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I’ve read a lot about how people incorrectly install ceiling fans and control them by dimmers. As a result I want to do it right, but nowhere can I find concrete directions on what I need to do.

What kind of dimmer specifically do I need to get in order to control a ceiling fan? And what do I need to make sure I get in a ceiling fan, to make sure it can be controlled by dimmers? Eg. Do I need to make sure they are rated for a certain number of amps? What kinds of characteristics are necessary for a dimmer to control a fan and/or a light?

To be clear, I want to install a ceiling fan where I can control the light with a dimmer switch, and where I can also control the fan speed with a dimmer switch. I am also hoping to use smart switches with this, so I can control them remotely without having to use a dedicated remote (which tends to get lost). So I know one feature I need is to have separate circuits to control the fan speed and the light brightness. What else do I need to know?

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    You cannot control a fan with a dimmer at all. It uses a different thing called a fan speed control. You can get split "dimmer for light + speed control for fan" combo units, they are readily available. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Aug 17 at 19:14
  • Ok so let me rephrase it. Do they make dimmer-type switches that can be used to control fan speed? – Jason Aug 17 at 19:16
  • I’ll add that Lutron makes a “smart fan control switch” (casetawireless.com/products/dimmers-switches), what makes it capable of controlling a fan? – Jason Aug 17 at 19:18
  • I take it you are running new wiring for this, no? – ThreePhaseEel Aug 17 at 23:47
  • @ThreePhaseEel yes, the plan is to run new wiring. – Jason Aug 17 at 23:47
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You're on the right track with running separate switched hots for the fan and light

First off, you're definitely on the correct track with running separate switched hots for the fan and light; having only one switched-hot at the fan location limits your options quite severely. To go along with this, you'll also want to have two switch gangs available at all control locations you plan to operate the light and fan from; that way, you can use separate devices for light and fan control, instead of limiting yourself to combination controllers. Finally, you'll want to arrange your wiring so that neutral is available at the primary control location, if not all control locations; this is important as smart switches generally require neutral to power themselves properly.

Be careful when you shop for fans, though!

The other issue you'll run into is that you will need to be somewhat careful when you shop for fans. Some newer fan designs use a DC fan motor, driven by an integral speed controller; as a result, they don't play nicely with third-party controls. While some of these fans may be available with "smart" features out of the box, they don't lend themselves to integration with any sort of broader ecosystem of smart devices.

However, most fan controllers aren't too picky otherwise, and will work with any fan where you have to wire the light kit and fan motor to separate wires on the remote, or fans that ship without a remote for that matter, just pull chains. Don't forget to make sure the chains are set to HIGH when you install the smart switch!

As to fan controls...

As the comments allude to, a fan requires a special fan speed controller instead of an ordinary dimmer; regular dimmers may burn out prematurely, cause the fan to hum most annoyingly, or even damage the fan itself due to overheating. The two primary options for "smart" fan control are the Lutron Caseta fan controller, which is a good option when paired with the rest of the Caseta line or if you are interested in "spot" wireless control without any "smart" features for that matter as it can be swapped out for something else relatively easily due to being a wallbox device, and the Insteon FanLinc, which is a canopy module device that doesn't require the extra hot wire, and thus is a good option in retrofit scenarios where separate hots are unavailable, or if sophisticated scene-based control is necessary.

There are a couple of other wall-switch or canopy module options: GE/Jasco makes a Z-Wave wallbox fan controller, while there's a ceiling fan module in the Wink ecosystem if you're in Zigbee world. There are also products that can work with an existing ceiling fan receiver/remote setup to give it Wi-Fi capability, but that's again more of a retrofit option.

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  • This is very helpful. Can you say more about what to look for in a ceiling fan? – Jason Aug 18 at 1:30

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