We have a 20 year old fan with light kit that is fully functional and in good condition. Hubby installed and it is wired to a single wall switch that controls power to it - no dimmer. The fan itself has 2 pull chains: one for the fan that allows 4 options-off/high/med/low speed and one for lights that allows 2 options-off/on.

In the past couple years, I've made our home a smart home using multiple smart plugs and it's been great. Couple month later I wanted to make the lights in the fan fixture dimmable without installing a new fan or a wall dimmer and thought: why not use the new led smart bulbs? I found Zigbee type bulbs that were compatible with Amazon Echo Plus's built in hub and installed them in the fixture. They linked with the hub in the Echo Plus flawlessly and immediately were accessible using both the Alexa app and voice control both for turning them on/off and setting the brightness level. SWEET! Over 6 months of dimmer and app/voice control over a fixture we'd been stuck with and really didn't want or need to replace.

Wrinkle in the ointment: we had to get a new router recently which meant a new WiFi network and I ended up having to reset all the Wemo Smart plugs so they would work. But could find no real info on how to reset the bulbs that worked and they were out of commission so I contacted the manufacturer and was told:

most LED bulbs, cannot be used on ceiling fan fixtures. This is because the ceiling fan fixture itself is wired as a dimmer. This means bulbs in that fixture will be denied steady and consistent power even when the fan is not in use. This is because the fan has the ability to be set to varying power levels

And further:

With ceiling fan fixtures, the power to the bulb can fluctuate at any given time as little as 10% but as high as 30%. This is not an issue with incandescent light bulbs since: they use more watts and the amount of electric going to the bulb will determine the brightness due to the tungsten fulfillment being heated. LED bulbs, on the other hand, use a fraction of the Watts so they need a consistent amount of power. This part is important: Just because the bulbs worked previously on the ceiling fan fixture, does not mean the bulb was not being damaged or having issues you did not notice. This is the only analogy I have come up with but it is like using the wrong oil for your car; in the short term, there may be no damage but in the long-term, there will be damage. It is a matter of when, not a matter of if. Blockquote

How can this be true? Hubby and I discussed this - he installed it and everything else in our house over 30 years, is a long time pro in maintenance at commercial facilities so he is very well schooled in all construction topics - and we cannot figure out how this wiring/power claim could be accurate. The fan has 2 circuits - one on a 4 way switch for the fan and one for the light with just the on/off function. How could the 4 way switch setup to the fan circuit adversely affect the circuit for the lights unless you were using the fan at the same time as the lights were also being used (which we never do)? Can anyone verify this is accurate advice and warning coming from the manufacturer?

Just seems so completely illogical but maybe there is some truth given the smart home aspects involved which are still new to everyone mostly. Or maybe this would be true if wired as serial with the lights being at the end of the daisy chain and getting power that is restricted by however the fan switch is dictating? If that's true, since we don't use them at the same time, wouldn't that nullify this warning of (with example of wrong oil in the engine causing an imminent failure) that was given?

TIP ON GETTING A NEW WiFi IN AN EXISTING SMART HOME: While the bulbs quit working and I worked to reset most of the dysfunctional smart plugs getting them functional the same day as new WiFi install, a few wouldn't reset easily so I left them to sit with the non-working bulbs. I contacted the bulb manufacturer who advised as above and after a few days of back and forth contact, I forgot and gave a voice command to the Echo Plus to turn a switch on and it did it -- even though that was one of the switches I had not manually reset and it had been offline/unrecognized on the day of WiFi install. Then out of instinct I tried asking for the fan bulbs to be brightened up (at that moment I had them on via turning on the wall switch but they were at just 10%, the prior setting they'd been when the old WiFi went down) and voila! the Echo Plus turned up the brightness! So essentially, I learned that if you get a new WiFi to replace your old network, don't worry much about resetting everything asap. If you can wait a day or two, it's likely your hub (after you have manually reset that hub to the new WiFi) will seek out all the devices it already knew on the old WiFi and somehow set them up for ongoing control on the new WiFi. Kind of amazing. But I also learned the entire issue of dealing with a new WiFi on existing smart home devices is not covered by these smart home device companies in their help files. Everything is focused instead on how to install the brand new devices. Maybe this tale will help someone else WHEN (not if) they have to get a new WiFi network at home.


1 Answer 1


The quote you found doesn't apply to your fan

There are really two basic flavors of ceiling fan/light combination fixture on the market:

  1. Low end, "big box special" ceiling fans that rely on a hand-held remote + integral receiver for fan speed and lighting control. These route the light kit connection through the receiver module's dimmer, and as the quote describes, really aren't going to be particularly kind to a smart bulb (it's like connecting two wallbox dimmers in series).

  2. Just about everything else, including your fan, relies on mechanical pull chains for fan speed and light control. This approach is more compatible with external/aftermarket controls, as well as with smart bulbs, but there is a caveat on many newer fans that there is a wattage limiter in-line with the lights (to prevent a dummy from stuffing a bunch of 100W incandescents in and burning the thing up). This widget can act somewhat like a dimmer, but is not likely to be present on a two-decade-old fan, and can be removed if needed in this day and age.

So, I'd give the smart-bulbs a whirl; if they have trouble with not coming on all the way, then I'd check for the presence of a wattage limiter and remove it if it's present (it's not needed in this age of LED bulbs).

  • Yup, OP's first quote applies to dimmers... And the second quote applies to wattage limiters. This fan has neither. Commented Apr 6, 2019 at 0:05
  • Thanks for the feedback. Exactly as we thought - our fan is far too old and too simplistic to be an issue. I guess we're lucky we haven't replaced it. And actually thinking about it, this fan is more like 30 years old!
    – Leena
    Commented Apr 6, 2019 at 8:12

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