Fan controller: Need help choosing what to get

Hey Folks,
Now that it’s hot I want to focus on connecting the light/fan in my family room. I’ve read other topics on this but can’t seem to wrap my head around it. Was hoping it would be easier if I explained my setup and a kind soul could help me.

I have a ceiling fan/light combo that runs off of one dimmer switch. The fan has 2 pull cords, one for the fan (3 speeds) and one for the light fixture. The dimmer switch only controls the light. We simply keep the light pull cord “on”.

The fan portion is only operated by the pull cord and can still be operated when the dimmer switch on the wall is off.

What devices would I need to control the fan and the light separately via ST? Ideally I’d be able to control the speed of the fan as well but I’m not holding my breath.


You need to open up that switch box and see what wires you have. If you have a hot wire for the fan motor in the switch box, you have many more options.

Also, you need to check if you have a neutral wire in that switch box too.

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If you want a physical switch on the wall for both components you are probably going to have to replace that 1 gang box with a 2 gang. Not hard really, just a pain sometimes. If you have the load wire for the fan run to that switch box you can control it with a GE Smart Fan Controller. I’ve got 5 of them installed and they work fine.

I’ve never installed them, but I understand there is a component you can install in the ceiling above the fan to control the fan via automation.

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Thanks guys.

No neutral wire available at that gang box. I believe there is a black hot wire for the fan in there, but I’m not entirely sure.

If that’s the case, I suppose I’d have to pull that out and put into a separate gang box as @wgrafton suggests.

If not, does anyone know what device I’d have to use at the ceiling fan to control it? I was under the assumption this was an option as well. Is it just a relay?

That’s a pain. If you want the lights to be automated you’re going to need a neutral wire to the circuit breaker. No bundle of white wires in the back?

Yeah. It’s an old house. I’ve had to deal with it a few times. I bought a bunch of the GE dimmers that don’t require a neutral to get by most of them. I just hate the way they work and look. I may have to use one here as well. :smirk:

Hampton Bay (aka Home Depot) is coming out with a zigbee module that installs in the canopy and controls lights and fan. Seems to be an ideal solution for people that only have one wall switch.

Very cool. The link on home depot’s site doesn’t work anymore, but I’m reading it’s supposed to be available some time in June.

Was it a relay-like device? Sounds like I could just wait a little longer for this.

yeah, it was basically a specialized in wall/ceiling relay.

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Whatever you do, do not use one of those GE neutral-free switches to control your fan. Those work by leaking a small amount of current through the load at all times, and that can’t be good for your fan motor. It could cause a fire.

Similarly, make sure you use a purpose-built fan controller (for speed) or a simple relay (if you just want on/off control). Do not use a dimmer switch meant for lighting.


Thanks @NorCalLights. I was just implying I’d use the GE neutral free dimmer for the light. My guess is that fan control is passed through the gang box and doesn’t go through my dimmer at all. But thanks for the safety tip anyway!

Sounds like you will only be able to use the smart dimmer at the wall. The fan control itself could be mounted in the canopy whether it be a simply on-off or speed control. I ended up needing to put both up at the fan canopy.

Hi, couldn’t figure out how to do a private message. Anyway I saw that you have 5 GE Smart Fan Controllers. I just got my smartthings and switches yesterday so I haven’t quite figured it all out yet. I have 2 switches and I can only get one to be discovered. I see that the instructions say the hub needs to be about 10’ from the switch for discovery. Wondering how you do that when the hub is hardwired. Is there a wireless option or do I just need to buy a long cat 5 cable and drag it around the house.

Thanks @dalec. Just to be clear it sounds like you’re saying two things here. Are you saying my only option is the GE fan control switch, which can be mounted at the wall or in the canopy like you did? That doesn’t require a neutral wire?

It’s wild that no one has come out with a zwave fan control relay device (until now). I’m trivializing it but, would a dimmer relay work as a fan control if you’re using the right smart app?

It’d prefer speed control so I think I’ll wait a few weeks to see how this Hampton Bay device shakes out.

Sorry, I really was confusing wasn’t I? :confused: Because if you don’t have a neutral wire at the wall location the smart fan control switch won’t work at the wall and will need to be mounted up at the ceiling fan canopy or gangbox, only the light dimmer switch can be located at the wall without a neutral (but you will be limited to only controlling incandescent lights). But the option I would suggest if you plan on using CFL, LED fan lights you could install a micro controller in the canopy along with the fan control and rewire the existing wall switch to give local on-off of the fan lights and still have full control of the dim level and on-off via ST. It really is important to know what you have so you will know your options, so for my clarity at the wall switch gangbox you ONLY have two wires coming in the gangbox (no others just passing through and wire nutted, no red wires), a black and a white that are connected to the switch that turns on/off the ceiling fan lights and does nothing to your fan speeds, yes?

In my situation, when I added my ceiling fan in the room I got lazy and didn’t run a wall switch but only grabbed the closest power source. I was only using the pull chains to control fan/lights. Since I installed the smart devices in the canopy I am now able to control the fan/lights separately with an Aeon Minimote, or my Amazon Echo. I just added a new HomeSeer HS-WD100+ in that same room for my wall light switch so now with that one new wall light switch I can turn on lamps and ceiling fan lights together as well as manually toggle my ceiling fan speeds. I finally got wireless control from my one wall location after all my years of being too lazy to run the wire for the ceiling fan. :grinning:

Yes, the smartapp would control it but definitely do NOT use a standard dimmer control to control the fan speed. @JDRoberts has an excellent post on why not to use light dimmer on fan control.

I agree with you… I am in the same “wait & see” as well. I have several more ceiling fans to go.

My dream solution would be to have Lutron develop a Z-Wave connected device using their existing Maestro design here.

I use this “dumb” switch today and it is perfect except for not being able to be connected to ST. It has seven speed settings instead of just 3 and the LED indicators are so helpful. It only needs power (that means a neutral ) at the wall switch. The actual fan and light control is done by a receiving module you mount in the canopy that talks wirelessly to the wall switch. It works awesome… just no zwave. I was hoping the Hampton Bay accessory would come close to this. I was by my Home Depot and there is nothing yet and the guys there didn’t know anything about it.

I had the exact same problem, with my garage control and my locks. You can do either:

  • the long cat 5 cable I use to leave coiled at my hub for that very purpose. :slight_smile: to just plug the ST hub in to the nearest LAN connection in my house for those hard connected devices like my locks.
    -use the Aeon Minimote to do the wireless option which works as well. I got the Minimote for the button control of my ceiling fan/and lights for the end table but it turns out to also be able to be used as a secondary controller to include or exclude your devices as well. So I don’t need the long cat 5 cable anymore for most things.

Unless you’ve got some really thick (metal and concrete) walls or are going entirely across your house from the hub you shouldn’t need to do that. I have never moved my hub which is on the top level of my house and 2 levels down I have several switches and 2 leak sensors that paired without a hitch. It helps that I built my mesh from the hub out and not haphazardly.


Here is a thought:

Open up the ceiling fan and swap the wires for the lights and the fan, now the fan will be controlled by the switch which you can replace with a fan control switch and the lights are on the pull cord. Get an Aeon Lags in line micro controller from Amazon for the lights and place that in your ceiling fan shroud. That way both items will be controlled via ST.?

Anyone have reasons this won’t work? I know the micro controller will not work on the fan but should be fine on the lights. Alternative to that is to get some Cree LED connected lights?


The smart fan controller requires power (hot and neutral) plus the fan load. Switching wires only works if he has a way to get the neutral leg down to the switch. I asked @ultrazero for clarification to make sure exactly what he has going in the wall switch location. He describes it above but it isn’t clear.

Thanks for the clarification!