How to Install a Dimmer and Speed Control Switch for a Ceiling Fan

Dimmers in a row.
What You'll Need
Ceiling fan
Fan speed control switch
Masking tape
Wire strippers
Wire nuts

If you have a ceiling fan, you can install a dimmer or speed control switch for it. This offers many advantages, not the least of which is that you don’t have to keep playing with the cords on the fan to reach the speed you want. Ceiling fans circulate the air in a room and help keep it comfortable in warm weather periods. If you live in a temperate climate where air conditioning isn’t necessary, they’re a great way to keep a room cool. However, most only have three speeds and these can often seem too slow or too fast for optimum comfort. Installing a dimmer switch can give you a lot more control.

Be aware that a standard light dimmer switch will not work with a ceiling fan. This is potentially dangerous and you would need to buy a special dimmer switch and a fan speed control.

Step 1 - Set Up

Start by turning off the light and ceiling fan at the fuse box. Before you switch off the power, have the ceiling fan set at the highest level. This will help you select your settings later. Next, remove the cover plate for the wall switch that controls the ceiling fan. Unscrew the wall switch and pull it away from the wall. Remove the wires from the old switch, making sure that you mark which color wire goes to which terminal using masking tape and a pencil.

Step 2 - Add the New Switch

You’ll find that the majority of speed control switches come with two black wires. One of these is for incoming power with the other wire being used for power running out to the fan. The good news is that these are interchangeable. This means that it doesn’t matter which of the two wires you connect first. If your wiring is set up differently, connect the wires using the marked pieces of masking tape as a guide.

There will be wires running from the new switch. Using wire strippers, remove enough insulation from the wiring on the switch and the wiring in the wall to twist the wires together and secure them with wire nuts.

If there’s a ground wire on the new switch, it will need to be connected to the grounding wires from both the outgoing and incoming cables. You also need to add another wire that connects to the grounding screw on the metal box housing the switch. Use wire nuts on these connections.

Step 3 - Replace

Now, screw the wall switch back in place, fit the cover plate, and screw it into place. Not all dimmer switches come with cover plates. You should check this when purchasing the switch and if necessary, buy one at the hardware store that fits the switch and your existing décor.

When everything is back in place, turn on the fuse to return power to the system, then turn on the installed dimmer switch all the way to the highest setting. This should give you full speed on the fan. Depending on the type of switch, adjust speeds by moving the slider or by turning the knob to adjust the speed of the fan. You will find that the switch will give you a lot more speed control than it did before.