You’ve bought a new ceiling fan and you’re stuck with an old standard light fixture. There are only two wires that were used to control the old light. You can wire the fan and fan light to the two wires and use the pull chains to control the fan speed and light. Alternatively, you can add a wireless ceiling fan remote to control everything wirelessly.
Ceiling Fan Wiring
There are several kits available on the market that allow you to convert a two-wire system for a ceiling fan remote. The two wires are neutral (white) and line voltage in the ceiling box. A line voltage wire is typically black but can be any other color except green or white. There’s also a ground wire. Usually, a ground wire is green or bare. When referring to a 2 wire system, I don’t count the ground wire as the third one in this article since it is present in every ceiling electrical box. The two wires we are concerned with are the neutral and line voltage wire.
Wall Switch Wiring
In your wall switch, you will find one of two possible wiring schemes. The first will have a white (neutral) and a black wire (line voltage). In contrast, the second will have two black wires. Having two black wires is normal and is to code. In the case of having one black and one white wire, the white wire should have been taped or painted black (or some other color other than green). The reason for this is that both of the wires on a switch are technically “hot”. One feeds line voltage to the switch, the other feeds line voltage to the light when the switch is turned on.
In any event, you can treat them both as “black”. The white wire should have been marked with black tape. You should mark it before going on. You can use black tape. Alternatively, you can paint or color it with a marker ( I prefer the black tape). Your new remote switch will have two black wires to connect the wires that were on your old switch.
How Systems for Ceiling Fan Remotes Work
They all work in basically the same way, using a wireless signal to control the speed and the light. There’s a receiver in the ceiling that has the wires that connect to the fan. The receiver is connected to the white and black wire in the ceiling box. It has the wires coming out of it that go to the fan. These are usually White, Black (fan power), Blue (Light power). The receiver does not usually have a ground wire. However, make sure to connect the ground in your ceiling electrical box to the fan itself if your ceiling fan remote kit does not accommodate a ground wire on the receiver.
The Ceiling Fan Remote Receiver
The receiver basically acts as a controller for the fan. One of the neat things about these systems is that they usually will have a light dimmer function and fan speed control function built in. The receiver in the ceiling is remotely controlled in one or two ways. A basic system will have a small control panel that replaces the wall switch. Another variation system will not only have that wall control panel but will also have a handheld remote as well.
It is important to realize, potential line voltage can be lethal. Before you do anything, make sure the circuit breaker (or fuse) is turned off. Verify that there is no power on that circuit! You can of course test this by turning the light switch on and off. Be cautious if you have multiple light switches for the same light fixture. If no power is present, remove the old light fixture. You can also remove the old wall switch at this time.
Double check for power. You can do this with a voltmeter. Alternatively, you can use a temporary fixture with a bulb in it. Although my preference would be to use a voltmeter. Check across the white and black wire. Your voltmeter should not show any voltage, or the light bulb should stay unlit if you are using a temporary fixture to test.
If you are replacing a standard light fixture, the odds are that the box you are going to be mounting your fan on is not designed to hold the weight of the fan. Consequently, when upgrading from a standard light fixture to a fan, you should check to see if the existing fixture is designed to hold the weight of a fan. These fixtures will typically have a rod or bracket spanning between two joists. If you are adding a remote to an existing fan, you should be fine
If you do not have one, you should upgrade the box to one that does. It’s not as bad a job as it sounds. For those of you that have an attic, you may be able to access the box and replace it from the attic. If you don’t have an attic, you can purchase a retrofit from Lowes or Home Depot. They will usually be labeled as “old construction” or “remodel” fan fixture box. These fixtures make it easy to access and install a new box that will support the weight of a fan.
Installing the Ceiling Fan Remote
Ceiling Fan Remote Dip Switches
Before installing the wall switch or ceiling receiver, make sure you have set the dip switches that are on both correctly. If this is the only ceiling fan remote installation, you can leave them at their default setting. However, If you have another remote system in your home, you will want to set the dip witches on both so they do not interfere with the other system.
In my case, I already had another system in my home. Therefore. I set the switches by setting switch number two in the down position.
Installing the new Ceiling Fan Remote Wall Switch
Your new wall switch is fairly simple to install. In effect, there are only three wires on it! It should have two black wires and a green wire. The green wire is connected to the ground wire in the electrical box. The two black wires on the new switch are connected to the two black wires (or the black and white wire mentioned earlier in this article). Once those three wires are connected you can mount the switch to the wall box and go onto the ceiling box.
Installing the new Ceiling Fan Remote Receiver
Feeding Power to the Receiver
The receiver should be connected to the existing wiring exactly as the original light was. There are two wires on the receiver that should be clearly marked. There is a white and a black wire. Connect the electrical box black wire to the black wire on the receiver. Connect the white wire on from the ceiling box to the white wire on the receiver. You now have a source of power and a return path to the receiver. the new switch you installed will constantly feed power to the receiver. The receiver will control what goes on and off as well as fan speed and light intensity on your ceiling fan
New Ceiling Fan Installation Notes
You will need to install the bracket that came with your ceiling fan. Having the bracket up allows you to hang the fan motor which will give you access to the fan wiring. You’ll need access to the fan wiring to connect the ceiling fan remote receiver to the fan.
Existing Ceiling Fan Upgrade Notes
For an existing installation, you may want to consider removing two blades before proceeding. Consequently, this will give you easier access to the fan wiring so you can connect the wires without constantly wrestling the fan itself. Additionally, you will need to drop the cover that is over the fan bracket to expose the wiring. Typically, there are two screws holding the cover on. I would be extra careful in removing them so they don’t get lost.
Connecting the Ceiling Fan Remote Receiver to the Fan
If you are upgrading an existing fan, the fan wires are already in place. However, If you are installing a new one, you will need to hang the fan motor on to the bracket. Don’t forget to put the cover in place when hanging the motor! There should be three wires coming out of the receiver. If it follows the common color code, there will be a black wire for the fan, a blue wire for the light and a white wire for a return path to complete the electrical circuit for either the fan or the light. You can connect these to their respective counterparts on the fan. In any event, don’t forget to connect the ground wire in the electrical box directly to the fan.
Setting the Ceiling Fan Remote Receiver in Place
Once all the wiring is complete, you’ll have to tuck the receiver above the fan bracket. The receiver should fit in the bracket. It will be snug but once in place, you should be able to slide the ceiling fan cover over it and the fan bracket. At this point, you can replace the cover and secure it in place.
Once the cover is on you can proceed with installing the light kit and fan blades (for a new installation). For an existing installation, go ahead and replace the blades you took off. Next, test the light switch for the dimmer control as well as turning on and off. Likewise, test the fan speed control and the capability to turn it on an off. Hopefully, everything is working as it should. Congratulations, you have installed a ceiling fan remote control!