How to Install a Ceiling Fan Dimmer

Install a ceiling fan dimmer switch to get more control over the speed of a fan.

Typical ceiling fans have three speeds on a pull chain switch. A dimmer allows you to set the speed at any level between the highest and lowest speeds. Some electricians advise against use of a dimmer for a fan because the wrong type of switch will burn out a fan motor. Dimmer switches made for lighting are not power rated for ceiling fans. Yet there are dimmers made specifically for handling the load of fan motors. Install a proper dimmer on a fan that is exclusively controlled by a single switch.

Check the amperage on the fan. The amps will be listed on the package or brochure that came with the fan. Consult the manufacturer for details if the original packaging is not available.

Buy a dimmer switch and matching plate. Both are available at hardware stores. Select a dimmer that is marked for use with fans. Make sure it is rated for as much or more amperage as the fan it is intended to control. Typically a ceiling fan runs 3.5 amps and the dimmer switches made for them carry 5 amps. Choose a matching-colored face plate with a center hole if the package does not include one. If connector screw caps are not included, you will need to buy two of those.

Turn off the breaker switch to cut power to the circuit controlling the fan. This will take trial and error if the breaker box switches are not marked. Turn on the fan, then shut off individual switches until one of them turns the fan off. Leave a note or a lock on the breaker box to ensure that no one turns the power on while you are working.

Remove the wall switch. Flip the switch on and off to be sure there is no power running to the circuit. Unscrew the face plate. Remove the screws holding the switch on the box.

Look at the wires and the terminals. One of the terminals will be dark or copper-colored. That is the common terminal and the wire connected to it is the hot wire. Make a note of the insulation color of the hot wire. It should be black or blue. The other wire connected to a terminal is the neutral wire, which should be white. There may also be a ground wire screwed to an upper outside terminal. The ground wire and terminal screw should be green.

Remove the wires and check them for wear. Unscrew the terminal connections to free the exposed wires. Snip the ends off and splice 1/4 inch of the insulation off if the wires are frayed or dull-colored.

Attach the new wires. The package your switch came in will clearly identify the wires attached to the switch. Twist the hot wire from the wall around the common or hot wire leading from the new switch. Twist a connector cap on until all exposed wire is covered. Connect the neutral wires in the same way. If the old switch had a ground wire connected, use the ground terminal on the new switch to connect that.

Secure the switch and plate. Gently push the wires into the switch box and tighten the two screws that hold the switch in place. Pull the dimmer dial off. Put the switch place in place over the switch and tighten the two screws to hold it on. Push the dimmer dial back on over the post.

Turn power on and check the switch. Flip the breaker switch back on. Push the dimmer dial and turn to either side. The fan should run fastest when the dial is turned fully clockwise.

Things You Will Need

  • Slotted screwdriver
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Wire cutters or wire strippers
  • Connector caps
  • Face plate

Tip

  • Consult a professional electrician if you have any questions or reservations about the wiring configuration that controls your ceiling fan.

Warning

  • Do not install a single dimmer switch to control both a fan and its lights. Do not attempt to work with household wiring unless you have electrical training or experience.

About the Author

Jonra Springs began writing in 1989. He writes fiction for children and adults and draws on experiences in education, insurance, construction, aviation mechanics and entertainment to create content for various websites. Springs studied liberal arts and computer science at the College of Charleston and Trident Technical College.