For many homeowners, installing a ceiling fan in their home provides them with an additional sense of comfort and style that they previously didn’t have. However, one question comes up quite often – can you put a ceiling fan on a dimmer switch? Before I answer this, there are some important things to discuss if you are planning to use a dimmer switch with your ceiling fan.
Technically, a dimmer switch can control a fan’s speed, but it’s not wise to use a standard dimmer switch with a ceiling fan. A standard dimmer switch is used to regulate voltage in the circuit, while a fan needs a device to control amperage in the circuit to adjust the speed. So, a regular dimmer can damage the fan motor and pose a fire hazard if it gets overheated.
Read on to learn more about this topic and get answers to any questions regarding fan dimmer switches.
Can a dimmer switch control fan speed?
Before debating whether you should put a ceiling fan on a dimmer switch, we should determine if a dimmer will be able to control a fan’s speed. A regular dimmer switch or a fan-specific dimmer switch can control a fan’s speed. However, a regular dimmer switch will soon cause mechanical problems in the fan, such as a sudden dip in the fan speed when operating, a buzzing sound coming from the fan motor, etc. The reason is simple; dimmer switches operate differently than what is required by the fan.
Why use a dimmer switch for a ceiling fan?
Many homeowners want an upgraded look to their homes and push switches for ceiling fans are considered old-fashioned. By installing a dimmer switch to control your ceiling fan, you get an upgraded look and save energy. Running your fan at a slower speed instead of the maximum speed of the fan will save your energy consumption. A dimmer lets you control how much air moves, keeping your room looking and feeling cool. However, ensure that you use a fan-specific dimmer switch instead of a regular one meant for light fixtures.
Why are regular dimmer switches unsuitable for ceiling fans?
When you turn on the ceiling fan that operates with a regulator, a high current is initially passed to the fan’s rotor. If you start the fan at a low-speed setting, the high current quickly decreases to low amperage as the fan’s speed increases to keep the fan at the low speed.
On the other hand, dimmers control the voltage that runs in the circuit and is suitable for controlling the brightness of the light for which they are made. So, if you put a ceiling fan on a dimmer, it will pass on high voltage to the fan, which is dangerous. The high voltage will melt the contacts in the fan. Also, if you try to start the fan at a low speed with a dimmer, the current will be too low to put the fan in operation.
In short, a fan requires the adjustment in amperage instead of voltage to get the rotor going. Moreover, using dimmers for extended periods can result in overloading, which can cause a fire to start. To prevent overheating, speed controllers have special circuits to bear heat fluctuations. Regular dimmer switches for lights don’t have the function to control amperage or hardware to survive overheating, so they are not suitable to be used with ceiling fans.
Is my dimmer switch compatible to use with ceiling fans?
If you already have a dimmer switch in your home, but it’s not in use currently, you may be tempted to use it with your ceiling fan. However, in most cases, these dimmers are standard dimmers to be used with lights only.
If you have a dimmer switch currently operating your light fixtures, it is unsuitable and unsafe for use with a ceiling fan. You will need a fan-specific dimmer in this case.
Sometimes when you move into a new home, dimmer switches are not connected to any light fixtures, so you are not sure if they are compatible to use with ceiling fans or not. Luckily, you can find out the dimmer type following this quick check:
- Remove the dimmer cover using a screwdriver
- Look for any one of these prints on the right side of the plate: “fan only,” “fan speed controller,” or “incandescent fixtures only.”
What type of dimmer switch should be used with ceiling fans?
We have now established that regular dimmers shouldn’t be used with ceiling fans, so let’s discuss which dimmer switches are appropriate.
1. Purpose-built dimmer switches
It is safe to use a purpose-built dimmer switch with a ceiling fan. There are a couple of important features to look for when choosing a compatible dimmer for your fan. These dimmer switches control light brightness and fan speed using separate dimmers in the same console. These dimmer switches can be installed if your wall wiring has three wires, i.e., there are separate wires for lights and the fan. Keep in mind the following features when choosing a fan dimmer switch:
- Speed options: Some dimmers offer three speeds, while some will offer four speeds for the fan. Choose the speed option that matches what your ceiling fan (for which you want a dimmer) is offering.
- Amps requirement: Every ceiling fan model has a different amperage requirement mentioned on your ceiling fan’s label. Ceiling fans mostly use 1 amp or less, so a dimmer switch with 1.5 amp is perfect for using these fans. If your fan uses higher amperage, a switch with a 2.5 amp will be needed.
2. Simple fan control switches
A simple sliding fan control switch eliminates the need for a pull chain. You have to move the slider up and down to turn off the fan or set the fan speed. These switches usually offer three fan speeds. You will need only fan wire to install this switch.
3. Two-in-one smart switches
Dual fan and light dimmers are best if you have a ceiling fan with lights. These switches are a smart way to control lights and fans independently. To install a dual switch, connect the fan and light wire from the wall to the respective wires on the switch. It is a smart version and uses Wi-Fi to control the lights and fan from your phone app automatically.
What are other ways to control fan speed?
If you are not convinced about using a dimmer switch because of the risks involved, then other options exist to control your fan speed. One is using a conventional pull chain. If your fan comes with lights, it will have two pull chains to control the fan and light separately. The other option is to invest in a fan with a remote control which doesn’t require installing a speed dimmer switch.
Although you can theoretically control your fan speed with a dimmer, it’s typically not recommended. The problem with using these dimmer switches is that they can lower your ceiling fan’s performance and possibly cause damage to its motor. If you want to use your ceiling fan with a dimmer switch, you’re better off purchasing one built for that purpose.