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These are oldish standard chain-pull operated ceiling fans in our bedrooms enter image description here enter image description here

The light is operated by a wall switch or the one of the chains in the fan, The fan, it is only operated by pulling the chain. I would like to connect them to wall switches... one of those light-fan combo switches similar to this one

enter image description here

But I don't know if that is possible at all? and if so; what is involved or complex would it be? Does it need to have new wires sneak through the ceiling and walls? Would it require to hire an electrician or could I - handy with doing things myself but don't know much about electric stuff-- could do?

  • Can you post photos of the insides of the fan and switch boxes involved? – ThreePhaseEel Jun 12 at 16:45
  • Do you use pull chains for both the light and the fan or just the fan with a switch for the lights on the wall? – FreeMan Jun 12 at 16:59
  • @FreeMan: Yes, they all have a pull chain for the light and one for the fan. THey all connected to the wall switch, which only controls the light – Baratier ErebusDuHalm Jun 12 at 20:31
  • @BaratierErebusDuHalm -- we don't have remote X-ray vision to see into your wall and ceiling boxes with! – ThreePhaseEel Jun 13 at 1:58
  • @ThreePhaseEel: I am not at the point of taking things down and looking inside so i can take picttures.. – Baratier ErebusDuHalm Jun 13 at 2:03
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Electronics OR pull chains. The other goes away.

You either control it with the electronic control, OR the pull chains. Not both.

If you want to use an electronic control, then you need to bypass and remove the pull chains, preferably electrically. As user118539 witnessed, weird bad things can happen when you try to use both control methods at once.

That's my fan and switch! When I replaced with a new switch (exactly the same), I couldn't get the switch (fan and light) on the wall and chain (light and blade speed) to work 100%... I got it like 75% and then broke a blade off... (from a deleted "answer")

There simply aren't fan controllers out there designed to properly use both. Effectively this would be a case of rewiring the fan so the chains are alternate switches for the controller's input... but nobody builds a thing like that right now.

Get a matched control module and wall switch.

If there is already a "light switch" in the room that powers the fan, then you can probably get it done without calling an electrician to fish wire. And there ought to be a light switch in the usual place, that is mandatory per the Electrical Code and the Building Codes!

It's possible to have a switch module be the whole kaboodle, but it depends on a very particular wiring scheme (power to the switch, and /3 cable to the fan/light).

For all others, you will need a matched set of control module and wall switch. Fair chance these will be a serial-number-matched set (or have DIP switches to set a code ID) because the manufacturer will want to support independent control of multiple fans.

If power comes to the switch, it is straightforward - you pass power onward to the fan, and the remote communicates wirelessly or with powerline communication (or the red wire as a comm line) to the module. The module sits up in the ceiling above the fan, and takes hot and neutral (and comms), and drives the light and the fan separately

If power comes into the fan, then the wires to the switch are used to extend hot and neutral to the switch (and possibly also comms wire). Other than that, it is much like the above installation.

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  • The one i just installed was made by Hampton Bay and labeled universal. I installed it on a old Harbor Breeze fan/light, no problems. – Alaska Man Jun 12 at 22:35
  • All our ceiling fans & lights have individual pull chains, but we control them from individual switches on the wall. On first install, turn on the wall light switch - no light? Pull the light chain, don't ever touch it again. Turn the fan controller to full, pull the fan chain until it's on full speed, don't ever touch it again. No need to attempt to rewire anything in the fan itself, especially for one who is a rookie at electrical/electronics work. (I've done plenty of wiring in the house but still wouldn't attempt to rewire the fan...) – FreeMan Jun 13 at 13:41
  • @FreeMan And that works fine for an on/off light switch. When you add a fan speed control to the mix, now you have 2 different things trying to manage speed using 2 different methods, and lots of edge conditions can cause problems. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jun 13 at 15:47
  • Set the fan pull chain to "high speed" and the light pull chain to "on" then don't ever touch the pull chains. Been working fine with a 3-speed rotary fan switch and light dimmers here for 25 years. Have replaced fans & switches in just about every room in the house and never had a problem. – FreeMan Jun 13 at 15:59
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This is definitely possible, but whether you can diy is another matter. It would require running wires inside walls, through holes in top plates to connect the switches to the fans. You would have work in the attic and probably drill extra holes in top plates.

Depending on the age of these fans and make/model you might be able to get the control you want using wireless remote switches. If you did this, you would not have to run a cable and could work entirely in the living space below the ceiling. Personally I prefer the wall controls like you are envisioning, but a professional electrician would be able to do this far, far easier than an inexperienced diyer.

Could you send pics of one or more of the fans? How old are they?

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  • I just had this issue for an old light/fan. One wire in a switch box to a ceiling fixture box. I bought a Remote set up from a home improvement store. It came with a remote control wall switch that was installed in the box on the wall and receiver unit that was wired to the fan in ceiling box. The wall switch had a main power on/off and two control's for the light and the fan ( power and speed ) Easy and quick. – Alaska Man Jun 12 at 17:03
  • @Jim Stewart: I added a couple pictures to the OP. We've been on the house for 2.5 years, so I wager these are at least 5 to 10 years old fans. – Baratier ErebusDuHalm Jun 12 at 20:57
  • There are remotes for Hampton Bay fans of this vintage. If they work the same as those in the Hunter fans we have had installed, then the remote transmitter has a battery, and the receiver/switch is in the shroud. You don't have to rewire except to insert the receiver between the house wiring and the fan wiring. You just set and leave the pull chain for the fan on highest speed and the pull chain for the light on. – Jim Stewart Jun 13 at 3:30

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