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Electrical Switch Wiring - Switch And Outlet Wiring Made Easy

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Fan / Light Combination Switch Wiring

Fan Always Hot
Light Switched

Power at Fixture

 

WHILE EXTREME CARE HAS BEEN IMPLEMENTED IN THE PREPARATION OF THIS SELF-HELP DOCUMENT, THE AUTHOR AND/OR PROVIDERS OF THIS DOCUMENT ASSUMES NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ERRORS OR OMISSIONS, NOR IS ANY LIABILITY ASSUMED FROM THE USE OF THE INFORMATION, CONTAINED IN THIS DOCUMENT, BY THE AUTHOR and / OR PROVIDER.

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Power at Fixture Fan always hot

Power at Fixture Fan always hot

Connections Instructions:
(as depicted in the diagrams above)

At the Fixture box...

Two  cables entering this box, one coming from switch the other is the 'circuit power supply cable'.

* a) using an insulated wire nut connect / join the white wire coming from switch + the black wire from the 'circuit power supply cable' + the ungrounded conductor (hot) of fan (shown as red in diagram).
* b) connect the black wire coming from switch to the switched ungrounded conductor (hot) from light (shown as black in diagram)
* c) connect the white wire coming from the 'circuit power supple cable' to the grounded conductor (neutral) of fixture.
* d) please see under important notes in regards to the equipment grounding conductor (bare wire).

At switch box...

One cables entering this box coming from fixture.

* a) connect the black wire coming from fixture to the one of the main screws of the switch (this will switch the light of the fan/light combo fixture)
* b) connect the white wire coming from fixture to the other main screws of  switch.
* c) please see under important notes in regards to the equipment grounding conductor (bare wire).

Important Notes:

By electrical codes you MUST have at least 6 inches of wire in the electrical box itself, and also the wire must be able to reach at least 3 inches outside the box, it can fail an electrical inspection if the required min. wire length is not met.  You may have the wires a bit longer (within reason) but they cannot be shorter. Also see the note on box fill further down in this article.

You are allowed to re-designate a white wire  to be used as a hot (ungrounded conductor) in switch circuits but in those cases where a white wire is used in this manner, you must wrap a piece of black electrical tape around that white wire inside the box  to signify that is being used as an ungrounded (hot) conductor.

You cannot re-designate a white wire that is actually connected to the light fixture itself. At the fixture itself, the white wire must be the grounded conductor (neutral) coming from the circuit power supply cable. 

In the configuration depicted on this page, the white wire on the cable running between the fixture and switch has been used as a ungrounded conductor therefore you must wrap a piece of black electrical tape around both end of this white wire, the other white wire at the fixture is actually a grounded conductor (neutral) therefore NO black tape on the ends of that wire.

Use wire nuts of the correct size to join wires together. For fan / light combination fixtures, most likely it will have wire connections, the white wire is the grounded conductor (neutral), any green wires are equipment grounding conductors, then there will be two other wires one will be the switched ungrounded conductor (hot) for the light, and one will be the ungrounded conductor (hot) for the fan. If you are confused please post to our forums for further clarification.

What is not shown in the drawings to avoid confusion, is that each wire cable also has a bare equipment grounding wire included. This wire is connected to a grounding screw in each electrical box (if the box is metal),  joined either through the grounding screws in the box itself or via a wire nut to the bare wire of the next cable entering / exiting the box, it is also connected to any grounding screw (if there is one) on the switch itself, as well as any grounding screw at the fixture (green wires that attach to the fixture are grounds).  Now if using a plastic box, it is made of a material that is non conductive, however some plastic boxes have a metal strip inside that can still be used to connect equipment grounding wires, in the event that it does not use wire nuts to join the bare grounding wires together. The equipment grounding wire (bare in most cables) must be electrical conductively joined throughout the circuit.  Green wires are also equipment grounding conductors.

If there is an equipment grounding screw on the switch it may be green in color and be separated away from the main connections of the switch and likely part of the metal frame that is also part of the mounting structure of the switch.


Extensions to this Switch circuit...

Be Aware that there is a limit by code on how many wires can be in a given size electrical box, when adding more wires to the same box you may have to install a larger and / or deeper box to allow space for more wires coming and out of the box.

Here is an article / explanation in regards to box fill calculations (on our sister website 'Wiring Done Right' - will open in new window / tab) 'Box Fill Calculation'

The instructions here are based on the fact that the circuit has already been wired to the configuration shown in this article and we are now making the wiring changes for onward power.

From the switch location....

No onward power is possible from the switch location because a grounded conductor (neutral) is not present at this location.

From the fixture location...

Both 'Always On' and switched power is available at the fixture location.
(showing bellow the fixture portion of the circuit)

Option 1 - Onward switched power...

Extending Circuit with switched power from fixture

Not shown in the diagram but the onward cable also has a bare wire (equipment grounding conductor) that also must be connected to all the other bare wires at the fixture electrical box.

Connection Instructions for onward cable (switched)
(only the changes to the wiring are described here)

* a) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the white wire of onward cable + the white wire coming from the 'circuit power supply cable' + the white wire connected to the fixture (grounded conductor [neutral])
* b) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the black wire of onward cable  + the black wire coming from switch + the black wire connected to switched ungrounded conductor (hot) for light (shown as black in the diagram)

Identification of wires of onward wire cable...

Black -  switched ungrounded conductor (hot) controlled by light switch
White - grounded conductor (neutral).

*********************************

Option 2 - Onward always on power...

Extending Circuit with always on power from fixture

Not shown in the diagram but the onward cable also has a bare wire (equipment grounding conductor) that also must be connected to all the other bare wires at the fixture electrical box.

Connection Instructions for onward cable (always on)
(only the changes to the wiring are described here)

* a) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the white wire of onward cable + the white wire coming from the 'circuit power supply cable' + the white wire connected to fixture (grounded conductor [neutral])
* b) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the black wire of onward cable  + the black wire coming from the 'circuit power supply cable' +  the ungrounded conductor (hot) for fan (shown as red in the diagram) + the white wire coming from switch.

Identification of wires of onward wire cable...

Black -  ungrounded conductor (hot).
White - grounded conductor (neutral).

*********************************

Option 3 - Onward 'Always On' and switched power...

Extending Circuit with always on and switched power from fixture

Not shown in the diagram but the onward cable also has a bare wire (equipment grounding conductor) that also must be connected to all the other bare wires at the fixture electrical box.

Connection Instructions for onward cable (always on & switched)
(only the changes to the wiring are described here)

* a) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the white wire of onward cable + the white wire coming from the 'circuit power supply cable' + the white wire connected to the fixture (grounded conductor [neutral])
* b) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the red wire of onward cable  + the black wire coming from the 'circuit power supply cable' + the ungrounded conductor (hot) for fan (shown as red in the diagram) + the white wire coming from switch.
* c) Using an insulated wire nut, attach / join - the black wire of onward cable  + the black wire coming from switch +  the switched ungrounded conductor (hot) for light (shown as black in the diagram).

Identification of wires of onward wire cable...

Black -  switched ungrounded conductor (hot) controlled by light switch.
Red - ungrounded conductor (hot - always on)
White - grounded conductor (neutral).


Foreign Users:

The colors of the wires depicted are based on the standards and code requirements / configuration in the United States and Canada. If you are viewing this site from a foreign country, your wiring standards and color of wires may be different but the principal and sequence of wiring will still remain the same. Therefore the information in this article may still be of use to you regardless of what country you may be in. Just translate the colors used here to the color of wires used in your country in regards to ungrounded (hot) conductors  / grounded conductors (neutral) and equipment grounding conductors as well know applicable code requirements in your country.

By: Donald Kerr

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