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I recently replaced my bedroom ceiling fan with a newer ceiling fan and with the old fan I could:

  • Use one switch on the wall to turn on/off the light
  • Use the other switch on the wall to turn on/off the fan

The new fan came with a remote and the remote and the chains are the only way I can turn the fan and the light on and off. This ONLY works, however, when one particular wall switches is on.

During the installation, coming from my ceiling I had a black, white, and red wire. My instructions didn't include anything about connecting the red wire, so I just put a wire tie on it and proceeded. I now think this was connected to the wall switches.

My basic questions are:

  • Should I have ignored the red wire?
  • What is the red wire for and why was it left out of the instructions?
  • Why did I loose functionality with a newer fan (i.e. why can't I turn the lights and fan on/off via the switches on the wall?)
  • When I turn on the lights, why does it make an brief buzz sound?
  • If I turn on the light from the chain I cannot turn it on/off because the light will turn off immediately. I can only turn on and off via the remote. Why?

Sorry for all the questions, but I'm a complete noob at this.

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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The red wire is the ungrounded (hot) conductor from one switch, while the black wire is the ungrounded (hot) conductor from the other switch. In the original installation one switch would energize the red wire causing the fan to come on, while the other would energize the black turning on the light.

With the new fixture, both the fan and light functionality are controlled by the remote. Because of this, the fixture only requires a single ungrounded (hot) conductor to operate. These types of fixtures are good for situations where a switch is not present/desired, but may be awkward when a switch is present. As you've noticed, the fixture only operates when the switch is in the on position. The other switch in this situation would do nothing, since nothing is connected to the wire that it energizes.

With this fixture you only require a single ungrounded (hot) conductor, because the remote routes power to either the fan, the light, or both depending on the setting. The additional wire can be capped using a twist-on wire connector, or other approved method.

If you'd like to get the functionality you previously had, you'll likely have to bypass the remote on the fixture. However, this is an atypical installation, and requires special knowledge. This type of installation should only be performed by an experienced DIYer.

The original wiring looked something like this...

Original Wiring

The wiring with the remote unit looks something like this...

New Wiring

As you can see in the new wiring, the remote unit controls the current to the fan and light. Because of this, the second switched ungrounded (hot) conductor is not required.

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Should I have ignored the red wire?

Sort of. You should have put a wire nut on it so it cannot accidentally cause any problems if it is energized.

What is the red wire for and why was it left out of the instructions?

The instructions didn't anticipate your specific installation. Most new construction runs unswitched power to a fan box.

Why did I lose functionality with a newer fan (i.e. why can't I turn the lights and fan on/off via the switches on the wall?)

It was designed to use only the remote. Perhaps they anticipate few people would want to use wall switches if they can have a remote. And if someone turned off the wall switch, what kind of technical support calls would they get when asked why the remote does not work. It could also be a manufacturing cost issue.

When I turn on the lights, why does it make an brief buzz sound?

Probably related to the light switching technology. If it has a dimmer, that is common behavior. Even without a dimmer, soft starting an incandescent bulb (slowly turning it on) dramatically increases its life and the least expensive electronics to do that do make some noise.

If I turn on the light from the chain I cannot turn it on/off because the light will turn off immediately. I can only turn on and off via the remote. Why?

Chain? That is confusing. Maybe mention the make and model of the unit?

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