how to wire a fan control switch
June 22, 2008 2:56 PM   Subscribe

Need help putting 3 ceiling fans on a single fan control switch.

We have 3 ceiling fans in a room that is 20 feet high (we live in a church). The fans are controlled by a single toggle switch on the wall. This means I am unable to change the speed of the fans without getting a 16' stepladder and pulling the chain on the fan.

I want to replace the on/off switch with a fan speed control. I couldn't figure out how to wire it.

Note: the fans are turned controlled by one toggle switch and the lights on the fans are controlled by another toggle switch, which is part of the same switch unit.

There are 3 wires going to the switch unit (on for both units is to the right). The wires are not colored. 2 wires are connected to the bottom right terminal. The 3rd wire is connected to the upper left terminal.

Any advice on how to wire a new fan control switch myself?
posted by frogmoses to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
 
caveat: IANAE.

by part of the same switch unit, do you mean it's a duplex switch, like this: duplex switch

if so, you'll need some kind of combination fan control/light switch. there may be something that'll do this at your local hardware store.

nota bene: do *not* use a regular dimmer for a ceiling fan motor control. using it for the lights is fine, but using it for the fan motor will cause problems with the motor in the long run.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:25 PM on June 22, 2008


You may want to consider getting a longer chain. That would be cheaper and allow you to control the speed of each fan independently. You can buy the stuff by the foot off large spools at a hardware store.
posted by odinsdream at 4:05 PM on June 22, 2008


IANAE either, but it seems like a rheostat would be wired the same way as a toggle switch, since they are designed to fit in a similarly configured switchbox.

The chances are good, however, that I am UTTERLY AND COMPLETELY WRONG.

(Seconding longer chains)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:13 PM on June 22, 2008


One wire is the hot the other 2 wires are switch legs
you will need a new switch like this
posted by SatansCabanaboy at 4:55 PM on June 22, 2008


There are 3 wires going to the switch unit (on for both units is to the right). The wires are not colored. 2 wires are connected to the bottom right terminal. The 3rd wire is connected to the upper left terminal.

Switch unit on the fan, or in the wall (I'm thinking wall right now.. Something like this)? Also, all wires have a colour (even bare copper is a 'colour' for the purposes of this conversation). They might all be the same colour, but the information will add context to your question. Finally, if two of three wires are connected to each other permanently, you can't possibly control the fan and the lights separately, so..

Anyway, how you apply speed control to an AC motor depends entirely on the type of motor. I believe modern ceiling fans are shaded pole motors which can be controlled by a standard triac dimmer - see this previous question for more details. I guess to know for sure, you'd need more data on the motor, or a close inspection.
(another reference on ceiling fan speed control)
posted by Chuckles at 9:27 PM on June 22, 2008


The difference between fan controls and lighting dimmers is that fan controls start out high and fade to low, so that on startup the motor gets all the power it wants, since there's a high startup requirement, whereas lights can just start out from low.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:40 AM on June 23, 2008


You can buy fans that come with remote controls.

If you decide to go the longer chain route, you can run the chains over to a bracket on the wall and then down if you would prefer not to have a chain hanging in the middle of the room.
posted by yohko at 8:24 PM on June 26, 2008


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