Menu Close

can a dimmer switch be used on a ceiling fan banner

Can A Dimmer Switch Be Used On A Ceiling Fan?

A dimmer switch should never be used on a ceiling fan. A fan motor needs a specific amount of power to run properly. Sending too much power to the motor could overload it potentially causing an overheat and fire. Too little power and the motor will work improperly or be damaged. Regular dimmer switches are designed for use with lights and not motors. If you want to control the power of a fan with a switch you need is a multi-speed fan control switch. They work similar to a dimmer but are designed specifically to control a fan motor. If the fan has a light that’s control separate from the fan motor, you need a dual fan control/dimmer. This type of switch is designed to control both a fan motor and a light.

To know if a dimmer switch is designed for use on a ceiling fan take a close look at the switch with the plate off. It will say “fan speed controller” if it’s a fan dimmer. If it doesn’t say fan speed controller then it’s most likely a standard dimmer for lighting.

Using the wrong dimmer switch for your ceiling fan can be dangerous. You could overload the motor causing overheat and potentially a fire or damage the fan. If you’re installing a new switch for a ceiling fan DIY then make sure you use the proper equipment.

In this article we’ll discuss the correct way to control ceiling fan with a dimmer switch.

can a dimmer switch be used on a ceiling fan infographic 1.0

What Kind Of Dimmer Switch Do I Need For A Ceiling Fan?

The kind of dimmer you need to control a ceiling fan is called a multi-speed fan control switch or a dual fan control/dimmer if the fan has a light.

A multi-speed fan control comes in different speeds. For example you can buy a 3 speed switch, a 4 speed switch, etc. make sure to buy one that matches the speed of your fan.

A dual fan control/dimmer lets you operate the fan and light separately. This requires some special wiring to and from the switch and fan.

The following are a few things to consider when shopping for the right fan control switch:

  • Speed: Some dimmer switches are for three-speed fans and some are for four-speed fans. Make sure to buy a switch that’s compatible with the number of speeds your fan has.
  • Amps: The amperage of a ceiling fan can vary. Check the label on your fan to determine how many amps it uses. Most ceiling fans use 1 amp or less so use a 1 to 1.5 amp switch. However, for fans with higher amperage you need a switch that can send more amps.

A ceiling fan control switch should come with installation instructions. Make sure you follow them exactly. They install pretty much exactly the same way as a standard switch. If you’re unsure about the installation call an electrician.

Dual Fan & Light Dimmers

There are a few options for dual fan and light control switches. They’re a great choice if you have a combination ceiling fan and light because they allow you to control the light and fan independently.

If the wiring for a ceiling fan is already done in your home with separate wires for the fan control and the light control, it should be easy to wire a new dual fan controller. However if your existing ceiling fan/light is only connected to one switch, you won’t be able to control it separately using a dual fan control. You’ll have to do some rewiring in order to control the fan and light independently. In this case I recommend hiring an electrician or installing a wireless control.

When installing a dual fan control/dimmer, you need to connect the wires inside your wall to the corresponding wire on the switch using wire nuts. There should be instructions that come along with your dual fan control switch.

Wireless Remote Fan Control

Another way to control a ceiling fan and light with a dimmer is with a wireless fan control. These units consist of a wireless remote and a receiver that gets wired directly into the fan. Once installed the remote will control both the fan speed and light independently.

All the wireless remote fan controls I’ve used have worked really well, and they can be used with just about any ceiling fan.

To install one, remove the fan housing and expose the wiring. The receiver is permanently installed inside the fan housing using the power and fans wiring. The remote then controls the fan via the receiver.

The Dangers Of Using A Dimmer Switch To Control A Ceiling Fan

A regular dimmer switch is designed to control a light fixture. Light fixtures and ceiling fans have different power requirements. Because of this, a dimmer can cause problems which include:

  • Too much power sent to the fan’s electrical circuit can cause an overload which can damage the fan’s motor and potentially cause a fire.
  • They can send too little power which can also damage the fan or make it work improperly.

If your fan is already connected to a dimmer turn it off and change the switch.

Install a multi-speed fan control switch or a dual fan control/dimmer instead. Both of these switches are designed specifically to control fans.

You could also install a wireless remote and receiver that’s wired directly into the fan. These devices work really well and work with just about any fan.

Is My Dimmer Switch Compatible With Ceiling Fans?

It’s very easy to find out if your dimmer switch is designed for fans or for lights. The type of dimmer that works on fans is called a multi-speed fan control switch. Written on the switch will be the words “fan speed controller” or “fan only”. If you don’t see the word fan on the switch then it’s designed for lights.

Standard light dimmers will usually say “for permanent incandescent fixtures only”. Which is a fancy way of saying built in lights like high-hats and chandeliers.

It’s hard to tell if a switch is for lights or fans just by looking at it. The switches are the same size and work the same way with either a slide control, a spinning knob or buttons. The only way to know for is by looking for the words.

If you have a dimmer already installed, take the plate off. Once the plate is off you’ll be able to see the writing. Manufacturers put the words on the switch side of the box so you can see them with the plate off.

Will A Dimmer Switch Control Fan Speed?

A fan dimmer switch will control not only the speed of a ceiling fan but also the light if your fan has one. However you have to install the correct type of switch. A standard dimmer switch is designed for lights only. You need one specifically designed for ceiling fans.

If you inspect most dimmers they’ll state right on the switch “for permanent incandescent fixtures only”. This is a fancy way of saying built in lights like high-hats and chandeliers. But a fan control switch will state “fan speed controller” or something similar.

The dimmer switch you use on a ceiling fan is called either a multi-speed fan control or a dual fan control/dimmer.

  1. A multi-speed fan control works just like a regular light dimmer and can handle multiple speeds. For example you can buy a 3 speed control, a 4 speed control, etc. Make sure and buy one that matches the speed of your ceiling fan.
  2. A dual fan control/dimmer is a switch that controls both the fan and fan light independently from a single switch. They require special wiring to and from the fan and switch. But if your fan also has a light this is the switch you want.
  3. The last option you have is a wireless remote fan control. These units consist of a wireless remote and a receiver that gets wired directly into the fan. Once installed the remote will control both the fan speed and light independently.

What’s The Difference Between A Light Dimmer And A Fan Speed Control?

A light dimmer switch is designed to control a light by reducing it’s voltage. By lower or raising the voltage you also increase or decrease the amount of light produced by the bulb. In contrast, a fan speed control reduces the fans amperage, not it’s voltage. By increasing or decreasing the the current, or amperage running to the fan you can control the speed of the rotor.

This is the reason why a standard light dimmer shouldn’t be used on a ceiling fan. They not only don;t work well but can also be dangerous. A light dimmer can send too much power to the fan’s electrical circuit which can cause an overload and possible fire. On the other hand they can also send too little power which can also damage the fan and/or cause it to work improperly.

How Do You Control The Speed Of A Ceiling Fan?

A fan dimmer switch will control not only the speed of a ceiling fan but also the light if your fan has one. However you have to install the correct type of switch. A standard dimmer switch is designed for lights only. You need one specifically designed for ceiling fans.

If you inspect most dimmers they’ll state right on the switch “for permanent incandescent fixtures only”. This is a fancy way of saying built in lights like high-hats and chandeliers. But a fan control switch will state “fan speed controller” or something similar.

The dimmer switch you use on a ceiling fan is called either a multi-speed fan control or a dual fan control/dimmer.

  1. A multi-speed fan control works just like a regular light dimmer and can handle multiple speeds. For example you can buy a 3 speed control, a 4 speed control, etc. Make sure and buy one that matches the speed of your ceiling fan.
  2. A dual fan control/dimmer is a switch that controls both the fan and fan light independently from a single switch. They require special wiring to and from the fan and switch. But if your fan also has a light this is the switch you want.
  3. The last option you have is a wireless remote fan control. These units consist of a wireless remote and a receiver that gets wired directly into the fan. Once installed the remote will control both the fan speed and light independently.

Summary: Can A Dimmer Switch Be Used On A Ceiling Fan?

A dimmer switch should never be used on a ceiling fan. A fan motor needs a specific amount of power to run properly. Sending too much power to the motor could overload it potentially causing an overheat and fire. Too little power and the motor will work improperly or be damaged. Regular dimmer switches are designed for use with lights and not motors. If you want to control the power of a fan with a switch you need is a multi-speed fan control switch. They work similar to a dimmer but are designed specifically to control a fan motor. If the fan has a light that’s control separate from the fan motor, you need a dual fan control/dimmer. This type of switch is designed to control both a fan motor and a light.

To know if a dimmer switch is designed for use on a ceiling fan take a close look at the switch with the plate off. It will say “fan speed controller” if it’s a fan dimmer. If it doesn’t say fan speed controller then it’s most likely a standard dimmer for lighting.

Using the wrong dimmer switch for your ceiling fan can be dangerous. You could overload the motor causing overheat and potentially a fire or damage the fan. If you’re installing a new switch for a ceiling fan DIY then make sure you use the proper equipment.

If you have any questions or comments email any time.

Related Posts

SUBSCRIBE

Get Notified About New Articles, GREAT DEALS on Home Goods, Videos & Product Reviews.

We Update Weekly & It’s All Completely FREE.