A wiring question for those Electrically inclined Dopers. Am I in trouble?

So I come home from work and the ceiling fan in our house is about 4 feet off the floor. It fell whilst we were at work. I took the wires off and now there are three wires exposed. A white, Black and a copper one. What are they and will they hurt us?

All kidding aside. My fiance and I are about as electrically inclined as garden slugs and young squirrels. Do I need to cap these wires before getting another ceiling fan? Will they start a fire by themselves? I’m not planning on doing anything till the weekend, should I just shove them back up into the box in the ceiling and wait. Or do I just leave them exposed.

Damn walmart plastic boxes for ceiling fan support…Shouldn’t that box the fan was attached to be metal?

Essentially, I’m wondering if I don’t cape the exposed wires are we in any danger of setting our condo on fire?

Carefully cap them. Preferably with the power off so as not to get zapped.

Once they are capped, stuff them back in the box carefully.

Given that you’ve asked this question, you may wish to reconsider installing the replacement fan yourself.

Basically, the white and black wires are “hot” when the fan is switched on; the copper one is ground and not a problem.

It would be reasonably hard to start a fire even if you wanted to - a fuse or circuit breaker would blow first (that’s why it’s there). Of course, anyone who touches the bare ends of hot wires could get a nasty shock.

Suggested steps:

  1. Ensure the fan switch is off.
  2. Disconnect the fuse or breaker that supplies power to the fan.
  3. Tape or cap the exposed ends of the wires.
  4. Bundle up the taped wires so they aren’t hanging down.
  5. Find someone to reinstall the fan (or install a new one, if the old one is now no good). Insist on proper mechanical support this time.

If the wires aren’t in danger of touching each other or any lifeform, I would leave them alone. Why fool with something you don’t understand and which can kill you if you make an egregious error? Let someone who knows what they are doing examine the wires for chafing or other damage and do the new fan installation.

Oops, reread the post and I see that they could pose a danger. Disregard my previous post.

Standard code for ceiling fans of any non-trivial size requires a metal box. They have to support the fan while it is acting like an airplane propeller. A nice load. (Usually up!) Throw in vibration etc. Gotta be metal.

What works best is a deep metal box attached to two pieces of wood. A joist and a 2x4 between joists for example.

Simpler are those “bone stretcher” types that squeeze against the joists. Easier to mess up too.

The manual for the new fan will tell you how to hook it up. Do it exactly that way, no changes.

Just remember to turn off the power at the panel before touching anything.

I DO hope this was hyperbole.

If the fan was actually installed with 4’ (or so) excess lead, I would want to tear out every wire in the place to see what other kind of slipshod work was done.

This being a condo, you do not have the option of ripping out every wire in the building - but I would suggest that, after turning off eyerything you can turn off, and making sure that you are not in any way grounded, you tape off the exposed conductors INDIVIDUALLY - crossing supply to ground (or return, with switch “on”) will produce nasty results.

THEN CALL AN ELECTRICIAN - your OP suggests that you should not be installing anything electrical, let alone a ceiling fan.