I just put a new exhaust fan in the bathroom and connected it to existing light switch, which is connected to the bathroom light. When I turned the power back on, the bath light came on but not the fan. When I turned the switch off, the fan turned on and the light turned off.

I figured out that both the white and black on the switch coming from the light are both hot wires.

How do I connect my fan then to run from the same switch?

  • Did you use a 3 way switch with the light on one position and the fan in the other? If not kill the breaker until you figure it out.
    – Ed Beal
    Aug 20, 2019 at 6:46
  • Can you post photos of the wiring at both the fan and the switch? Aug 20, 2019 at 11:42
  • What kind of light is it? The light doesn't come on at all? I suspect you wired the fan to a "switch loop".
    – JPhi1618
    Aug 20, 2019 at 14:20
  • 1
    You just wired the new fan directly across the switch didn't you? I'll bet $10 that if you remove the light bulb then the fan won't run no matter which position the switch is in... And with the bulb in and the fan running - look carefully at the bulb - is it glowing just a tiny bit?
    – brhans
    Aug 20, 2019 at 16:46
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    I decided to tr to attach the fan wires to where the light is located. They used the back of the light fixture as the junction box. We'll see how it goes.
    – SheenaMB
    Aug 20, 2019 at 22:53

2 Answers 2


To simplify things, there are two ways to wire a light switch and a light:



(traditionally, but wiring standards have changed)

If the switch comes first, the cable coming from the switch (A) will provide switched power to whatever you want to put on it.

If the light comes first, the cable between the light and the switch (B) is called a "switch loop". If you open up that cable, it will have a white and black conductor so it looks like hot and neutral, but it's actually playing the role of only the hot. If you were to splice in a fan at position (B), the fan would complete the circuit, and it would run by pulling power through the light.

In most cases the light would also come on, but depending on the electrical characteristics of the light and the fan, only one of them might come on.

When the switch is turned on, it is what completes the circuit to the light, so the power no longer has a reason to run through the fan.

If the above seems true - you spliced into the cable between the light and switch - the only way to wire it correctly would be to run a cable from the light to the fan. The switch box most likely wouldn't have a neutral, so you can't run a new cable from there.

  • Note that I assumed some things about the situation. If the OP addresses some of the clarifying comments on the question, it would help solidify this as the right answer (or invalidate it).
    – JPhi1618
    Aug 20, 2019 at 14:51

Attaching the fan line directly to the light, where all the wires are connected, worked. I had to connect it directly to where the line going to the switch is, which is also connected to the light. The power line was connected to the light itself. Took a while to figure it out but now it's working perfectly 😊

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