I recently had a contractor/handyman install a Hunter ceiling fan for me. It worked great, but my wife came home and thought it was too big. I ordered a different Hunter fan, and figured I could install the new one myself, using his wiring as a guide while also following the manual.

My experience with electrical wiring is pretty minimal, but I feel comfortable following the directions, using wire connectors, etc.

The directions call for connecting 3 wires from the ceiling box, but there appears to be only 2. The contractor connected the black ("ungrounded") ceiling wire to the black and blue wire (light and motor) of the fan. He also connencted a composite of 3 white wires ("grounded") from the ceiling to the white wire of the fan.

However, the directions also call for connecting a "grounding" wire from the ceiling (supposedly green, green/yellow, or bare copper) to a green/yellow striped wire from the fan and a green/yellow striped wire from the metal hanging bracket. The contractor connected the 2 green/yellow wires of the fan and metal hanging bracket together, but did not connect anything to the ceiling box. From what I can tell, this was not an omission, as I couldn't find any other wires coming from the box.

This surprised me. The fan worked fine like this, but I'm afraid the fan may not be adequately grounded. Or is grounding the fan to the metal bracket sufficient?

My plan was to hook it back up the way he had it, but I just want to make sure this is safe.


  • I think you're very, very confused about what "grounded" means, in your third paragraph.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 5:49
  • @keshlam The "neutral" conductor is technically known as the "grounded" conductor, which is not to be confused with the grounding conductor.
    – Tester101
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 10:15
  • Haven't heard it called that, though I grant that neutral also runs to earth in typical installations. Seems to me extremely bad practice, begging for confusion... but if that's rally standard terminology somewhere, I'll withdraw my objection. (I'd like to know where, though.)
    – keshlam
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 12:12
  • Is the electrical box metal? Is there a bare copper or green wire screwed to the back of the box?
    – Edwin
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 12:47
  • @keshlam National Electrical Code uses the term grounded to describe the "neutral" conductor.
    – Tester101
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 15:25

2 Answers 2


In a perfect world, with perfect electronics, there would be no need for a grounding conductor. It's there to deal with imperfections. The most likely case for a ground fault in this installation would be if the black conductor lost some insulation and shorted itself against the frame of the fan. In such a situation, the casing could become electrified, and a grounded person, touching the fan body could receive a shock.

If it were properly grounded, you'd get a short circuit to the ground wire, and the breaker would trip.

However, the fan is mounted to the ceiling, and the possibility of someone touching it is low. (Unlike, for example, the frame of a fridge or stove, where human contact is part of normal operation.)

So, Is it safe? Quite likely. For added safety, turn the wall switch off when changing bulbs. Is it to code? No. -- Unless, as others have suggested in comments, the mounting box is grounded on the other side.

You can however, locate the breaker, and replace it with a Ground Fault Interrupt breaker, which would trip should a ground fault occur. This isn't something you should do yourself unless you have experience working in the panel.

Another possibility, if your switch happens to be chained off of an outlet, which is quite possible, depending on the routing of the wiring on that circuit, is to replace the outlet with a GFCI outlet, and wire the switch to the load side of it.

  • Thanks for the replies. The terms grounding, grounded, and ungrounded I took right from the installation manual, because I didn't want to assume which wire did what. Sorry if this added to confusion. If by electrical box you mean the fusebox in the basement, then yes, it's metal. The house was a gut rehab of an older building, wouldn't be surprised if this is why the wire is not there. Any opinions as to whether only grounding it to the metal bracket and not to the ceiling box (as per my handyman's original installation) is safe?
    – user23984
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 14:03
  • Hi! It looks like you’ve accidentally created a couple of accounts. If you’d like to merge them (there are some advantages to doing so), the instructions are here. Welcome to the site!
    – Niall C.
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 14:07
  • 1
    I think Edwin was referring to the mounting box in the ceiling, not the panel. Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 14:17
  • Are the metal bracket and ceiling box not in contact with each other? Typically, they are, in which case it makes little difference which you connect to the fan's ground wire. Regardless, it's unlikely that either the bracket or the ceiling box is grounded, in which case it doesn't matter if/how you connect to them.
    – Zhentar
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 15:00

I know when the home I live in now was built (mid 60's) grounding was not required for lighting circuits in my area. The electrician that wired the house actually pulled the grounding wires back out of the box (non-metallic) and bound them together behind the box. So none of my lights or switches in the house are grounded.

It would be safer to have the fan connected to the grounding wire but if you don't have one it is safe enough not to use it. The primary purpose of the grounding wire is to keep the housing of the fan from ever becoming energized and then shocking someone that touches the fan.

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