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Electrical Wiring in the Home/Replacing fixtures in 75 year old home


I am updating lighting fixtures in my older home (in MA) and have encountered some strange wiring.
1.) I removed a ceiling fan with light and exposed the wiring in the box, which is: three blacks wound together, three whites wound together, and one red.  The blacks and the red are hot with the switch off and everything is hot with the switch on. How do I wire a new fixture to that existing wiring? What should I do with the red?  New fixture has the normal white, black and ground wires.

2.)Same house - two lighted ceiling fans (in different rooms) I installed two years ago have failed at the same time after I turned power off at the circuit breaker and  turned power back on again - seems too coincidental that they both "failed" at the same time - any suggestions on what could be the problem?

Thanks for you help.

Built pre-war?
Follow this link and read about 1939 vintage wiring.

Since you have red wires, I am assuming [always dangerous] that you have cable wiring in your house, not knob and tube.

If everything is hot, it would suggest an open neutral somewhere. Some older systems had a fused neutral conductor [in the panel]. A blown neutral fuse would cause the whites to be "hot"

Barring that, it would suggest that there is an open neutral connection somewhere in the circuit between the non-working equipment and the panel. Burned termination, bad splice, etc.

Good luck
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Electrical Wiring in the Home

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Robert Wilber


Licensed Philadelphia electrician serving Delaware, Chester, Montgomery and Philadelphia County in Pennsylvania. I install and repair residential, commercial and industrial wiring and lighting. Troubleshooting and repair of problems that stump other people is my favorite. I am willing to help people figure out why things don`t work. I understand motor controls, transformers and machine wiring. I do not teach basics to novices or do free design work.


Experience in the area I have 44 years experience in residential, commercial and industrial electrical construction and repair, 480 volts and below. This is not to be confused with one week repeated two thousand times.

44 years experience in residential, commercial and industrial electrical construction and repair

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