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I have a Harbor Breeze Merrimack 52-in ceiling fan, model #40094. For a long time now, the remote operation has been intermittent. Sometimes it works perfectly, then stops working entirely for awhile (say minutes to hours), then works occasionally, and so on. The remote is working, and has a fresh battery.

Inside the fan housing is a fan30r-190wa receiver. It has a bunch of wires that come out of the unit together and connect to the fan through a plastic connector. On the other side of the receiver is a 22 AWG aluminum wire with orange sheathing. It would appear to be an antenna connection.

receiver box

While I had the fan housing open, the receiver was working perfectly whether this orange wire was connected or disconnected (the wire runs into the downrod and either goes down into the motor or up through the downrod). Every time I walked by I tried the remote lights and fan from different angles and distances and it was perfect. I thought that by having the cover open, the antenna was more exposed so it was receiving the signal better.

So what I did was I cut the wire and then added another wire and spliced the two original orange wires and my new wire together. I wrapped my new wire around a screw on the fan housing and put it all back together. I thought that by doing that, the metal fan housing would effectively become part of the antenna (I admittedly don't know much about how antennas work).

However, as soon as I flipped the switch, the breaker popped. So seemingly I created a short to ground, but I did not expect that to happen with an antenna wire.

What happened here? Does anyone have a recommendation to get this working better?

The fan still works after removing the wire I added and resetting the breaker.

receiver

opened receiver 1

opened receiver 2

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  • Does the remote now work as it did before you did what you describe? That antenna wire would be stranded copper with a tin coating, not aluminum. May 13, 2023 at 18:01
  • It works the same basically from what I can tell, it's intermittent.
    – Logan
    May 13, 2023 at 18:07
  • How did you terminate the cut off wire? Have you replaced the connector on the end? if you hold the remote next to the fan, does it work better? Is the breaker a GFCI, AFCI or just overcurrent? May 13, 2023 at 18:08
  • Basically after doing this I just undid the wire nut so the antenna is unconnected and removed the wire I added. I have not yet put it back together. The remote does work perfectly with the housing open and placing the remote near the housing. When I move away the success rate is less than 100%. Worth noting that before doing anything to it, when it wasn't working there was nothing that would make it work, holding the remote close to the housing did nothing, so I really think having the housing open helps. The breaker is just overcurrent.
    – Logan
    May 13, 2023 at 18:25
  • After more testing it seems that it is worse, but I have no way of knowing if it just happens to be worse coincidentally or if it is what I did. Success rate is still 100% when I hold it inches away from the opened housing, beyond that it generally doesn't work. Even with an extra wire attached and hanging straight up in the air, with the remote pointing right at it from maybe ~5 ft away, does not work.
    – Logan
    May 13, 2023 at 19:02

3 Answers 3

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An antenna is not a ground as you have found out the hard way. I'm actaully surprised the receiver is still functioning after taking that hit. Tape the end of your antenna wire so it doesn't come in contact with the grounded fan housing. Keep the antenna wire outside of the the canopy.

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Antennas are tricky. That unit appears to operate at 303.9MHz, which means a half wave antenna would be formed by a continuous piece of wire in free space that is 19.4 inches long. As you probably don't want a two foot wire hanging down from your ceiling fan, or hanging out of your remote, there's compromises made in the design of the antennas in order to reduce the size. This also makes them work less well as antennas. Extending the wire isn't an easy path to making this better.

Since there aren't a bunch of reviews out there complaining that these units have poorly working remotes, I'm more inclined to think there's a problem with either your receiver or transmitter. This is particularly because it has worked well at some points. Troubleshooting radio transmitters or receivers is well beyond the scope of a DIY question here, and the kit of both transmitter and receiver appears to still be available new. Given that, I would replace both. If you still have problems, it's likely that something near your home is putting out excess noise on that frequency, and you'll need to switch to a control on a different frequency or go through a huge headache of finding the source of noise. But most likely, replacing the control will fix things right up for years more of good service.

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  • I should've mentioned that this is the second remote, I think the first one had the same problem. I don't know whether it was initially better when we first got the second remote. I've suspected that the problem is the receiver, but this is at a house on a small island in the Bahamas and I cannot get parts like that so easily/quickly, so it's worth investigating a bit first.
    – Logan
    May 13, 2023 at 23:28
  • I'm not sure how I could have known that it was difficult to obtain a replacement or that you had already replaced the transmitter. Given that problems carried from one transmitter to the next and that it did work at some point, this even more strongly suggests that there is a problem with the receiver. It needs component-level repair or replacement.
    – KMJ
    May 15, 2023 at 14:49
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Antenna to ground does no create a short circuit blowing breakers. It does makes the antenna function useless since it is grounded.

What I am interested in is this: So what I did was I cut the wire and then added another wire and spliced the two original orange wires and my new wire together. I wrapped my new wire around a screw on the fan housing and put it all back together.

What two original wires, there should be only one. Did you by mistake cut the power line to the fan since it is orange /red and connected all that to ground. That would make nice short

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  • That is what I thought, that it shouldn't blow the breaker. Sorry I should've been clearer about that, it was the antenna wire that I cut in half, creating two wires, which I then joined back together with my new wire in a wire nut.
    – Logan
    May 13, 2023 at 20:05
  • Why would you cut the antenna wire ? that would reduce the antenna reception. Antennas like to be in one pice not going true a wire nut that would increase resistance for the signal. Signal is only few millivolt delivered over the air.
    – Traveler
    May 13, 2023 at 20:48
  • Not knowing what I'm doing, basically. Lesson learned there. The problem is the same as it was before in any case.
    – Logan
    May 13, 2023 at 23:21

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