Electrical Problem in Old House?

I seem to be the only one in the world with this issue. My house was built in 1921. It has all original wiring. Due to the expense, I can't afford to completely rewire the house. I just fix an issue as it arises. Here's my latest: I hired contractors to completely remodel a bathroom. When all was said and done, everything was good. However a few months later, the overhead light and ceiling fan in the living room and the front porch light will only work when it's cold outside. During the winter, the work just fine. During the fall and spring, they work some days (if it was cold the night before) and when it warms up, they shut off. I bought one of those pens with a light, that when you tap an outlet it lights up and beeps if the wire or outlet is hot. They are hot all the time, even when not working. We had a cold spell a few days ago, they worked fine. Just now, I'm sitting in my living room and the ceiling fan starts slowing to a halt. Now I've got to wait till the next cold spell for them to kick back on. I've had 3 electricians say, "Dude.....that makes no sense. But I'm looking right at it. So I know you're not lying." Anyone have any idea what the hell is going on?


Add your voice! Click below to answer. ThriftyFun is powered by your wisdom!

Silver Feedback Medal for All Time! 337 Feedbacks
October 15, 20150 found this helpful

Bruce is the only one who can answer this, as he is an actual electrician. Hopefully, he will see it and help you out. If he doesn't, I would try to find a more experienced electrician than you have had, as they do not seem to be very helpful. The bathroom reno and the intermittent light issue may not have anything to do with each other. I would put a priority on fixing it, though, as it could be a safety issue with such old wiring.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
October 16, 20150 found this helpful

Copper, like any metal, will expand when heated and contract when cooled. If your house has aluminum wire this is even more pronounced.

The pen you described is a good troubleshooting tool that indicates you have voltage at the hot but it does not show that the neutral is grounded.


A circuit requires a complete loop. When it is warm and the fan is turned on and not running, the hot wire is going to the fan but it may be that you have a bad connection in your neutral. If this is the case, the 120 volt hot will pass through the fan and make the neutral side hot. (if the neutral path were good, the voltage would drop across the load of your fan)

The receptacle has two vertical slots, a tall one on the left and a short one on the right. With the fan on and not running, check to see if both slots have power with your pen. Only the short one should.

If this turns out to be the problem, have an electrician check your neutral connections.

Good luck.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
October 19, 20150 found this helpful

A couple of things:

I do no know if your wire is copper or aluminum. Both metals grow when heated and shrink when cooled. If metals are mixed (wires, wire nuts, landing screws), it can result in a bad connection.


Your voltage pen is a great tool for detecting voltage. When it is cold and your ceiling fan is working, check the voltage at the receptacle. Only one vertical slot should have voltage (the short one on the right).

When it is warm and the fan is not working, check the receptacle again, with the fan on. I suspect there will be voltage at both vertical slots.

What I suspect is happening is that when the weather heats up, the neutral connection opens at a wire nut somewhere. This allows the 120 volt to pass through the fan motor to the neutral.

Tell this to an electrician to have it fixed for you.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
December 20, 20180 found this helpful

Let me ask this, when not working, is it humid outside? I suspect high humidity left condensation on some of my old wiring under my patio roof.


We found out some of the old wiring had small cracks which could easily let moisture in.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

Add your voice! Click below to answer. ThriftyFun is powered by your wisdom!

In This Page
Home and Garden Repair Home ElectricalOctober 14, 2015
Christmas Ideas!
New Years Ideas!
Ask a Question
Share a Post
Better LivingBudget & FinanceBusiness and LegalComputersConsumer AdviceCoronavirusCraftsEducationEntertainmentFood and RecipesHealth & BeautyHolidays and PartiesHome and GardenMake Your OwnOrganizingParentingPetsPhotosTravel and RecreationWeddings
Published by ThriftyFun.
Desktop Page | View Mobile
Disclaimer | Privacy Policy | Contact Us
Generated 2023-12-25 19:12:20 in 2 secs. ⛅️️
© 1997-2023 by Cumuli, Inc. All Rights Reserved.