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Need help identifying this receptacle

I don't think "receptacle" is the right word. But regardless, I bought a 1920's house that appeared to have had all the knob & tube replaced (we went through inspection just fine). But I am trying to install a ceiling fan and have encountered a situation that I'm not sure about. I'm thinking I'll need an electrician for this one, but have a couple of questions first: 

1. Is this active knob & tube?

2. Is it possible to remove this metal fixture myself (I can't seem to get it unscrewed) and install the ceiling fan like I would with an updated electrical situation?

3. Will an electrician need to actually replace this wiring in order to have a ceiling fan in this location.

I've attached a picture. Thank you for any information you can toss my way!

Re: Need help identifying this receptacle


Just because a home inspector did not see, or list anything about all the electrical wiring, does not mean that it was all replaced. Obviously not. This could be paper wrapped wire. Wire that was strug between the knobs, is usually bare with no type of insulation. Wiring of that time did not have insulation. There is nothing at all wrong with knob and tube wiring, as long as it is not overloaded.

You did not mention the type of ceiling fan you plan to install. I installed pulley driven fans on our front porch, because they fit the era of our house. If you are referring to a single fixture, then that box and circuit, as long as the circuit is switchable, will be fine.

Why would you want to try and remove that electrical box? And replace it with what? A plastic box? That one is steel, us it. That socket in the middle of the box is what was once used to hang the fixture from. That is called a chandelier box. At one time, that socket was used to pipe the natural gas into the light fixture. You coud most likely hang on that box, and it would not fall. Never replace that box.

Now to your questions:

1. First, there is no such thing as "active knob and tube". Do you mean, is there electricity using those two wires? Use an electrical meter and find out. You can also use a toner and wand to find out where they go. As long as there is no electricity using the wires.

2. See my note above. There is no need to change the wiring if there is nothing wrong with that. You have plaster ceiling and wall coverings. Not worth the expense of damaging the plaster work to run a new wire when there are larger wires already there.

3. No. They can use that circuit as long as it is not overloaded, and does not cause a short. Also, as long as you do not want to have separate control of a light and a fan, if you happen to buy one with both a light and a fan. You would need two physical circuits going to that box for that. You have only one with no ground. That is also fine for that device.


Handy Andy In Mt Airy NC.

Re: Need help identifying this receptacle

Thanks Andrew! That's actually great news! I guess my 2 concerns were whether or not I could keep that fixture in place and if the k&t was a deal breaker with a fan (with light). We've never lived in a house this old, so we're always overly cautious when we encounter something that we're not familiar with.

Also- thanks for the info on the chandelier box- really cool that the lights used to be lit via gas! 

Re: Need help identifying this receptacle


You're welcome. The wire size is one of the most important features. The wire used then is nice and large, looks like a #10. If it were my house, I would replace it all, but it does not have to today or tomorrow. Just do not overload anything without testing it first. I have performed a complete re-wire to our house. We went from a 60 amp service to a 600 amp service. And replaced all the old wiring with metal clad. MC is actually what was used in the early 1900's. Nothing can or wants to chew on it. Getting new wiring to each of the ceilings, except for the 3rd floor, was a little challenging without tearing up the plaster wall or ceilings. It can be done.

I grew up in a Victorian house that has all liquid fuel lamps, and then were changed over to a natural gas later. When my renst bought the house, we changed everything over to electric. But kept the fixtures, wired them and mounted them back. A nice family project. You may use that fitting to secure a hook and hang the fan from that.

Feel free to ask when ever you have questions, I breeze thru here a couple times a day.

I think old houses are so much better than the new ones that are being thrown up. We had a large tree fall on our roof and 3rd floor just a couple weeks ago. We just had a structrual enginner and an adjuster here this last friday, and they said it looked so great. Very little work will be needed to repair the roof. Not even the plaster in the ceiling under the hole in the roof was cracked. A couple of the copper gutters were damaged, and that company is sending up more to replace complete side of the house. Old structures are just so much better.


Handy Andy In Mt Airy NC


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