I have ceiling fans in four rooms all with lights. The fans are hardwired to the breaker box, but the lights are on switches. I'd like to add another switch to control the fan, either on/off, or a 3-speed switch. It is an older house, and most of the wiring is 2-wire no ground. What is going to be the best way to go about doing this?


The simplist solution is to replace the fan/light combinations with modern units that have wireless remote controls for both light and fan, and include multispeed settings for the fan.

Your current setup probably has a direct hot connection to the fan with a single pair of hot wires going to the switch for the light. This switch could be converted to turn the fan and light on or off together, but not separately without running additional wires.

You could snake new wires in to have separare controls for fan and light (a cable with three wires would do with a double switch), but this is requires routing cables through the walls and patching the plaster/wallboard after installation.

This also would not give you three speed controls at the wall. The three speed switches in most fans (those that use pull chains instead of a wireless remotes) cannot easily be controlled by a wall switch without a significant change in internal wiring, not a job for a novice.

A retro conversion could be done, but a replacement may be easier and maybe even cheaper than hiring an electrician to do the rewiring (remote fan/light combos can be had for less than $100).

  • You can easily control fan speed with a switch without rewiring the fan. There are specific switches for that purpose (that looks somewhat like a dimmer, but just have 3 speed positions + off). The only thing you need to do is leave the fan on the highest speed. Taking the speed chain off (or dramatically shortening it) will help avoid anyone messing with it. There are also retrofit wireless controllers that work the same way.
    – gregmac
    Jun 19 '13 at 18:32
  • @gregmac - true, assuming the fan power is run through the switch box and OP is willing to put in a double box for both light and fan. The wireless variant works in a single box of course, but the light control on these is too fiddly if it is for the primary room light.
    – bcworkz
    Jul 21 '13 at 21:12

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