By Trae Jacobs,
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Dimmer switches are handy devices that allow us to control the brightness of our lights. But if you have dimmable lights in a ceiling fan fixture, does that mean you can use a dimmer switch to control the fan, too?
A dimmer switch can theoretically control a ceiling fan. However, standard dimmer switches shouldn’t be used to control ceiling fans because they can easily overheat and cause a fire. They can also damage the ceiling fan motor. To avoid these issues, use a dimmer switch specifically designed for ceiling fans.
Using the wrong dimmer switch for your ceiling fan can have severe consequences, so if it’s a DIY project, it should not be taken lightly. Below is all the information you need to safely install and use a dimmer switch to control your ceiling fan.
Using a Dimmer Switch to Control a Ceiling Fan
A dimmer switch can be used to control a ceiling fan’s speed and turn it on and off. In theory, any dimmer switch has these capabilities, but in practice, there can be issues if you don’t use the right kind of dimmer switch for your fan.
Risks of Using a Dimmer Switch for Ceiling Fans
Most dimmer switches are specifically made to control light fixtures. Because of this, they may overload your ceiling fan’s power circuit; this can lead to irreparable damage to the ceiling fan’s motor. In extreme cases, it can cause an electrical fire in your home, putting your family, pets, and belongings in danger.
While using a dimmer switch to control your ceiling fan’s speed may be convenient, it is not worth these risks.
If you connected your ceiling fan to a dimmer switch before reading this article, it’s essential that you immediately turn it off and check the switch to see if it’s safe to use with ceiling fans.
Is My Dimmer Switch Compatible with Fans?
If you already have a dimmer switch in your home, it is most likely a standard dimmer switch. These are the most common types of dimmer switches, and they are made to control light fixtures only. If the dimmer switch is currently used to control your lights, this type of switch isn’t safe to use with ceiling fans.
If you just moved into a new home or have a dimmer switch that isn’t currently used to control lights, you may not be sure whether it’s meant for lights or ceiling fans. Fortunately, it’s quick and easy to check the dimmer switch to see what type it is.
- First, use a screwdriver to remove the dimmer switch cover.
- Then, look for the description of the type of dimmer it is. It is usually located on the right side of the switch plate in small print. It will say something like “fan speed controller,” “fan only,” or “incandescent fixtures only.”
Dimmer Switches for Ceiling Fans
To safely use a dimmer switch for your ceiling fan, purchase one made explicitly for ceiling fans. However, keep the following features in mind to make sure the one you choose is compatible with your current fan:
- Speed: Some dimmer switches are for three-speed fans, and some are for four-speed fans. It’s essential to buy a switch that matches the number of speeds your fan currently has.
- Amps: The amperage of ceiling fans also varies. Check the label on your ceiling fan to determine how many amps your ceiling fan uses. Most ceiling fans use 1 amp or less, and a 1.5 amp switch is ideal for these fans. However, for fans with higher amperage, look for a switch that can handle up to 2.5 amps.
Your new ceiling fan dimmer switch should come with installation directions. (For visual learners, this video can provide additional assistance.)
Dual Fan and Light Dimmers
There are many options for dual fan and light dimmer switches. These are great if you have a combination ceiling fan and light because they allow you to control the light and fan independently of each other.
When installing a dual switch, you will need to connect each wire from your wall to the corresponding wire on the switch using wire nuts.
Sometimes a combination ceiling fan/light is connected to only one switch, so you cannot control it separately from the light switch. While it is possible to rewire it yourself for separate control, it requires some advanced electrical skills. Consider hiring an electrician to help with this.
Installing a dimmer switch to control a ceiling fan is one of those DIY projects that can have serious negative consequences if done incorrectly. Standard dimmer switches are only intended to be used for light fixtures, so it’s essential to use a switch explicitly made for ceiling fans. To check existing dimmer switches in your home to determine if they’re compatible with your fan, simply remove the switch cover and look for the description on the switch plate.
The type of dimmer switch you use should not only be specific to your fan, but to your light too. To learn more about whether dimmers can be used with any light, check out this article!