Author Topic: New home, new switches - need advice on fan/lighting control.  (Read 1030 times)

Offline tamorgen

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Good afternoon all,
Within the week, I am going to be closing on a brand spanking new home.  I'm moving out of my 40+ year old townhouse with inadequate electrical wiring, to a semi custom home, with all the wiring being done properly (neutral wires everywhere, limited daisy chaining of wiring).  We had the electrician pre run rough-ins for ceiling fans in the bedrooms.  None of the home has been set up for Z-wave, but I'll be putting switches in probably next week, as I have time after starting unpacking.

My question is, I'm looking at putting ceiling fans with lighting kits in at least two of the bedrooms almost immediately.  A switch is run for the fan, but only i'm not entirely sure how it's wired.  Most fans you buy today have their own little remote, which is fine, but there are also universal controls that you can wire at the switch, that control both the fan and the light.

I came across a thread that is several years old, but I wanted to see what people are doing now in 2017.  What is the best way to at minimum control the lights from a z-wave switch, but not turn off power to the fan?  I know there are small z-wave controllers that can be used in-line, perhaps up in the ceiling mount as well.  Can anybody offer current options for me?

I came across this on Amazon, but it appears to be just the fan controller.  For it to work, I would need that, and another switch to control the light.

Advice?

Offline MrRocco

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Re: New home, new switches - need advice on fan/lighting control.
« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2017, 02:41:42 pm »
This is a good question. As usual the answer will depend. It starts with the way the ceiling fan is wired and how many gang box locations you have at the switch.

One common way to wire it is 14-3 wiring. This means 3 conductors + ground. This allows you to have neutral and then separate power for lights and fan. If you have this in a double gang box, then you have the easiest by far. You can put in one of those GE fan controls and a light switch/dimmer of your choice.

The next common way is via 14-2 wiring and a single switch location. This allows you to supply power to the ceiling box and then use the pull chains to set your lights/fan. This gets more difficult to control with ZW since you need some form of constant power for the light or fan switch. It depends on if they ran the supply wire into the ceiling box or the wall box.

A likely variation is #1+#2 where you have 14-3 wiring but a single gang box, which assumes you will use a double control in single switch device. As long as you have constant power with neutral and some way to have different lines for light and fan you can use a combination things. You can have this:
https://www.amazon.com/Aeotec-Z-Wave-Micro-Dimmer-2nd/dp/B00IRI1CEK/ref=pd_sbs_201_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=RXZQM2128JKCZP4N5VZZ for the light and the GE-Zwave fan switch as the device in the wall box. Swap it around and have a light dimmer in the wall and a simple relay switch https://www.amazon.com/Aeon-Labs-DSC26103-ZWUS-Wall-Controller/dp/B008VWBNAU/ref=pd_bxgy_60_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=XX9W52Z0FAEAKZDWMYRZ for the fan. That assumes that you have a pull chain for controlling fan speed.

I have a more annoying problem in that I bought some fans back in the day that I love that came with proprietary RF remotes and therefore no pull chains. It is difficult to extract the separate controls within the fan body.

One thing to remember, if you haven't already found this, is that fans and light dimmers DO NOT mix. They are different load types and are not interchangeable.

Hopefully this helps.

Offline integlikewhoa

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Re: New home, new switches - need advice on fan/lighting control.
« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2017, 06:05:53 pm »
I have two switches for my fans and lights in two rooms. One switch works the lights and one works the fan. I use the same fan switch you linked on amazon, but I bought it much cheaper threw lowes. 

In another room (have expanded the box for two switches yet due to a stud in the way) I have the lights wired to the only switch in the room and have the fan wired to a Aeon Labs micro on/off relay. This means I can't control fan speed only on/off. I use HomeSeer double tap (up and down) light switch to turn on and off the fan.

I will eventually swap out the single gang box for a double and add a separate switch.

Offline Don Phillips

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Re: New home, new switches - need advice on fan/lighting control.
« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2017, 07:56:44 pm »
I have not installed one of these: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00715SU4A/?tag=googhydr-20&hvadid=182063485365&hvpos=1t1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=12345977421160670406&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=e&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9014989&hvtargid=kwd-123537847987&ref=pd_sl_5earq0oqdv_e_p19 but it appears to substitute for the remote control module that comes with most fans. It is on my wish list, but have not purchased one yet. 2 of my fans are in a cathedral ceiling and are a PIA to take down to modify.
Vera 3, UI7 1.7.947, CT101 t-stat, Everspring motion detector, GE/Jasco switch, Leviton outlet, AeonLabs door sensor, Insteon garage control, Blue Iris, Sricam SP011, iPhone locator, APCUPSD, VeraMate, VeraAlerts, PLEG, House Modes, Countdown Timer, DVR, Virtual & Multi Switch, Weather, Sys. Mon.

Offline integlikewhoa

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Re: New home, new switches - need advice on fan/lighting control.
« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2017, 08:46:26 pm »
I have not installed one of these: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00715SU4A/?tag=googhydr-20&hvadid=182063485365&hvpos=1t1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=12345977421160670406&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=e&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9014989&hvtargid=kwd-123537847987&ref=pd_sl_5earq0oqdv_e_p19 but it appears to substitute for the remote control module that comes with most fans. It is on my wish list, but have not purchased one yet. 2 of my fans are in a cathedral ceiling and are a PIA to take down to modify.

Just be known that is not z-wave and needs another controller and a plugin.

Offline tamorgen

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Re: New home, new switches - need advice on fan/lighting control.
« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2017, 08:51:12 am »
This is a good question. As usual the answer will depend. It starts with the way the ceiling fan is wired and how many gang box locations you have at the switch.

One common way to wire it is 14-3 wiring. This means 3 conductors + ground. This allows you to have neutral and then separate power for lights and fan. If you have this in a double gang box, then you have the easiest by far. You can put in one of those GE fan controls and a light switch/dimmer of your choice.

The next common way is via 14-2 wiring and a single switch location. This allows you to supply power to the ceiling box and then use the pull chains to set your lights/fan. This gets more difficult to control with ZW since you need some form of constant power for the light or fan switch. It depends on if they ran the supply wire into the ceiling box or the wall box.

A likely variation is #1+#2 where you have 14-3 wiring but a single gang box, which assumes you will use a double control in single switch device. As long as you have constant power with neutral and some way to have different lines for light and fan you can use a combination things. You can have this:
https://www.amazon.com/Aeotec-Z-Wave-Micro-Dimmer-2nd/dp/B00IRI1CEK/ref=pd_sbs_201_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=RXZQM2128JKCZP4N5VZZ for the light and the GE-Zwave fan switch as the device in the wall box. Swap it around and have a light dimmer in the wall and a simple relay switch https://www.amazon.com/Aeon-Labs-DSC26103-ZWUS-Wall-Controller/dp/B008VWBNAU/ref=pd_bxgy_60_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=XX9W52Z0FAEAKZDWMYRZ for the fan. That assumes that you have a pull chain for controlling fan speed.

I have a more annoying problem in that I bought some fans back in the day that I love that came with proprietary RF remotes and therefore no pull chains. It is difficult to extract the separate controls within the fan body.

One thing to remember, if you haven't already found this, is that fans and light dimmers DO NOT mix. They are different load types and are not interchangeable.

Hopefully this helps.

I'm not quite sure what the wiring is.  The electrician was pretty thorough, so I'm hoping that he installed 14-3 romex to the fan box.  Worst case, all the fan boxes are accessible from the attic, so I may have to run new romex, should it only be 14-2.

Offline tamorgen

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Re: New home, new switches - need advice on fan/lighting control.
« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2017, 08:53:19 am »
I have two switches for my fans and lights in two rooms. One switch works the lights and one works the fan. I use the same fan switch you linked on amazon, but I bought it much cheaper threw lowes. 

In another room (have expanded the box for two switches yet due to a stud in the way) I have the lights wired to the only switch in the room and have the fan wired to a Aeon Labs micro on/off relay. This means I can't control fan speed only on/off. I use HomeSeer double tap (up and down) light switch to turn on and off the fan.

I will eventually swap out the single gang box for a double and add a separate switch.

Yeah, I thought I may need to expand the gang boxes.  I was hoping for a cleaner solution, such as a two switch in a single gang solution, or remote like some fans supply and fit into a gang box, but with z-wave. 

Offline tamorgen

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Re: New home, new switches - need advice on fan/lighting control.
« Reply #7 on: August 01, 2017, 08:54:55 am »
I have not installed one of these: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00715SU4A/?tag=googhydr-20&hvadid=182063485365&hvpos=1t1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=12345977421160670406&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=e&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9014989&hvtargid=kwd-123537847987&ref=pd_sl_5earq0oqdv_e_p19 but it appears to substitute for the remote control module that comes with most fans. It is on my wish list, but have not purchased one yet. 2 of my fans are in a cathedral ceiling and are a PIA to take down to modify.

I looked that that one, and it seems like a possible option, but it's Insteon, and would require an additional insteon controller to connect to Vera, from my understanding, since X10 is uses existing copper as it's data transmission.

Offline MrRocco

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Re: New home, new switches - need advice on fan/lighting control.
« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2017, 09:39:36 am »
Yes, it is quite annoying and a bit surprising that we don't have a zwave option just like that insteon device. Not sure why Aeotec or GE won't just give us a single gang or remote solution. With a remote box you could just use a wall multiswitch or any app to control it. Sigh....

Offline wilme2

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Re: New home, new switches - need advice on fan/lighting control.
« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2017, 10:09:58 am »
I came across a thread that is several years old, but I wanted to see what people are doing now in 2017.  What is the best way to at minimum control the lights from a z-wave switch, but not turn off power to the fan?  I know there are small z-wave controllers that can be used in-line, perhaps up in the ceiling mount as well.  Can anybody offer current options for me?

Still the same as in previous years - install a double-gang and two z-wave switches.  One a dimmer for the lights, one a z-wave fan controller. 

If the fan has an internal control unit tied to the remote, bypass it (higher end fans have instructions on how to do since it is common).  Traditional fans you just bypass the light pull-chain and wire the light kit directly to the wiring headed to the light switch, and for the fan leave the pull chain in the high setting and the fan controller switch handles the low/medium/high speed control.
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Offline integlikewhoa

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Re: New home, new switches - need advice on fan/lighting control.
« Reply #10 on: August 01, 2017, 11:40:58 am »
Yes, it is quite annoying and a bit surprising that we don't have a zwave option just like that insteon device. Not sure why Aeotec or GE won't just give us a single gang or remote solution. With a remote box you could just use a wall multiswitch or any app to control it. Sigh....
Probley not enough demand. Aeotec don't even make a fan controller period, let alone one that would have a wall switch on the wall and a remote micro controller up in the fan. Then you need to make sure its not a DC fan motor. Probley would fit a few people perfectly but not sale nearly as much as just a normal switch yet be a total new design product for them.

Offline Alex Waverley

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Re: New home, new switches - need advice on fan/lighting control.
« Reply #11 on: August 01, 2017, 02:18:06 pm »
First things first:

Always turn off power at the breaker before starting any electrical work. Turning off the switch won't do it. You can still have line voltage at the fixture.

Always adhere to local codes.

If you are in any way unsure of what you are doing, hire an electrician.


OK. If you have only a 3-conductor-plus-ground drop from the fan to the switch for both fan and light you do not have a neutral in the box. 12/3 or 14/3 will give you one line wire and two load wires. Line will probably be black (but not always), red will be one load and white the other (white should be marked to indicate it is not a neutral). At that point you are out of wires - no neutral. This is the most common way fan/light drops are wired.

You can automate the light and maintain local control of the fan and light pretty easily using a simple Zwave controller in the wall and a Aeotec Micro Switch in the fixture. You can wire the pull chain to the dry-contact inputs on the Micro Switch and bind the switch to the controller so they will function together as if they were on a three way circuit (up=on/down=off on the wall switch and toggle state with the pull chain).  The fan operates as normal with the pull chain. You need to rewire to provide neutral to the controller (Use the existing black & white wires. Cap the red.) and to remove the pull switch from the line feed to the light. This assumes the pull switch is a simple on/off device.

It is possible automate the fan as well (which is pretty well covered in the earlier posts) but it isn't really a good idea. There is a reason why most fans are initially turned on at the highest speed with the first pull of the chain or activation of the switch. Fan speed controllers vary voltage to control speed. Watts Law indicates that as voltage decreases, current increases. The Law of Inertia states that an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. So the amount of inrush current required to overcome the resting inertia of the fan is far greater at lower voltages (speeds) than at higher voltages, but once the fan is turning the lower voltages are enough to maintain the rotation. Higher current means more heat; More heat means shorter life for the fan motor. This is the best case scenario. If inrush current cannot overcome the resting inertia of the fan (which becomes more likely as the motor ages) the fan motor will not rotate and will continue to heat up until it fails, which can cause a fire. Some fans use a flywheel to overcome this issue and can start at any speed, but they tend to be quite expensive. I would never automate any fan unless I was certain it would always be started at full speed (voltage). It just isn't worth the possible downside.

Again:

Always turn off power at the breaker before starting any electrical work. Turning off the switch won't do it. You can still have line voltage at the fixture (as in your case).

Always adhere to local codes.

If you are in any way unsure of what you are doing, hire an electrician.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2017, 11:07:48 am by Alex Waverley »
Please hold your applause until I have concluded my remarks.

Offline Don Phillips

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Re: New home, new switches - need advice on fan/lighting control.
« Reply #12 on: August 01, 2017, 07:23:40 pm »
I have not installed one of these: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00715SU4A/?tag=googhydr-20&hvadid=182063485365&hvpos=1t1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=12345977421160670406&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=e&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9014989&hvtargid=kwd-123537847987&ref=pd_sl_5earq0oqdv_e_p19 but it appears to substitute for the remote control module that comes with most fans. It is on my wish list, but have not purchased one yet. 2 of my fans are in a cathedral ceiling and are a PIA to take down to modify.

Just be known that is not z-wave and needs another controller and a plugin.

I have a power line modem (PLM) connected to Vera and an Insteon relay for the garage door - the sensor and relay show up fine in Vera but is awkward to operate natively in Vera. Did not need a controller unless you count the PLM. The plug-in I used is the garage door plug-in by Richard T. Schaffer. Very slick, single icon that pops up a simple open/close icon in VeraMate.

I see Insteon as an option to install devices so perhaps some Insteon is natively supported in Vera. Like I said, I have not installed the FanLinc's but may look into it in the next couple years and budget and time allows.
 
Vera 3, UI7 1.7.947, CT101 t-stat, Everspring motion detector, GE/Jasco switch, Leviton outlet, AeonLabs door sensor, Insteon garage control, Blue Iris, Sricam SP011, iPhone locator, APCUPSD, VeraMate, VeraAlerts, PLEG, House Modes, Countdown Timer, DVR, Virtual & Multi Switch, Weather, Sys. Mon.

Offline Don Phillips

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Re: New home, new switches - need advice on fan/lighting control.
« Reply #13 on: August 01, 2017, 07:32:52 pm »
I have not installed one of these: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00715SU4A/?tag=googhydr-20&hvadid=182063485365&hvpos=1t1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=12345977421160670406&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=e&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9014989&hvtargid=kwd-123537847987&ref=pd_sl_5earq0oqdv_e_p19 but it appears to substitute for the remote control module that comes with most fans. It is on my wish list, but have not purchased one yet. 2 of my fans are in a cathedral ceiling and are a PIA to take down to modify.

I looked that that one, and it seems like a possible option, but it's Insteon, and would require an additional insteon controller to connect to Vera, from my understanding, since X10 is uses existing copper as it's data transmission.

Not so much a controller but a power line modem (PLM), which connects to Vera via USB. The FanLinc signals travel via copper and perhaps RF to the PLM. My garage door relay only uses copper signals but the PLM is dual-band, which also accepts RF signals from other Insteon devices.

There is a bridge to connect both phases of a typical single phase residential to allow devices on both busses of your service to communicate with a single PLM connected to Vera.

All pretty complicated but I have less problems with my single Insteon relay than my z-wave devices - although all have been pretty stable if I quite fiddling with PLEG  8) 
Vera 3, UI7 1.7.947, CT101 t-stat, Everspring motion detector, GE/Jasco switch, Leviton outlet, AeonLabs door sensor, Insteon garage control, Blue Iris, Sricam SP011, iPhone locator, APCUPSD, VeraMate, VeraAlerts, PLEG, House Modes, Countdown Timer, DVR, Virtual & Multi Switch, Weather, Sys. Mon.

Offline Don Phillips

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Re: New home, new switches - need advice on fan/lighting control.
« Reply #14 on: August 01, 2017, 07:37:59 pm »
First things first:

It is possible automate the fan as well (which is pretty well covered in the earlier posts) but it isn't really a good idea. There is a reason why most fans are initially turned on at the highest speed with the first pull of the chain or activation of the switch. Fan speed controllers vary voltage to control speed. Watts Law indicates that as voltage decreases, current increases. The Law of Inertia states that an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. So the amount of inrush current required to overcome the resting inertia of the fan is far greater at lower voltages (speeds) than at higher voltages, but once the fan is turning the lower voltages are enough to maintain the rotation. Higher current means more heat; More heat means shorter life for the fan motor. This is the best case scenario. If inrush current cannot overcome the resting inertia of the fan (which becomes more likely as the motor ages) the fan motor will not rotate and will continue to heat up until it fails, which can cause a fire. Some fans use a flywheel to overcome this issue and can start at any speed, but they tend to be quite expensive. I would never automate any fan unless I was certain it would always be started at full speed (voltage). It just isn't worth the possible downside.


The engineer in me (my wife calls it the geek in me) loves it when you talk like that.
Vera 3, UI7 1.7.947, CT101 t-stat, Everspring motion detector, GE/Jasco switch, Leviton outlet, AeonLabs door sensor, Insteon garage control, Blue Iris, Sricam SP011, iPhone locator, APCUPSD, VeraMate, VeraAlerts, PLEG, House Modes, Countdown Timer, DVR, Virtual & Multi Switch, Weather, Sys. Mon.