I have an older house built in 1973. I have basic understanding of wiring and am smart enough to be safe and complete work with instructions but by no means do I consider myself an electrician.

I'm replacing the ceiling fan in a guest room. In the ceiling box there are three sets of wires.

  • 2 white wires capped together
  • 2 black wires and one white wire capped together
  • a single black wire.

Based on another thread I read, I tried testing the sets with breaker and switch on, sets of wires away from each other and not touching any metal. In that configuration the black set of wires registers hot, the white set is not hot and the single black wire registers hot.

When I turn off the switch the single black wire stays hot and the other sets stay the same.

Seemed to be some shoddy work done previously as there were wires not tightly capped together (pulled apart when I pulled them out of box. Also loose ground wire in light switch box which was an older style LED dimmer switch. The old ceiling fan was very dim and set off a non contact tester when put anywhere close to any metal on the old fan.

I have installed a new standard light switch but am unsure about the wiring in the ceiling box. Is it possible the loose black wire should be bundled with the other black wires and one of the white wires should be a single loose wire coming from the switch?

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  • Non-contact "voltage testers" are not reliable indicators of voltage present. Entire fixtures registering "hot" with them is typical where non-grounded wiring systems are used, or equipment grounds are not connected correctly.
    – kreemoweet
    Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 22:17
  • Please note: The 2-blacks, 1-white wire nut at the ceiling needs remediation. One of the black wires is either stripped back too far (trim the end of the copper) or isn't pushed all the way into the wire nut, leaving a poor connection. You should never have any copper visible in any box except for bare ground wires.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 16:10

1 Answer 1


The pair of White wires is your Neutral.
The single Black wire is your Switched Hot coming back from your switch (part of a "switch loop").
The pair of Black wires bundled with one White wire is your Always Hot (and the white wire is the other part of the "switch loop").

Assuming your new ceiling fan also has a light, then you connect it to Neutral (White pair) and Switched Hot (single Black).
If you want to fan to be able to run when the light is off, then connect the fan to Always Hot (Black pair + one White).

  • Thank you brhans. Just to confirm if I want the light switch to only turn the light on/off but still want the fan to run (controlled by the pull chain) when the light is switched off I would wire it as follows: white (common fan/light) wire to 2 white wires in ceiling box, blue (hot power for light) wire to single black hot wire in ceiling box coming from switch and black (hot power for fan) wire to 2 black and 1 white wire bundle in ceiling box and all grounds together?
    – Darren
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 2:21
  • @Darren Correct
    – brhans
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 4:38

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