How To Install Ceiling Fan Control Wall Switches

Armed with the right tools and a little know-how, you can install your own ceiling fan control wall switch.

As DIY jobs go, installing a ceiling fan control wall switch is not too difficult. Different fans have different controls--some use chains while others are controlled by knobs at the switch itself. The basic wiring, though, remains the same.

What you need

Safety goggles, screwdriver, electrical voltage tester, wire stripper, wire connector, folding dry wall saw, switch box and switch. If you are wiring the switch from scratch, you will also need some 12/2 with ground wire, which you can buy from any hardware or home improvement store.

Replacing an old or faulty switch

1. Remove the switch cover. If you see two sets of wires, it means that the power was pulled from the panel directly to the switch. If this is the case, you need to determine which of the wires connected to the two terminal screws in the switch is coming from the panel. With the circuit breaker on, use the voltage tester to find out which wire is hot. Do this by holding the tester against each of the wires connected to the terminal screws. The tester will beep or light up against a live wire.

2. Turn the breaker off.

3. Disconnect all the wires from the switch and discard the old switch.

4. Connect the black wire from the panel to one of the terminal screws on the switch. You do this by stripping about an inch off the end of the wire and coiling the exposed wire around the screw.

5. Connect the other black (coming from the fan) to the other terminal screw in the same way and connect the two white (neutral) wires together using a wire connector.

6. Connect the ground wires to the box and the green screw on the switch.

7. Replace the switch cover, turn on the breaker and turn on the fan.

8. If, when you remove the cover of the old switch you only see one set of wires, it means that the power was sent from the panel to the fan first and then down to the switch. If this is the case, you should wire the new switch in exactly the same way as the old one.

9. Connect the single black wire to the terminal screw and the white wire to the other terminal screw. Connect the ground to the box and the green screw, replace the switch cover and turn the breaker and fan back on.

Installing a switch from scratch

1. Determine where you want to position the switch. Hold the switch box against the wall and trace around the shape. Cut out the shape.

2. You now need to feed 12/2 with ground wire from your main panel box to the switch. How you do this will depend on the layout of your house and where the panel box is located. For example, if your fan is located on the ground floor, you could run wire along or through a joist in the basement, securing it in place with cable staples, and up through the wall to the location of the switch.

3. Run another 12/2 with ground from the ceiling fan location to the switch. You can do this by feeding the wire through the hole in the ceiling and down through the wall to the switch. (Or, you can run the wire along and down the wall using a wire mold.)

4. You can now connect the wires. First connect the black wire from the panel to one of the terminal screws of the switch. Connect the black wire running from the fan fixture to the other terminal screw.

5. Connect the two white wires (running from the panel and the fixture to the switch) with a wire connector.

6. Attach the ground wires to the switch box and the green screw in the switch.

7. Finish installing the switch box. Secure the box by nailing it into the stud in the wall or with flexible box holder bars that hold it in place in the dry wall.

8. Install the switch cover.

9. Wire the switch to the fan by connecting the black wire from the switch to the black wire of the fan. Do the same with the white and ground wires.

10. Finish installing the fan.

11. You now have to connect the wire from the switch to the panel. Before you start, turn off the main breaker. You still need to be extremely cautious because the wire that brings electricity to the breaker from outside is still hot.

12. Identify a circuit breaker you can use for your fixture. Connect the black wire to the terminal screw on the breaker.

13. Connect the white wire to the neutral bar on the panel.

14. Connect the ground wire either to the neutral bar or to a separate bar, if there is one. You can determine this by examining where the other ground wires are going. The wires are connected by easing the respective screws out then inserting the wires in the holes and screwing them down.

15. Turn the power back on and turn on the circuit breaker. Test the fan. It should work!

Always play safe when it comes to DIY electrical work. Remember to turn off the circuit breaker when you wire the switch and fixture. And, when you're wiring the circuit breaker itself, make sure the main breaker is turned off. If you've gone through the steps outlined above and you're still not sure you can complete the job, take the safe route and call an electrician.

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