Ceiling Fan Control Options

I know there are several thread around this already, but I couldn’t find one specific to my scenario, so I decided to sign up and start one.

Here is the situation. I have a single switch controlling the Fan and Light, and I have a Remote that handles lighting, fan speed, etc. I would like to get to a setup that allows me to control light and fan (speed would be nice to have, but not a requirement) with Alexa and ST. As far as I can tell, there are a few options, but each seem like they have a major barrier.

  1. Replace the single switch with two switches. Problem is the light box is only a single gang, so I would have to tear that out and replace it. Yuck.

  2. Bury a fan control switch in the ceiling above the fan. I’m not an electrician, but this seems a little dicey. I’d guess I need help if I go that route.

Is there an easier way to do this that I’m not seeing? I thought maybe I could replace my fan remote with a wifi connected remote, but I’m not seeing any out there. I also thought maybe there was a way to use a single switch to control both fan on\off and light on\off, but not seeing that either.

Anyone out there have some other creative ways to get this to work?

The first question is this: Do you have a “Always Hot” in the ceiling for the fan?

For the fans in my bedrooms I have two “incoming” lines… One is from the the wall switch and obviously is turned on/off by the switch. The other is always Hot… it’s ALWAYS sending power regardless of the wall switch.

If you’re unsure, test it this way: Using your remote, turn on both the light and the fan. Now flip the wall switch. Did the light go out but the fan stay on (obviously leave time for the fan to slow down and stop)? If so, then you do have an “always hot” line, if not… then it’s more complicated.

If you have an always hot, then you can do what I did:

Z-wave or Zigbee wall switch to control just the light. Then get an a micro Smart Switch from AEON Labs (http://aeotec.com/z-wave-in-wall-switches). These are basically like REALLY small devices and you can hide them in the “cowl” of the ceiling fan no problem. This sits on the “always hot” line.


  • Relatively easy install, no need to cut open walls or anything.
  • Independent control for fan and light.


  • No physical control of fan switch possible… have to use either phone or some z-wave remote.
  • No ability to change speed of fan, just on/off.

A few other points:

If you don’t have separate ‘always hot’ in the ceiling and you can’t easily feed an ‘always hot’ line up there, your other options are to put TWO of those micros up in the fan’s cowl, but then the wall switch won’t do anything.

Personally, for most of my fans, I never take them off medium speed. Maybe 5% of the time I’m using them it’s on a speed other than medium… maybe. So not being able to control speed isn’t a huge deal for me.

You CAN NOT use a standard z-wave/zigbee dimmer switch as a way to control fan speed. This will be bad for your fan.


Thanks for the response. I don’t think there is an always hot, as the switch controls everything. We generally leave it on and just control the light with the remote. I, like you, don’t really care too much about the speed. If it worked into the solution, great, if not on and off are fine leaving the fan on a certain speed.

In the box it looks like there are 4 wires running to the fan. I assume that’s for light, fan, speed, etc. but they are all twisted together. I suspect I can sort them out with some trial and error, but now we are kinda back to my original options.

Okay, so if the switch is feeding power to them all, we’re going to essentially by-pass the switch all together. The big disadvantage here is that you’ll have no physical control of the light or fan to turn them on (you can always flip the switch to turn them off, but then can’t turn them back on via SmartThings until you flip the switch again).

Having said that, if you still want to proceed I’d go with two of the micro controllers in the cowl of the fan.

I’d suspect that the four wires are these:

  1. Hot for light
  2. Hot for fan
  3. Neutral (return path for both hot lines)
  4. Ground

USUALLY (but certainly not always!!) the Hot lines are black or blue, the Neutral is white, and the Ground is green or just a bare (uncoated) wire.

Also worth noting here is that you want to by-pass your remote as well, so you need to look at what wires are going to the remote receiver box. It’s possible you have just black/white/green going into the box, but then more wires coming out (split between fan/light).

Either way we can make this work with two of those micro switches in the ceiling fan cowl… it may get a bit tighter in there if we’re doing two, but we can save some space by taking the remote receiver out, so that’ll help.


What’s the brand and model of the current wall switch?

And in particular, is the remote an IR remote or is it a radio frequency remote? One of the easiest ways to tell quickly is if the remote works from outside the room with the door closed, so that the signal is going through the wall, it’s probably an RF remote. IR remotes need to be line of sight.

If it’s an IR remote, there’s a good chance that it would work with the Logitech Harmony hub. And if it works with the Logitech Harmony hub, you can get integration with SmartThings that way without having to do any rewiring at all. But you would have to buy a Logitech Harmony hub for that room if you don’t already have one. You would also be able to use the Harmony for other purposes at the same time, such as controlling a television. But for this to work it has to be in the same room with the fan switch.

If it’s an RF remote, then you’re out of luck and you probably have to replace the switch and start from the beginning.

But I did just want to mention the harmony option in case it was something that might work for you.

Here’s the site where you can look up what fan remotes are compatible with harmony:


The following is the harmony hub that is compatible with smartthings. Price varies a lot, I often see the least expensive price at Best Buy, but sometimes Amazon has it at a good price so it’s worth checking around. To make the fan switch option work, all you need is the harmony hub itself. But you can also buy it in a bundle with a button remote.


Again, this won’t work with all set ups, but it is worth checking to see if it might work with yours. :sunglasses:


@JDRoberts Thanks! Its just a generic non smart switch on the wall right now. I’m still in the planning stages.

Pretty sure the remote is RF, it works outside the room and has dip switches inside. Sucks though cause I already have a Harmony hub in that room.

Nothing out there that would blast RF and have wifi? That would be too simple.

@chrisb So for the fan, I could always hot the fan controls by bypassing the light switch, then use a micro for fan on off, then use the wall switch for light control right? I would just need to figure out which wire is light, fan, etc. I need to read up on the micro link you posted. Will do that when I have more time.

1 Like

Yes, that is correct.

I have example #1 in my bedrooms, so I can easily just put the micro controller on the blue line, smart switch in the box and I’m all set.

In my den I have example #2, which means when (if?) I ever wire this up to a smart switches I’ll need to put in two controllers cause I don’t really have any way of getting a new wire up there. :frowning:

But, if you can, then you have example #3 were you’re bring in a new hot line, which basically just makes it like example #1.

1 Like

Man, thanks for all the detail. One more question. How big are the Micros? Even though its a 1 gang box, there is some room in there, would it fit without having to take down the fan? Assuming I’m in Example 3 that is.

Course putting a smart switch in will take up some of that free space for sure.

It’s easily small enough to fit in a 1-gang box with a REGULAR switch… in fact that’s what it was originally designed to do.

However, I doubt it would fit with a SMART switch. Those are pretty big and usually take up a lot of room in a box.

Verify what you actually have first at the ceiling box. Open it up and make sure is there only two wires (which is most likely). Those would be the switched power coming from the light switch box. BUT check to be sure so we know your options.

The examples @chrisb gives in #1 and #3 assume you have three conductors available at the ceiling which I don’t think applies to you. Unless you plan on installing another wire but it doesn’t sound like you would since you weren’t considering your own option #2 which to me is the best and gives you total flexibility. Obviously I did that option :wink:

So if you decide on simple on-off control you could save money and mounting space using a dual relay instead of two singles. Something like the Fibaro or Enerwave. I prefer Enerwave here because of price and the pig tails are easy to work with for me.


But if you go the two micro switch route to give you dimming light and on-off fan you might just revisit installing a fan speed control like I did to give full flexibility. You are doing the same amount of work and money.

1 Like

@dalec, how does the Enerwave show us in SmartThings? Does it show up as two devices or one device with two “children”?

Just follow this thread where you would need to install the special device handler code that lets SmartThings to access both relays. Both relays will look like individual switches to SmartThings that you control separately. Remember this is only On-Off control of Fan and On-Off of Light; no dimming.

1 Like

Hello there,

I have read the previous threads and have the same configuration where light source, fan source are on the same paddle switch and are controlled by a remote as long as the paddle switch is turned on.

I have additional questions:

  1. do I replace the existing paddle switch with a zwave fan dimmer such as a GE which I am partial to?
  2. purchase Enerwave Z-Wave Plus Switch Module ZWN-RSM2 Converting 2 Current Switches Smart, NEUTRAL WIRE REQUIRED, Black which will be housed in the cowl fan
  3. map wiring as previously discussed
  4. Pair the GE fan dimmer switch to the smarthings controller - then I am good from a fan perspective
  5. What dims the light in the fan or controls its power source?

Kevin J. Culp
Master Technologist (NFV Master, SDN SME, Telecom Carrier Grade Support)

I ended up ripping out the remote receiver and replacing it with two of the Micros linked above. Then I just leave the switch on the wall on. During my work, I did attempt to leave the remote in place for the light and use the micro in line for fan only. It worked, however the dimmer on the light was pretty unreliable, I didn’t spend much time troubleshooting though.

The downsides to this are.

  1. No real control over the light or fan from the wall.
  2. You have to pull the chain to change speeds on the fan.

With Alexa and some smart lighting controls, number 1 isn’t an issue. And and we never really change the speed anyway, so number 2 wasn’t a problem for us.

Only other thing I did was replace the wall switch from a toggle to a non smart paddle just to have consistency in the look and feel of the other switches in the house.

Depending on what wires you have going from the switch to the fan / light. You can hook one of the Enerwaves to the wall switch. It has a wire dedicated for this.

Would have to bypass the switch to get power to the Enerwaves in the overhead. Then run line to one side of the switch and the other side of the switch goes to the Enerwaves aux input wire.

Look at the wiring instructions that came with the Enerwaves. I’m winging it from memory.

Hmmm, I see solutions proposed. Not easy solutions, because nobody has made a device for this exact situation yet.

There are other option for this situation too if you look around. None of them cookie cutter easy.

In this thread they are discussing and trying to get a new device coming out that can resolve this very question that just about everyone could use.

Thanks - I am don’t think implementing a wink device is the way I want to go given the fact that I already have a remote devices to control my existing configuration. Besides wink is proprietary and ZigBee specific. In my opinion with all the problems with OTA firmware updates specific to ST I am of the opinion ZigBee is not a robust technology as zwave is. I have been really turned off lately with ZigBee technology.

I have learned from working in a devops R&D environment for many years that sometimes it is best to walk away from something that does not fit the solution entirely. It comes to mind the analogy of smashing a square peg in a round whole. Yeah it will fit but with a lot of effort. I am looking for something that is robust and minimal effort.

Your insights TN_Oldman are greatly appreciated though.

Kevin Culp HPE Master Technologist (NFV Master, SDN SME, Telecom Carrier grade Technical Support)

Hello there,

I am very intrigued by your configuration - I have some additional questions

  1. How to you prevent a chassis ground fault condition when you have exposed terminal posts on your zwave paddle switch in the Fan COWL? When you place the paddle switch back in the wall outlet you are connected to earth ground.

  2. How do two devices fit in a fan cowl given the space requirements.

  3. I am concerned about arching and safety concerns especially in the ceiling - I can’t imagine this is code.

Best Regards,
Kevin Culp

I agree, But it just depends on each persons comfort level when working on these things. I personally think NOTHING related to smartthings meets these criteria:

I have yet to do anything that was easy and obvious. I think if I was not semi technical minded,a tinkerer, and the help of these forums it would be even harder to do most everything I have working in my house.

Sorry I did not see your post earlier. Guess I read right past it.

To answer your questions:

  1. Depending on your wiring, and your requirements you could put either the GE fan switch or the GE light Dimmer switch in the wall box. I have done this in my house (light switch in wall box)
  2. You can put the Enerwave in the fan cowling. It is an on / off controller so you would only get those functions, depending on the room available in your fan and ceiling light box. You could stuff a GE fan switch in there. (which I did, was VERY tight but I got it in there) then you would have variable fan control vice only on / off.
  3. Not sure about mapping wiring as previously discussed. I have found not everything is the same when it comes to house wiring. You will need to verify your wiring and plan out your install using guides above and asking for help (with details) when stuck.
  4. yes you would pair whatever switch combination you chose to smartthings. You would then have control of them in that environment. We used the light more than the fan So that is why I put the light on the wall switch and fan in ceiling.
  5. depending which direction you go, you would wire it so that one smart switch would control each item. So one switch for light and one for fan. Each respective switch then controls it’s load of fan or light.

My fan has a separate wire exiting it for hookup purposes 1 for the fan and 1 for the light. From what I have read on the forum some fans do not. They have a single fan and are wired internally to the light and fan. Also in my situation I had the line power located in the overhead box under the fan. So it was readily available for use.

I felt comfortable wiring my fan / light combo how I did. I actually have my light on a 3 way circuit with 2 switches on opposite walls. My fan is now only controllable from something connected to smartthings like phone,button controller, Alexa ect… That is not a big deal for us since we don’t use that fan alot and we previously had to use one of those RF controllers to use the fan before. So we are in the habit of grabbing something to turn on the fan anyway.

The whole putting one switch in the ceiling light box is discussed alot on the forum. For both the fan / combination or just lights where the power source (line) in the the overhead light box.

I just finished installing 2 of these Enerwave switches in 2 of my ceiling lights box due to the power in overhead issue. Vice putting the Enerwave in the wall light box behind the switch.

Like I said in the previous post, a single device designed exactly for fan / light control does not exist. I don’t understand why someone has not developed and made this yet. Seems like a no brainer that would sell itself. There must be some issue that we as consumers are unaware of that prevents this. Until then we are stuck either pulling new wires, stuffing switches behind things, or waiting for something to get made that is indeed Zwave and easy to install like the current RF controllers you can buy anywhere.

Hope that answers your questions.

You could not have said it any better! I envision something like a one paddle switch that has two zwave chips; one to control fan oscillator speed and one for light dimmer capability. Then of course we have the zwave classification as well to content with on the standards body. I can’t imagine nobody is working on this they have they aeon and zeus power strip but of course that is just a toggle off condition.

1 Like