I'm remodeling a room and someone decided to help me by taking down an existing ceiling fan with a light fixture. However they didn't make note of how the wires were connected and I'm having trouble figuring it out.

The light was turned on by a switch on the wall and both the fan and light could be turned off and on by the pull-chains when the switch was on. There is a 4-wire cable (black, red, white, ground) coming from the switch box and another 3-wire cable that I am not sure where it goes.

When they took the fixture down, they put wire nuts on the exposed wires - possibly reflecting the way they were connected (they don't remember)? In the ceiling, the two neutral wires are nutted together, the two grounds are twisted together, the red from the switch and the black from the other cable are nutted together and the black from the switch is by itself.

The fixture has a neutral, power for the fan and power for the light. There is also a ground which is connected to a screw in the side of the motor housing bracket on one end and the conduit for the wires going into the motor on the other end (I think it came from the manufacturer this way).

On the fixture, the fan and light power wires are twisted together.

The red wire goes into the top of the light switch (when the switch was up, it was on).

Does the fixture neutral wire get connected to the two other neutrals? Do the fan and light power wires get connected to the red and black wires that are nutted together? If yes, what happens to the single black wire?

Also, shouldn't the ground wires be connected to the light fixture? They are twisted together but they were not connected to the ground on the fixture or the ceiling light box.


  • Does the light switch box have any other wires going to it or just the "4 wire romex"? (note, the ground wire is not counted when referring to the cable, so that romex is probably 14/3 where 14 is the wire size and 3 is the conductor count).
    – JPhi1618
    Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 21:23
  • It is actually a 2-gang box with 2 switches in it. One switch operates the fan/light and the other operates a different ceiling light across the room. It appears there is a 14-2 romex entering at the bottom of the switch box which powers both switches. There are two other cables: the 14-3 for this light and a 14-2 for the other light. Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 21:33
  • Hmm, if the power comes in to the switch box and the 14/3 goes from the switch to the fan, that extra 14/2 in the fan box is a little puzzling. The 14/3 in the switch box that goes from the "switch to the fan"... What are the red and black wires connected to? You say the red connects to the switch, but where does the black connect in the switch box?
    – JPhi1618
    Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 21:39
  • 1
    There is a wire nut in the box with 3 black wires in it. One wire is from the 14-2 entering the bottom of the box, the second wire is from the 14-2 entering from the top of the box and the third wire loops around the bottom connector of the fan/light switch (I think the insulation is stripped off at this location) and then plugs into the top of the second light switch (when this switch is up, the lights are on). Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 21:59
  • I think a picture of the switch box is in order here. Sounds like too much going on to get a good textual description.
    – JPhi1618
    Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 22:03

2 Answers 2


It looks like you’ve misinterpreted the use of some of the wires, but this is the way I interpret it.

For the switch box, you have a 14/2 coming in with power and a 14/2 that leaves with constant power to go on to the next outlet or light in the circuit. One switch provides switched power to the black wire on the 14/3, and the other switch gives switched power to the red.

In the fan box, the red wire is connected to the black in the 14/2 which travels to the other light in the room. The black wire is what supplies switched power to the fan and that’s why it is not hooked up.

So, the fan will connect to the black wire for power, the white wire for neutral, and the grounds will also need to be connected.

If you need more clarification, let me know and I can edit this with more detail later.

  • OK, so in the fan box the 2 neutrals should be connected, the red & black should be connected and the single black is connected to the fan/light power wires. Should the fan neutral wire get added to the nut with the other neutrals? Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 22:40
  • Yes, the neutrals are all shared and so are grounds. The hot wires are switched, so those need to go to specific places.
    – JPhi1618
    Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 0:19

What complicates things is that there is a Code requirement (called out in NEC, repeated in building codes) that a switch in an obvious location must turn on a light in the room. They notch out an exception for switched receptacles; these also count.

If the fan's light is the only light in the room, it must switch with the switch.

Light and fan are inop unless the switch is on (original setup)

... And switch has a neutral, with full smart-switch support. In this case, we define the cable colors as follows:

Black = always-hot
Red = switched-hot from the switch
White = actual neutral everywhere

The switch connects to red and black (if it cares, black is always-hot).

Both fan "hots" go to the red wire from the switch.

All other blacks together. All whites together including the fan.

Light off the light switch, fan off pull chain

... And switch has a neutral, with full smart-switch support. Again, cable colors are:

Black = always-hot
Red = switched-hot from the switch
White = actual neutral everywhere

The switch connects to red and black (if it cares, black is always-hot).

All whites together including the fan.

The FAN "hot" goes with all the other black wires.

The LIGHT "hot" goes to the red wire from the switch. Tuck the light pull-chain away; it shouldn't be used as it will break the switch, which will be confusing for people trying to get a light turned on.

Separate switch control of fan and light; NO smart switch.

In this case we re-task the "white" wire on the switch branch to be an always-hot. Choice of white wire is mandatory, and it must be marked/tagged with tape on both ends. We also re-task the "black" switch branch to be "lamp" switched-hot (I like blue for this).

Black (and remarked white) = always-hot
Red = switched-hot (for fan) from the switch
Blue = switched-hot (for light) from the switch

Now we fit a double switch. Black (actually remarked-white) go to common. Red goes to switch #2. Blue goes to Switch #1.

Back at the fan, the /2 cable's black wire goes to the /3 cable's "black" (remarked white) wire.

All whites that aren't remarked go together.

The two fan "hot" wires are split. The red wire goes to fan hot. The blue wire goes to lamp hot.

Again, tuck up the lamp pull cord, as you won't want to pull it. That would disable the switch.

Leave the fan pull-chain; you'll need it to select speed.

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