There are dozens of appliances in homes that are simple to fix either by design or for lack of moving parts. Ceiling fans usually aren’t considered one of them, especially when you have to deal with wiring. If you have a bad switch inside your fan or on the wall, this guide will walk you through three of the most common setups.
Tools and Time
The first thing you need to do when deciding if you want to wire a ceiling fan switch is consider how comfortable you are working with simple tools and electricity. If your heart skips a beat whenever you think of wiring, you are better off calling in a professional. Otherwise, you’ll need to acquire a few tools before you start and set aside some time.
AstroAI Multimeter 2000 Counts Digital Multimeter
Klein Tools NCVT3P Dual Range Non Contact Voltage Tester
You’ll need a good screwdriver or cordless drill with a few bits if you want to speed things up. We also highly recommend picking up a voltage tester or digital Multimeter which allows you to test for hot wires. They are affordable and dual-purpose tools like this one from Klein can save you a lot of headaches with other DIY projects around your home.
220Pcs Wire Nuts Assortment
Electrical tape and wire nuts are also handy to have on-hand, along with a set of wire cutters or strippers. You may need a ladder if it’s a bad switch inside the fan, but you don’t need any high-end equipment to connect a handful of wires. That said, you will want to set aside some time and free the area and your mind from any distractions.
Wiring a Ceiling Fan Switch
Now that you have your tools ready and feel comfortable proceeding, it’s time to wire in a new ceiling fan switch. Keep in mind, this guide is only for homeowners that are replacing an existing ceiling fan switch in their home, not completely wiring in a new system.
Turn off the Power
Before you proceed any further, you need to cut the power to the junction box where the new switch is located. It’s typically located in your fuse box and may be clearly labled. If not, you’ll need to cut the power to the room where the fan is located. If you cannot find a way to cut the power to that room for any reason, stop and call a professional.
Ceiling Fan Switch Wiring Diagrams
photo credit: electrical101
One-Switch Ceiling Fan Wiring
If you simply want to control your ceiling fan with one wall switch, the wiring process is straightforward. This means the switch on the wall turns on the power to your fan and light if you have one, and you’ll use the pull chain to adjust the speed or light.
Remove the switch plate with a screwdriver and you’ll be able to see the wall box with some wiring tucked away behind the switch. Unscrew the old switch from the box, and gently pull it forward as far as you can so that you can see the wires.
Depending on your house wiring, these connections may vary to a degree but you should have two black wires and a neutral which may be green or bare. The black wires are for power, and some switches will show you where the wires will go.
One of those black wires is considered “hot” and brings electricity into the switch. The other sends the power to your ceiling fan while the ground or neutral completes the circuit. Depending on the switch you may need to use a screwdriver or a punch to remove the wiring.
When you have removed the old switch, you’ll need to get wire strippers and snip around 1/2“ of insulation from the ends of each wire that was connected to your old switch. Depending on the new switch, you may have to take a pair of pliers and twist a “hook” onto the ends of the wires.
When ready, you’ll reattach the wires to their corresponding connections on the new switch. You need to ensure that the bare end of each wire is making contact with the screw, including the green grounding screw. Once rewired, you need to slide the junction box back into place, but don’t force it as it could be a tight fit and require a bit of wiggling.
Reinsert the screws to set the switch in place, then reattached the switch plate cover. Once you’re satisfied, it’s time to head back out to the breaker box and cut the power back on. Proceed to the room where your new switch is installed, and test the fan to ensure that it works properly.
Ceiling Fan Pull Chain Switches
While a wall switch is fairly simple to replace if doesn’t handle dimming or multiple speeds, pull chain switches can be more challenging for several reasons. There aren’t nearly as many options to choose from as these parts are standard, but accessing and replacing this little switch can be easier said than done in some homes.
To fix a pull chain switch, you need the same tools but will want to add a sturdy step ladder to your list. It’s also a good idea to have help on standby, as some fans have hefty accessories or are mounted well above 8-10’ ceilings. With your ladder in place in the power to the fan switched completely off, you’ll want to remove any globes or accessories that could hinder you from getting to the wiring inside the fan.
When you have the fixture removed, you’ll need to locate the nut around the pull chain and remove it. Once you have everything loose, you should have easy access to the wiring and broken switch inside your ceiling fan. You may have to snip the wires to get the bad switch loose, and we highly recommend taking a photo or writing the wiring colors down beforehand.
Once the old switch has been removed, you’ll want to get your new switch and hand and give it a good look over. If the ends of the wires on the new switch need to be stripped, break out your wire strippers and remove a short section of insulation. From here, you simply need to reattach the new switch to the fan wiring, which should be simple if you took down those notes before cutting the old switch loose.
While the video below is for a ceiling fan without a light fixture which makes things easier, the overall process is the same. When the new switch is wired, reassemble your fan, and then it’s time to cut the power back on and test out the pull chain.
You don’t have to be an electrician to take on simple repairs like replacing a pull switch inside your fan or a toggle switch on the wall. While things do get more complicated with a new ceiling fan installation, it’s a job that millions of homeowners handle themselves each year. If you’re looking for a new ceiling fan and feel like your current one isn’t worth replacing, we have you covered with our guide to the best indoor and outdoor ceiling fans.