Hoping I can get some help here. Trying to figure out the wiring in my outlet box for a ceiling fan install. I have two black wires, two red wires, two white wires, and then a bare wire for ground.

Primarily confused by the two black and two red. I'd like to the fan and lights on independent switches, which seems plausible with this set-up, however confused by the presence of the two red wires.

If it helps, there are capped red and black wires in the two light switch boxes that should power these fans (there are three ceiling outlet boxes total). The fixtures were removed before we moved in, so I have no idea how any previous fans were wired.

Ceiling outlet box. Ignore the green wire (that's from the attached bracket). Seems to have tCeiling outlet box. Ignore the green wire (that's from the attached bracket). Seems to have two red, two black, and two white wires, along with bare ground. Can't seem to figure out the need for the red wires, or why there are two of each. First light box. Features four total switches. The bottom two are used outside, however the top two should be for the ceiling fan I believe. First light box. Features four total switches. The bottom two are used outside, however the top two should be for the ceiling fan I believe. Sorry the pictures aren't the best, but hopefully this may help a little to see where the wires are connected. Here's the best shot I could get of the top switch from the first light box with the beige backing. Says that it is SPEC GRADE on it, if that helps anyone. Here's the best shot I could get of the top switch from the first light box with the beige backing. Says that it is SPEC GRADE on it, if that helps anyone. Here is the one switch on the second lightbox. I'd prefer for this switch to operate the lights, or the whole thing, since the lights will be the thing turned on and off the most. Here is the one switch on the second lightbox. I'd prefer for this switch to operate the lights, or the whole thing, since the lights will be the thing turned on and off the most.

Any and all help is appreciated. Thank you!

  • Can you post a photo of the light switch boxes? – ThreePhaseEel Jan 24 '16 at 1:27
  • Sure. There are two light switch boxes that I believe power the fans (three ceiling outlet boxes in the room). Lightbox 1: i.imgur.com/wF4XFkw.jpg Lightbox 1 (again): i.imgur.com/H5ZwWMb.jpg Lightbox 2: i.imgur.com/kAwODhr.jpg The top two switches in the first lightbox should power the fan and lights I believe (top switch being the one with the beige SPEC GRADE box around it) – Ross Jan 24 '16 at 1:33
  • I've added your images to the post; you may want to re-edit and provide more descriptions of what the images are. – Daniel Griscom Jan 24 '16 at 2:16
  • 2
    The pictures of the switches aren't very helpful, since we can't see clearly what's attached to what. – Tester101 Jan 24 '16 at 2:47
  • I suspect the electrician just had 14/3 wire available and ran it to the fan and lights and just made up all the taps. But this is just a guess to why. I also noticed the pancake box is too small for the amount of conductors. You may want to hire an electrician to fix that if it concerns you. – Kris Jan 24 '16 at 14:45
up vote 0 down vote accepted

I suspect that one "set" of the red, black, and white wires is coming "in" the box, and the other "set" is going "out" of the box, downstream to another receptacle, fixture, or switch.

I don't see the harm in adding a third wire to each pair already there to bring power to the fan. Ground the fan properly.

  • Ah, this makes sense! Maybe it's due to the fatigue of shoveling out of this blizzard, but completely failed to consider the fact that all three of the room's ceiling fan boxes are connected. Duh. Well, that seems to answer my issue about the two wires. So, you think that as long as the fan is properly grounded, it wouldn't be an issue simply wiring in the fan's light and fan wires to their respective red and black pairs? – Ross Jan 24 '16 at 2:41
  • Anything electric powered with conductive metal parts that can be touched during operation should be properly grounded. That goes for any situation and is not particular to your question. I was only reminding you of this for good measure. You should be able to add wires to the ones in the box to power the fan. I don't see the harm in trying this - those wires are already connected in there, and adding an additional path for the electricity should not be a problem. – paul Jan 24 '16 at 2:45

I wouldn't tamper with the wiring until you know what has been done already. It looks like one device (presumably the light) is controlled in 2 locations via a 3-way switch, and the other device by a single.

I would probably start by getting a non-contact voltage detector (or temporary lamps) and see which wires in the ceiling are hot in various combinations of switches being thrown. Figure out which one is energized by the switch you want to throw the most, and designate that the lamp circuit. The other is the fan. You probably won't have to change a thing in the switches.

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