(Featured photo by Fannie Mae.)
When the air is too warm there is nothing like a breeze to make it cooler. But if there is no wind sometimes you have to make your own. My ever-loving wife, “Fannie Mae” (not her real name), is a ceiling fan fan, so it goes without saying I’ve had to install a number of them in our various homes. Since you can replace a ceiling light with a ceiling fan-light combo without running new wiring she thinks the more the merrier.
In the space of two months, I’ve repaired four ceiling fans at three different houses and none of them were ours. This last one was a bit of mystery. The fan worked but the light didn’t. After running through the easy tests (Is the wall switch on? Is the chain switch on? Are the bulbs burned out?), it was time to open up the housing and have a look at the wiring. Fortunately, most of the wiring for the light is in the shallow metal bowl hanging from the bottom of the fan and I didn’t need to take the whole fan down–just the glass globe, which is held on by a fancy nut at the bottom.
Three screws hold the metal bowl. Two of them have open slots so that you can loosen the screws a little and turn the bowl a notch to take it off. The third screw has to be taken all the way out and placed in a secure (disclosed) location so that you can screw it back in when the time comes.
I am always shocked, shocked I say, how many wires are hidden in that bowl. (Speaking of being shocked, I made sure the wall switch was turned off before I started poking around. My momma didn’t raise no fool.) One pair of wires was for the fan direction switch (up for winter, down for summer). Another set was for the fan speed pull chain. Eventually I found the wires for the light and disconnected them so I could put a voltmeter on them to see if they were getting any juice. They weren’t. (Yes, I remembered to turn the power back on for the test. Thank you for asking.)
Then I noticed a small flat plastic gizmo about the size of a fingernail in the wire. I unscrewed the wire nut that was connecting the little wire from that gizmo to the power and measured 120v coming from the fan itself. So the little whatchamacallit was keeping the light from coming on. What was that thing?!!
Whenever I have a question I do what people down through the ages have always done: I whip out my smartphone and Google it. The only problem was that I didn’t know what to type in. Even Google wouldn’t come up with relevant results if I typed in “thingamajiggie.” I was still up on the ladder and could see there was some kind of part number written on it so I typed in “Y59 R 130C” (or “Y59 B 120C” which is a similar device) and the first hit was an article titled “The light on my ceiling fan stopped working, could it be the wiring harness?” Apparently someone else (actually lots of someones else) had a similar problem. It turns out that piece of plastic is a wattage limiter that is supposed to restrict how much power goes to the bulbs. In my case it worked pretty well because it restricted the wattage to 0, which is some pretty significant energy conservation but on the downside the room is dark.
So I cut that wonderful piece of technology out of the circuit and connected the wire for the light bulbs directly to the power wire using the wire nut. Now when you turn on the wall switch the light comes on.
On one of the other fans the pull chain had broken off way up inside where you can’t just clip on a new chain to the stub. This is not an uncommon problem and rather than buy a new fan you can just get a new ceiling fan switch at any of the Big Box stores for just a few dollars. It comes with a small chain and you connect it in the metal bowl as described above using little wire nuts. (Detailed info at http://www.homerepairtutor.com/ceiling-fan-light-repair/.)
Between installing ceiling fans and repairing them, it seems that I spend a lot of time on a ladder since I am rather “height-challenged,” which I believe is the current P.C. term for my stature or lack thereof. Fannie Mae is always concerned for my safety when I climb a ladder because she says, “Don’t fall off,” which is frankly not a new thought to me. It’s not like I wake up one day and get this great idea to fall off a ladder but she scuttles the plan by saying, “Don’t fall off.” Anyway, it is nice that Fannie Mae cares about my safety. She seems to be hedging her bets, though, because she is very conscientious about paying the premiums for my life insurance.