On this page, how to wire a ceiling fan with 3 wires is discussed in all possible scenarios. And 3 wire ceiling fan wiring diagram illustrations are included for clarification.
*Note – Options discussed are for:
- 3 Wires in the Ceiling Box (2 scenarios)
- Ceiling Fan with 3 Wires (2 scenarios)
Prepping the wires – All wires should be separated from the bundle, and the first ½” to ¾” of the insulation should be removed with a tool like this:
3 Wires in the Ceiling Box – Black, White and Bare
Here is how to wire a ceiling fan with 3 wires in the junction box.
This is common wiring for ceiling fans. The wires in the box are typically black, white and bare:
- Black – Hot
- White – Neutral
- Bare Copper – Ground
You have a few options for wiring a ceiling fan with 3 wires in the box.
*Note: This is also called 12/2 wiring or cable because the ground wire is assumed rather than included in the numbering.
Scenario 1 – White, Black, Bare – One Switch Controls Fan & Light
This is the easiest way to wire a ceiling fan with 3 wires in the box, but it won’t allow you to separately control lights and the fan motor. Options that do give you separate controls follow below.
1. Connect the neutral (white) wires using a wire nut.
2. Connect the ground (bare) wire to the green fan wire. You can also supply a short piece of bare ground wire to connect to the grounding screw in the box. Secure the wires with a wire nut.
3. Connect the hot (black) wire in the box to both the fan’s black wire (fan motor) and blue wire (lighting wire). And secure them with a wire nut.
Scenario 2 – White, Black, Bare Plus a Remote for Separate Light & Fan Control
Here is one possible option for how to wire a ceiling fan with 3 wires when you want to control lights and fan separately.
Possible Option: Use a Remote Control to separately control the ceiling fan’s light and fan. Here’s a universal remote made by Hunter. To do this, however, you will need to install a universal ceiling fan remote and receiver kit like this one. Home Depot says, “Wiring will vary according to the manufacturer. It may also change if the fan includes a light or your wall has a separate switch for the light and fan motor. You may not need to use all the included wires.”
In other words, you’ll need a remote with a receiver that can be wired into a fan with just White, Black and Bare wires.
Follow the wiring instructions that come with the kit.
Scenario 3 – Replace the Wiring from the Fan and Install Separate Switches
This involves replacing 12/2 cable with 12/3 cable from the ceiling fan to the box.
Keep in mind that 12/3 cable has 4 wires – white, black, bare and an additional wire which is usually red.
If you are renovating the room and have the walls open – no drywall – then this is the most dependable way to ensure independent control of the fan and the light(s).
1. Install a box in the wall that can accommodate two switches – 1 for Light and 1 for Fan.
2. Run 12/3 Romex cable from the fan box in the ceiling to the switch box.
Now you are ready to wire the switches and fan. This 3 wire ceiling fan wiring diagram shows what the finished project should look like.
*Secure all connections with a wire nut.
Make the Neutral (white wire) a Hot
You’ll use the white wire to bring power from both the light and fan switches.
Wrap a small piece of electrical wire near both ends of the white wire as shown in the diagram.
Wire the Ceiling Box
1. Connect the power supply Black wire to the White wire with the electrical tape on it.
2. Connect the power supply White wire to the White fan wire.
3. Connect the Bare ground wire to the Green fan wire. Connect a small piece of Bare wire to the connection at one end and the grounding screw in the box at the other end.
Wire the Switches
Let’s take the four wires in the 12/3 cable one at a time.
White Wire (with black tape)
1. Run short pieces of wire (shown as Black), called jumpers, from the top terminals on both switches.
2. Connect those two wires to the White wire to the fan.
Connect it to the lower terminal on the Fan switch.
Connect it to the lower terminal on the Light switch.
1. Run short pieces of Bare wire (or insulated – it doesn’t matter) from the ground screws on each switch.
2. Connect those ground wires to the Bare ground wire to the fan.
Alternate 3 Wire Ceiling Fan Wiring Diagram
You might find this a simpler approach. It accomplishes the same job as the 3 wire ceiling fan wiring diagram in the scenario above.
At the Switches
1. Apply electrical tape near the ends of the White wire, as before.
2. Connect the Red wire to the top terminal on the Light switch.
3. Connect the Black wire to the lower terminal on the Fan switch, and run a jumper wire to the lower terminal on the Light switch.
4. Connect the Bare wire to the ground screw on the Fan switch, and run a jumper wire from the Fan switch ground screw to the Light switch ground screw.
In the Ceiling Box
Note that this is a 4 wire to 3 wire ceiling fan diagram, aka 12/3 to 12/2 wiring diagram.
1. Connect the Black power supply wire to the Black wire going to the switches. The diagram shows the wire running continuously, but of course, it will be two separate Black wires secured with a wire nut.
2. Connect the White supply wire to the White fan wire.
3. Connect the Blue fan wire to the Red wire going to the Light switch.
4. Connect the Bare ground wire from Supply to the Bare wire to the switches. Add a short piece of ground wire to those two wires and to the ground screw in the box.
3 Wires in the Ceiling Box – No Ground Wire
Older wiring to the fan might not have a ground wire. Scenarios include:
- White, Black and Red wires – no Bare wire
- White and Black wires – no Bare wire
This answers the old question, “what to do when there is no ground wire in my ceiling box?”
First, don’t panic. Then, consider these options.
Is the Box Metal – And Does it Have a Ground Screw?
This means that the box is probably grounded. Connect the Bare ground wire from the fan to the ground screw in the box.
Is the Box Plastic – Or Do You Want to Be Sure it is Grounded?
You have two grounding options. Both are a pain in the neck. A third option leaves the fan ungrounded.
*Note – Some plastic boxes have a metal bracket with a ground screw on them.
In this scenario, we’re considering that there is no ground screw in a plastic box.
Don’t Ground the Fan
This isn’t a good option because in rare cases it could lead to electrical shock.
If you don’t ground the fan, never touch it – don’t use the pull chains to control it.
Use a remote instead to control its functions.
Scenario 1 (Preferred) – Run New Wiring
Run 12/3 or 14/3 from the fan to the box. This gives you fresh wiring that includes a ground wire.
To do this, get a wire fishing tool and tape. Follow the instructions “perfectly” for successful results. It will help to watch the wire fishing tutorial video below. In fact, watch a few of them to determine which best fits your situation.
Scenario 2 – Ground the Fan
Run a separate ground wire from the ceiling box back to the panel to ground the fan. But this is a cheap alternative.
If you’re fishing wire anyway, it makes sense to run full 3-wire cable.
Ceiling Fan with 3 Wires
Some older ceiling fans don’t have the blue, white, black and green wiring that most sold these days do.
Short of buying a new ceiling fan, how can you wire this for safe use?
Scenario 1 – White, Black and Ground Wires in the Ceiling Fan
New ceiling fans have 4 wires – Neutral, ground plus individual wires for the fan and light.
If your fan is older, it might not have separate light and fan wires. Of course, if you don’t have lights, then that’s not a problem.
Regardless, here is how to wire a fan in this scenario:
1. Connect the White fan wire to the White power supply wire.
2. Connect the fan ground wire to the Bare wire from the supply (the ground wire could be Bare or Green).
3. Connect the Black fan wire to the Black wire from the power supply.
Then you can control the lights and fan independently using the pull chains.
Scenario 2 – Blue, Black and White Wires in the Ceiling Fan
OK, what to do when there is no ground wire from my fan?
You can wire the fan if it doesn’t have a ground wire, but you won’t have the added protection that a grounded fan provides.
1. Connect the Blue and Black fan wires to the Black power supply wire.
2. Connect the White fan wire to the White wire in the power supply cable.
3. Connect the Bare ground wire from the power supply to the ground screw in the fan box, if it has one. Otherwise, leave it as it is.
4. Use the fan’s pull chains to control the function of the lights.
For safety’s sake: If your home’s electrical panel is grounded and the circuit breakers are in good condition, then you probably won’t have an issue with a ceiling fan that is not grounded.
If you’re unsure, ask a licensed electrician to inspect the electrical panel and advise you on the safety of installing a fan without a ground wire.
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