A smart fan can be great for cooling down your home in the summer.
But if you don’t have the money to replace the old-fashioned fan you have now — or if you like the style and want to keep it — it’s easy to turn it into a smart fan.
Here are the four basic steps to turning a traditional ceiling fan into a smart fan:
- Buy a controller.
- Install the controller.
- Install or update apps to control your fan.
The main challenge isn’t necessarily the fan; it’s changing the switch or controller.
You’ll need to be careful while doing the wiring, but a homeowner with basic tools and some common sense should be able to handle this.
Read on, and I’ll walk you through the process.
1. Buy a Controller
This isn’t as simple as it sounds, because you need to find a controller that will work with your fan and with other smart appliances in your home.
Whether you are just starting out with smart appliances, or you already have a few up and running, you want to select a controller that works well with the smart appliances you have or plan to buy.
Choosing the right controller is key, because the dirty little secret about smart homes is this:
It isn’t necessarily the appliances that are smart; it’s the controllers. That’s especially true with fans.
There’s nothing all that fancy in the motor or the blades. It’s the switch that turns the motor on or the knob that controls the speed.
So, to make your ceiling fan a smart fan, you need to install a new controller.
But you can’t just buy any controller. You need one that is compatible with your smart home software and your fan. Let’s talk about software first.
Maybe you’ve already installed some smart home systems.
You probably have your smart appliances hooked up through Nest, Hub, SmartThings, or Homekit.
And you’ve probably settled on one platform—maybe two—to control the whole thing.
If that’s you, there’s no reason to download another app and set up a whole new control system just for a ceiling fan.
You should be able to add the ceiling fan to your current system and app.
If you happen to have more than one smart home app, you should probably control the ceiling fan through the same system that you use for heating and cooling.
That way you can have your fan and air conditioner working together.
But if you are new to smart home technology, you want to think ahead.
Be clear with yourself about why you want this technology and what you want it to do.
Do you want security? Do you want to save energy? Is it the little conveniences like having the lights come on when it’s dark?
And you should also think about which systems you want to automate.
Are there any other appliances you might want to control automatically?
If you’re thinking about a smart ceiling fan, you should look first at a system for automating heating and cooling.
There are many good platforms out there, but before you start automating things you want to have a plan and a system that works for your lifestyle.
There are lots of great systems out there. Four of the most common are:
- Wink Hub
- Samsung SmartThings
- Google Nest
- Apple Homekit
Odds are one of those platforms will give you the features you want and connect to the smart appliances you want to install
So you want a controller that is compatible with the platform you have in place, or a platform that you will be using when you start adding other smart appliances.
But you also want a controller that is compatible with your fan.
For instance, if your fan has multiple speed settings or has a sliding speed controller, you want a switch that can handle that.
If the fan has a lamp, you should get a second switch to control that too.
(But DO NOT try to use a dimmer switch to control the speed of the fan. That could damage the motor.
Find a controller that’s designed to control motor speeds instead.)
Most ceiling fans will have a switch mounted on the wall, but some are switched on and off with pull chains.
The good news is you don’t need to replace the chains—just set the chains so that the fan is at its highest setting, then turn it off or slow it down through a wall-mounted controller.
You may also wonder: Do smart switches work with ceiling fans?
2. Install the Controller
Now we get to the part where you can grab your toolbox. Roll up your sleeves and get to work!
Alternatively, you can hire an electrician. But either way, somebody needs to install your new smart controller.
That means doing some basic wiring, which you will want to be very careful about.
You’re dealing with regular house currents. If you’re careless, you can get a severe electrical shock— possibly a fatal one.
Read the instructions for your new controller carefully and keep them handy while you install the switch.
When you’re ready to start, you should go to the fuse box or circuit breaker panel and cut off the electricity to the fan at its source.
After that, you unscrew the faceplate for the switch and pull it out of the switch box.
Now we get to the tricky part: disconnect the wires from your old switch and connect them to your new smart controller.
We can’t give you detailed instructions here. You ‘ll need to pay close attention to the owner’s manual that comes with your controller.
But there are some basic rules about wiring that can also help you figure out what goes where:
Wiring is generally color-coded, so you can tell what role the different wires play:
- The “hot” wire is generally black or red. This is the wire that supplies current. Even with the power off, you should treat this one very carefully—just in case you disconnected the wrong circuit or someone accidentally reconnects the power.
- The “neutral” wire is typically white or grey. This is the wire that carries current back to its source.
- The “ground” wire is usually green. This serves as sort of a “safety valve” for excess current in the event of an overload.
You shouldn’t need to run any new wires. Just use the existing wiring to connect your fan to the new controller, then connect the controller to the power.
Take your time, and don’t be too proud to get help from an electrician if you aren’t sure.
Once you have the new controller wired in, insert the new switch into the box, screw the faceplate back in, then reconnect the power.
You can then test your new controller using the physical switches, knobs, and sliders.
Make sure all the functions are working correctly: on-off switches, speed controls, and controls for the light if your fan has one of those.
Also, listen for any unusual humming noises: these can be a sign that something isn’t connected correctly.
3. Install or Update Apps To Control Your Fan
Once you know the fan is connected to the controller property, now it’s time to make that controller as smart as it can be.
Follow the instructions that came with your instruction manual and your smart home control system, so your smart controller is plugged into your network.
Further reading: Should Smart Devices Be on a Separate Network? The Truth
Now your old fan is smarter, so you can make your fan work with your air conditioning and heating to make your home as comfortable as it can be, all while saving energy.
And best of all, it’s cheaper and easier than installing a whole new fan.