We have three ceiling fans with lights in our house - one in each bedroom, in the center of each room. Each bedroom has a single switch by the door, and this switch controls power to the fan motor and the lighting fixture. Each fan has separate pull chains to control motor (3 speeds + off) and lights (on/off).
With the way things are we can get the lights and the fans the way we want them, but we are constantly frustrated for a number of reasons. First, my wife is less than 5 feet tall, so she can't reach the pull-chains. In the master bedroom I have extended the chain that controls the lights so that she can reach and is able to turn on the lights when I'm not home. This chain is over the bed but still I often tap my head on it or bang into it when folding laundry. It's also unsightly. The other two fans are over floor areas without beds, so we don't want to extended these chains. Second, when the switch is in the OFF position and the lights and fan are off, it is usually a guessing game as to what will happen when the switch is turned ON. Sometimes we accidentally turn the lights on in the middle of the night, which is a rude awakening.
I want to install additional switches and add/modify wiring so that each bedroom has a switch that controls the fan ON/OFF, and a switch that controls the lights ON/OFF. We would then leave the pull-chains in the slow speed (fan) or ON (lights) position and use the switches to control the fan and lights. Each bedroom is on the upper story with an attic above, so the wiring should be accessible.
I set off exploring in the master bedroom today, and here is what I found:
In the ceiling there is a junction box mounted on a joist hanger. There are 3 sets of conductors going into this box:
The connections in the box are as follows:
1. All three blacks nutted together and not connected to fan wiring.
2. All three whites nutted together and connected to white on fan.
3. Red connected to blue and black on fan (my understanding is that blue=lights and black=motor for ceiling fans).
4. All three grounds nutted together, connected to fan ground, and screwed to both the box and the fan mounting bracket below ceiling.
In the electrical box housing the switch that currently controls the fan, there is a black and a white wire. The black is connected to the bottom of the switch and the white is connected to the top of the switch.
Can you guys walk me through what is going on in the existing circuit and what I need to do to to wire things the way I desire? I am particularly confused about the white wire connected to the switch (I think this is a traveler, but it's not marked) and how power gets from the black/white wires in the switch to the red wire in the ceiling. I appreciate any advice.This message has been edited. Last edited by: JKeefe,
none of those wires are motor control. those are going to be in the wiring box between the fan motor and the light attachment, and attached to the 3-way pull switch that has a blue wire going up for power.
typical fan instructions will tell you to connect the blue and black wires together and connect them to the black of the switched circuit, then connect the fan white to the common white of neutral, and green to box ground.
to control the motor from a 3-way switch in a special control switch/plate assembly which costs from $18 to $40 at the home center, you need to extend the three other wires from the 3-way switch, to connect to another cable to that switch box in the wall. the details are usually in the "all fan control" switch system box.
an alternative is to spend $60 to $120 for a radio control kit to put the fan speed on a wireless remote. I have no guidance on that, we can reach or extend the fan switch bead chain for $3 and prefer that cheap, you know.
what I've generally done at home and in the hamshack is get a optional extra pull chain with the handle shaped like a light bulb. that hangs lower, if I have to add chain for it, kewl, there are chain kits with 4 or 5 feet of bead chain and 5 clip connectors. then I use another handle set that feels different, so I can tell 'em in the dark, and hang that a little higher than the light control.
if you do with the new-wiring option, you will need also to get coding tape that matches the wire colors to the 3-way switch in the fan. otherwise, nobody in ten days anywhere will be able to figure out what the (!) you did with the fan. there is creepy Chinese tape in sets that does not include one color you want... and then there are 10 colors of 3M #35 tape in the standard EIA/RETMA coding colors, and you get what you need. the 3M tape stays put.
sig: if this is a new economy, how come they still want my old-fashioned money?
I think there is some confusion over what I am wanting to do, and/or your understanding of what I want to do. Or perhaps you are suggesting I do something different than what I've proposed (which is fine to consider, of course).
I'm not looking to control the motor (i.e. change its speed) from a switch (3-way or otherwise). I'm simply looking to switch power to the motor ON/OFF separately from the light fixture in the fan assembly. Regardless, can you assist with the wire colors I've described and what is happening with the existing circuit?
I have no desire for wireless remote control of the fan (lights or motor).This message has been edited. Last edited by: JKeefe,
You want one switch to turn on the the fan and another to turn on the light.
You are going to have to run a second switch leg from the new switch to the fan box. You can either pick up hot from the bottom of the existing switch or you may find full-time power at the fan box. If you get power from the switch then you'll just need a single hot from the switch to the fan. Once in the fan box, simply take either the black or blue fan wires and wire one to the new switch wire, leaving the other as is. If you get power from the fan box then you will have a black down to the switch and then another black back up to the fan box (code the white wire in a romex black and you are good). Same hookup at the fan though - separate the black and blue wires and hook them up to two different hot legs from the switches.
I know you said you don't want a remove but overall it's a much easier hookup and gives you more features. No electrical to do except wire in the remote inside the fan base. Once connected you can turn fan on/off, vary fan speed and change fan direction. Lights are also on a variable.
We have a pretty small house. The smallest of our three bedrooms is 10x10. I think the master is 14x17. Remotes really seem silly when it's a short walk to the wall switches.
OK, so the first part of this is to separate to fan motor from the lights. So I should leave fan's black wire connected to the box's red wire, but disconnect the blue wire.
Then I need to run the blue wire through a switch. That means that the current needs to flow from a source of power, into the switch via a white wire marked with black tape, through the switch, out the switch into black wire, and then into the light via the blue wire. Does that sound right? Is my red wire in the ceiling electrical box my source of power in this case?
I still don't understand how I have black and white wires in my existing switch but a red wire powers the fan from the box in the ceiling...This message has been edited. Last edited by: JKeefe,
That makes two of us. Sounds like you have a junction box somewhere, otherwise you should have a red wire inside the wall box that contains your existing switch. Really doesn't matter though, as you are going to have to run a new switch leg from the new switch to the fan box anyway. A small meter would be a good investment before trying this as so much depends on correctly labeling what you have in those boxes now.
Thanks. I realized my mistake suggesting I take my source from the red wire. I'll get it from the black.
I have a multimeter. In this case it has told me everything I expected: red and black are hot, white and ground aren't. No weirdness there.
Understood on the possibility of the junction box. Now that I understand this better, I realize that you're right - it doesn't matter how the red wire gets power, only that I understand that this is switched power.
Will report back on success or failure...
All done and working! I realized I didn't need to put the switch controlling the fan near the door. This was preferable because it meant I wouldn't have to go through the hassle of removing a new work single-gang electrical box, plus it puts the fan control nearer the bed, where we want it. There was a single-gang old work box between our closet with a switch that controlled closet lights. I removed this, replaced it with a double-gang box, and installed the new switch and existing closet light switch in this box.
Everything works great. I appreciate the assistance.
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