Removed an old ceiling fan. There was one wall switch that only controlled the lights. The fan portion could be on regardless of wall switch position (by pullchain on the unit). I'm left with two bundles of black-white-bare 3-wire hanging out of my ceiling (one is labeled "sw", for switch, I assume) The bare ground wires from each bundle were twisted together, but I'm not sure anything else was.

I untwisted the ground wires from each other.

Now, attempting to wire the new fixture, the bundle labeled for the switch won't power the fixture when I wire it up. When I wire the fixture to the other bundle instead, it is just on full time and I can't turn it off.


1 Answer 1


You probably should have paid more attention to what was connected to what. In all likelihood, the "sw" bundle has a wire that was carrying hot (power) from the unswitched wire at the fixture to the light switch, and the other wire was returning that power from the switch. The switched wire should be but often is not re-colored red in that application (ie, a back/white/ground cable running to a switch should have red tape or paint on the white wire ends if it's a "switched hot" rather than a neutral.)

That does not meet current code (which requires a neutral wire at the switch) but met older codes and was very common (a switch loop.)

As such, the expected configuration that will probably work if things are wired normally would be cable blacks together, white from unswitched cable to white on fixture, white (recolored red for clarity) from switched cable to black on fixture, and grounds all together.

  • Probably true, but the right way to determine this is to attack it with a multimeter to determine what's hot, what's neutral, and what's unconnected -- and then whether the unconnected wires (if any) connect to each other when the switch is on.
    – keshlam
    Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 23:21

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.