solid concrete header directly above them (Florida standard construction)
  2. There are horizontal stiffeners in the walls making it even more difficult to fish through the walls
  3. The installation is on the opposite side of the house from the attic access (far), the roof is constructed with trusses (difficult to move through) and I think I mentioned Florida (attic temperatures regularly exceed 140°F)

Otherwise, I'd happily fish a new cable through the walls and attic.

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This is usually fine, just watch out for box fill

Adding extra lights to the light side of a fan+light circuit is fine. The only real limit on how much you can add here (until you get to circuit ampacity, that is), is the watt rating of what controls the lights; this isn't an issue for switches, but can be a problem if there's a dimmer or combination light/fan control involved in the circuit.

The only other issue you can run into is box fill in the fan box; this isn't an issue for crossbar or saddle type fan boxes, but pancake boxes have essentially no usable fill, so if your fans are mounted to pancake boxes, you may have to change the box you're tapping power off at out for a different type, or tap power at the switch if switched-light-hot and neutral are both available there.

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  • Thanks! I figured it was, but so often what seems simple and obvious with electricity turns out to not be up to code, usually for good reason. In this case I'm really just extending the lighting circuit that would exist inside the fan. I'll be using LED fixtures, so current draw should be minimal. – Colin Young May 29 '19 at 0:52
  • Only thing i can add is box fill of fan box. If a pan cake fan rated box with 12/3 you may already be over full and need to change things . – user101687 May 29 '19 at 2:25
  • @RobertMoody good pt. on box fill, thx, added :) – ThreePhaseEel May 29 '19 at 2:28
  • I was planning to change the boxes anyway (they're pancake, and "box" is being generous), since I need to remove them to feed the light cables into the attic. Even with 14/3 I need a full depth round box. – Colin Young May 29 '19 at 13:05

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