ceiling fan w/cfl and dimmer switch

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Old 06-24-13, 08:31 AM
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ceiling fan w/cfl and dimmer switch

I have two ceiling fans with no lights in my living room. There are also two ceiling mounted lights in the room. All four are operated by one dimmer switch. I'd like to replace the existing fans with fans that have lights. Almost all the fans available come w/cfl lamps. So my questions:
If the cfl is "dimmable" will it work on my existing dimmer switch?
Can I replace cfls w/incandescents?
If I do will they work on my dimmer?
If I get one that says it's not dimmable will it work on my dimmer but just come on full power?
Thanks!
 
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Old 06-24-13, 09:24 AM
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Fans can not be on dimmer switches. It is bad for the motor. They can be on speed controls but if they have pull chain switches the switches must be left on high when speed controls are used.

CFLs lights must be intended for a use on a dimmer circuit. Just any CFL will not dim. Nor can you use any dimmer. The dimer must be made for CFLs.

You will probably have to add cable to add lights or use remote controls.
 
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Old 06-24-13, 09:24 AM
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You have one dimmer controlling two ceiling fans and two ceiling lights ??
So the dimmer varies the light intensity and the fans slow down at the same time ??

You'll need to clarify this.

You could probably purchase light kits for your existing fans. In any event you can, and most likely will have to, use regular (incandescent) lamps to match existing.
 
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Old 06-24-13, 09:39 AM
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hokey work on my house

One of the previous owners of my house did some pretty hokey work on it. There used to be 4 ceiling lights, all on the same dimmer switch. They replaced two of the lights w/fans and all 4 work off of the same switch. The dimmer dims the lights and slows the fans. I virtually never use the fans so just turned them off w/the chain switch. I mostly want to replace them because they're cheap and ugly. I haven't looked at the wiring yet but assume it's 1 white & 1 black. The house is 53 yrs old so the original wiring is ungrounded.

I did find a fan I like w/dimmable incandescent lights. It sounds like I couldn't wire that into just 2 wires? Adding wires isn't doable as the fans are mounted on beams below a cathedral ceiling w/no access.
 
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Old 06-24-13, 10:38 AM
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There are fans with remote controls that require only two wires but they can not be used on a circuit controlled by a dimer. You might be able to add universal remote control dimers to the ceiling lights and bypass the existing dimmer all together.
 
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Old 06-24-13, 12:11 PM
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separate circuits for fans & lights?

The box that the dimmer is in is large. Maybe there was originally a rheostat in there and didn't the old ones used to need lots of room? The box measures 5" wide x 7.5" tall. The dimmer is mounted vertically in the middle of the top part which is 5" x 5.5". It has 2 black wires coming from it. There are 4 sets of wires in the bottom compartment. Couldn't I leave the lights wired to the dimmer switch and install another regular switch next to the dimmer for the fans? I assume the wall switch would send power to the fans and I'd control the fans and lights w/the chains that hang from the fans. The fan's wiring diagram shows the pull-chain wiring as using just two wires (plus a ground) from the house.
Thanks for all the help!
 

Last edited by junestan; 06-24-13 at 12:40 PM.
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Old 06-24-13, 08:59 PM
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If you only have two wires from the wall to the ceiling, you can't control a ceiling fan, the light on the ceiling fan, and some regular ceiling lights without using remote controls. Your best option might be to install home automation controls such as those made by X10 and Insteon.

You can also install a combination fan/light controller for that fixture and the automation remotes for the regular lights.

The box that the dimmer is in is large. Maybe there was originally a rheostat in there and didn't the old ones used to need lots of room? The box measures 5" wide x 7.5" tall.
That sounds like a custom box that might have housed remote relays at one time. Standard rheostat home lighting controls have been made to fit in single-gang or 2-gang switch boxes since well before your house was built.
 
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Old 06-25-13, 02:56 AM
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There are 4 sets of wires in the bottom compartment.
If there is one set of wires for each light/fan (neutral and hot feed) then you only need remotes for the fans. Could you post a picture of the box? http://www.doityourself.com/forum/li...-pictures.html
 
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Old 06-25-13, 06:42 AM
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pics

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Couldn't figure out how to get my bigger-than-50KB pics to upload before. Thanks for the how-to link. Here's 2 pics. Hard to see much tho - I'll turn the power off and pull the wires out later this AM so I can really see what I have in there.
Thanks again for all the help!
June
 
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Old 06-25-13, 06:53 AM
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Yes wires pulled out would be better. What I'm hoping is power comes in there and all of the outlets (ceiling boxes) feed from there. If so you can put individual contrils on everything.
 
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Old 06-25-13, 08:19 AM
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Wiring diagram

Should have done this first thing. Here's the wires. I have more than I thought. There's 4 groups of wires coming into the box:
* the dimmer wires
* what I think is from the fans & lights (it has been worked on; is taped up w/black elec tape)
* two from the house (?). They're both Romex-type (looks like Romex but has a silvery outer covering instead of plastic).
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Old 06-25-13, 08:34 AM
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Based on your diagram it looks like you could reconfigure the wiring so that the fans are not controlled by the dimmer.
 
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Old 06-25-13, 08:49 AM
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I'd like to have the two lights on one dimmer switch and the 2 fans on a regular switch. Could you draw me a diagram or explain how to do that?
Thanks,
June
 
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Old 06-25-13, 09:18 AM
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What is house 1? Is house 2 power in? Can you explain why the white of house one is connected to the red of the feed to the lights? It may be legitimate but is odd. Loking at your diagram I would assume House 1 feeds power elsewhere so it should be white to white.
 
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Old 06-25-13, 09:46 AM
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I'm assuming the House 1 & House 2 come from the breaker box. I don't know why they're hooked up the way they are. Looking behind the box I can see that each of the three "groups" of wires (house 1, house 2, & fans/lights) go up towards the ceiling and are all of the old-type "Romex". When they replaced two of the lights w/fans they may have wired it differently because the fan/light wires have been taped over w/elec. tape.

Inside the box there's a plate that says powerstat wall box dimmer. In the plate that covers it all up there are two holes - one for the dimmer that's in there now, and one for what I don't know.
 
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Old 06-25-13, 10:03 AM
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The one I'm calling house 1 goes on to the light switch next to the box for the fans/lights. Then it comes out of that light switch and goes on - I assume to other outlets & switches. Most of the wires are neatly labeled with numbers that show which ones go together - looks like original old labeling.
 
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Old 06-25-13, 10:19 AM
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No need to delete your post. Posting a correction is fine.

I can draw you a diagram if I can be sure why white is to red. Disconnect house 2 and using a multimeter or test light (but not a non contact tester) measure the voltage between the black and white. Reconnect and do the same with house 1. If either one shows no voltage leave it disconnected, cap the wires and check if any receptacles or lights no longer work.
 
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Old 06-25-13, 10:46 AM
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House 2 disconnected: no voltage; everything else on the same breaker switch works except fans & ceiling lights.
House 1 disconnected: no voltage; everything works - all else on the same breaker plus the fans & ceiling lights.

Should there be voltage on one of them? I'm using a little multimeter that I use to test my electric fence. The fence is AC
 
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Old 06-25-13, 11:43 AM
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Not if power comes in at one of the lights. Could you repeat the test with the three conductor cable. Red to white; Black to white; Black to red.

I'm using a little multimeter that I use to test my electric fence.
If analog it should be set to about the 250 volt range so you get a mid scale reading. Test it at a wokring receptacle just to be sure.

I was expecting power at H2 now I'm a bit puzzled. Do you know the wiring at the fans and lights. Does one have a 3-conductor cable and a 2-conductor cable?
 
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Old 06-25-13, 12:32 PM
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red to white - no voltage
black to white - yes, voltage
black to red - yes, voltage

Each light has one 2-wire conductor to it - black & white.

Each fan has two 2-wire conductors to it - each black & white.
Each fan itself has three wires: white, black & blue (for a light kit? The blue wire isn't being used).

The old box has two holes in it as if it were for two dimmers - one for the two lights and one for what is now the two fans.

Can't thank you enough for all your help.

June
 
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Old 06-25-13, 01:52 PM
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Is the black to red voltage 120 or 240? Do you have a mystery 3-way switch somewhere other then the switch box. Maybe one whose purpose you have never known?

I know I'm asking a lot of questions but none of this is making sense. What's giving me a problem:

The usual way to wire lights would be to run power to the first then from the first light to the second light and so on. That would mean three of the four ceiling boxes would contain two cables but you have only one cable in each ceiling box.

Only one in each also rules out power coming in to any box and having a switch loop.

Most logical conclusion for the actual layout given one cable per ceiling box would be four 2-conductor cables coming into the switch box but you have only two.

And where does the 3-conductor from the switch box go? Not directly to any of the lights.

There has to be another switch or junction box you haven't found. Hopefully it isn't buried in a wall. Since 3-conductor cable is sometimes used for 3-way switches I'm guessing a 3-way switch box somewhere.
 
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Old 06-25-13, 03:17 PM
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It's 120.

There is a 3-way switch right next to the box. It controls the hall light where the box is located. There is also a switch in each of the 2 bedrooms off the hall that control the hall light.

Remember two of the ceiling boxes have 2 cables each - the ones w/the fans. The boxes with the lights have one cable each.
 
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Old 06-25-13, 03:34 PM
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There is a 3-way switch right next to the box. It controls the hall light where the box is located. There is also a switch in each of the 2 bedrooms off the hall that control the hall light.
Interesting. Are there 3 or 4 switches, total, that control the light in the hall?

We'll get back to your fans and lights in a moment.
 

Last edited by Nashkat1; 06-25-13 at 08:54 PM.
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Old 06-25-13, 03:45 PM
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Three - one in each bedroom and one in the hall. I hooked everything back up to check if the dimmer affects the hall light. It doesn't. The cable that runs between the box and the 3-way switch next to it is what I called house 1 - it only has a black & a white wire in it.

Here's the layout of the house if that helps.

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Old 06-25-13, 04:23 PM
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OK. You need to identify where the 2-conductor cable from the panel comes into the fans, lights and dimmer. Ray's on it.
 
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Old 06-25-13, 04:29 PM
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Remember there's two 2-conductor cables in the box, plus the 3-conductor one.

My theory: one 2-conductor cable goes to a fan then on to a light. the other 2-conductor cable goes to the other fan then on to the other light. Since the fans used to be lights that would enable one to dim the 2 lights at the far end of the room separately from the 2 at the end of the room near the hall. The cover panel looks like there used to be two dimmers.
 
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Old 06-25-13, 04:39 PM
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My theory: one 2-conductor cable goes to a fan then on to a light. the other 2-conductor cable goes to the other fan then on to the other light.
That's a possibility I missed that two had two cables, my bad. But where is it getting power?
 
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Old 06-25-13, 04:46 PM
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If you look at earlier posts there's a wiring diagram. Also in earlier posts, "ray2047" had me disconnect each of the 3 different cables, check them for voltage, and see what worked/didn't work while they were disconnected. The only one I got voltage from while disconnected was the 3-wire cable. And I looked at the wiring for each of the 4 ceiling boxes.

Whoops - just noticed it was you asking the question ray.

The 3-wire cable drops down from above the box. Maybe they wired the 3-way switches and looped the 3-wire cable up thru the ceiling and back to the box to provide it w/power. They used the 3-wire cable because they needed three wires to service the 2 cables and the dimmer. I'm only guessin'

I wonder if the red wire in the 3-wire cable is really a "white". That 3-wire cable connects both 2-wires + the dimmer thru its black. It connects w/one 2-wire white w/its own white and the other 2-wire white w/its red.
 

Last edited by junestan; 06-25-13 at 05:32 PM.
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Old 06-25-13, 06:35 PM
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red to white - no voltage
black to white - yes, voltage
black to red - yes, voltage

It's 120.
So the black wire in the 3-conductor cable is the only hot feed in this box and both the white and the red are functioning as neutrals. Corioser and curioser.

Junestan, do you know where the other end of that 3-conductor cable is, or can you find out? That appears to be where the power for this section of your lights is being fed in.
 
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Old 06-25-13, 07:02 PM
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No idea. And apart from tearing the house apart I don't know how I'd find out.

But almost everything (except for some sockets on another breaker) in that part of the house is on the same breaker (#5). When the 3-wire cable is disconnected from the ceiling boxes everything on the #5 breaker still works except for the ceiling fans & lights. Doesn't that mean that this 3-wire cable is coming from the fuse box, providing power for most of that end of the house, then looping back to provide power for my ceiling lights/fans?

When I disconnect the "house 1" 2-way cable the lights and fans still work. This is the cable that goes to the adjacent 3-way hall switch when it leaves the ceiling fan/light box so could it still have a hot connection to the 3-way cable (?). When I disconnect the "house 2" cable the ceiling fans & lights don't work. When disconnected this cable has no hot contact w/the 3-wire cable.

Like I said before, I'm only guessin'. I've done some electrical beyond just replacing stuff but I can't say that I know much. But this is the first time I've been presented w/such an interesting puzzle and I'm feeling kinda stubborn about figuring it out. You and Ray have given me a LOT of time and help. THANK YOU!! I don't know if there's a limit to the time you give a particular problem. I fully appreciate the valuable help I'm getting here. No way I can afford to have an electrician come in.

Still hopin' for the big answer!
June
 
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Old 06-25-13, 09:12 PM
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Inside the box there's a plate that says powerstat wall box dimmer.
That's some dimmer you have there - or used to have: Luxtrol WBD1800 Wall Box Dimmer.

Originally Posted by Nashkat1
Junestan, do you know where the other end of that 3-conductor cable is, or can you find out? That appears to be where the power for this section of your lights is being fed in.
No idea. And apart from tearing the house apart I don't know how I'd find out.
You find out by doing a continuity test, but you have to find the other end of it first. Since it's not in any of the ceiling boxes controlled by this dimmer, I'd look in the 3-way switch boxes for one with two 3-conductor cables. The 4-way switch box should have exactly two 3-conductor cables in it, so there's no point in looking there. It could also originate in the panel.

Lets's try some other things. Here's a test setup: Leave the wires all connected and pull everything out of the WBD box. (This would be a great time to take and post some pictures. ) Now, label each wire so you can put them back together later. Use a wire nut to connect the black wire from House #2 to the black wire in the 3-conductor cable. Leave the two white wires connected between those two cables. Disconnect and cap the other wires, especially the red/white splice. Turn the power back on and tell us what you've got.

And here's a research question: Is the red wire actually part of a cable or is it an additional wire that was added by taping it to the outside of a 2-conductor cable, maybe when the fans were added? I'm wondering just what's hiding under that tape?
 
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Old 06-25-13, 09:16 PM
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Time to back up and regroup. Just except the lights and fans are powered by majic beyond or comprehension and install remotes in the two lights and the fans and wire nut together the two wires to the dimmer. That way you will have constant hot to all the remotes and you can control each fixture remotely.
 
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Old 06-26-13, 08:00 AM
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I don't think I can separate the fans & ceiling lights and I don't see how I can fit a remote receiver in the light receptacles - there's no room at all (see pic). Can I run a fan on a dimmer switch if I keep the dimmer on high?

I'd like to learn as much as possible and as long as one or both of you are willing I'll keep going. I'm learning a lot - thank you again!

I did as you suggested Nashkat. When only the "house 2" and the 3-wire are connected (B to B & W to W) everything works - the 4 ceiling boxes, bedroom and bath lights - except the hall lights don't work from any of the 3 switches.

The 3-wire is original. I took off the tape. And I can see that the 2-wire cables are flat but the 3-wire is round. Also, the wires are already neatly numbered. The 3 B wire connects to the other 3 B and so on. See pic of them connected as I found them. I also drew a better diagram. One white wire isn't numbered but I assume it's a 6. One black to the dimmer is labeled 5 but there's no other 5's.

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Old 06-26-13, 08:46 AM
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Luxtrol dimmer

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Clicked on your link - Wow!! How could a dimmer cost $1500!? Here's a pic of mine. The big dimmer circle is just stuffed into a hole. It doesn't connect w/anything.
 
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Old 06-26-13, 09:21 AM
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correction

I said that when the cable from the WBD box to the 3-way light switch is disconnected "everything works". Everything except the hall light works.
 
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Old 06-26-13, 11:44 AM
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Can I run a fan on a dimmer switch if I keep the dimmer on high?
Not really. The basic consideration is that a fan motor, like any electric motor, needs full power at startup. That means that the fan itself must be switched to High with it's pull chain, and any wall or remote control must also start on High. Since the plain lights are beyond the fans and everything is fed with 2-conductor, you could, I think, install a dual fan/light "2-wire" controller and connect the plain lights together with the fan lights.

I did as you suggested Nashkat. When only the "house 2" and the 3-wire are connected (B to B & W to W) everything works - the 4 ceiling boxes, bedroom and bath lights - except the hall lights don't work from any of the 3 switches.
It doesn't make logical sense, but that 3-conductor is supplying 1 hot and 2 neutrals. Finding where that's coming from might help.

In the meantime, we now know that one 2-conductor cable is supplying both fans and both lights from the wall box.
 
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Old 06-26-13, 01:17 PM
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How would that work? Would I have to have a remote for each fan? Would the plain lights be controlled by the remote too because everything is wired together? Could I turn the fan lights off with the chains and still leave the plain lights on? Can I have the plain lights on and the fans and fan lights off? Could I control the remote from the wall?

Here's a pic of the fan wiring w/the fan off. It's mounted on a beam - you can see there's not much access.

Thanks!!
June
 
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Old 06-26-13, 01:37 PM
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Would I have to have a remote for each fan?
No remote needed.

Would the plain lights be controlled by the [wall control] too because everything is wired together?
I think so, but I've never tried it.

Could I turn the fan lights off with the chains and still leave the plain lights on? Can I have the plain lights on and the fans and fan lights off?
Again, I think so.

Could I control the remote from the wall?
No remote. Just a 2-wire wall control. All Fan/Light Wall Mount Control. Look for it at your big box store.

Here's a pic of the fan wiring w/the fan off. It's mounted on a beam - you can see...
some "creative" DIY lighting work done in your home.

Note: No CFLs.
 
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Old 06-26-13, 02:09 PM
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That sounds great if it works. Something like this one?

Hampton Bay Ceiling Fan Wall Control-9050H at The Home Depot

I looked at the installation manual and it looks like the controller has 2 black wires. Would I install it just like the existing dimmer? Or I could do wireless.
 
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Old 06-26-13, 02:31 PM
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Hampton Bay is HD's house brand. And, AFAIK, if a control can work wirelessly then it uses a remote receiver/controller. Does the manual show that? Link to it?

I actually meant the one from Hunter.

It will work. The question is whether it will also do the two separate lights - and I just don't know.
 
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