Are Ceiling Fan Lights Dimmable?


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“Dim the lights and set the mood.” Pleasant lighting is a huge component of creating the right ambiance in your home. Whether you’re eating dinner or watching tv, being able to adjust the light with a dimmer switch is a great home amenity. 

Ceiling fans are a staple piece in a variety of settings because of the indoor breeze and air circulation they provide. Sometimes, ceiling fans function as the only light fixture in the room. Without being able to adjust the intensity, ceiling fan lights can be bright and headache-worthy.

Ceiling fan lights can be dimmed, but only with a switch compatible with their wiring. Using a dimmer switch without being sure it won’t damage your ceiling is hazardous and could quite literally burn your house down.

Why Dimming Ceiling Fan Lights May be Difficult

If the ceiling fan and lights are controlled by the same wall switch it is not possible to add a light dimmer switch without adding an extra wire for the ceiling fan. Often they are switched from the same wall switch and then the fan can be switched individually via a pull chain.

By dimming the lights the fan motor will be “dimmed” as well. As we discuss later, motors can not be connected to a light dimmer switch.

Standard Dimming Switches and Ceiling Fans Should not be Connected

Because there is a fan motor in addition to the light system, using a dimmer for a ceiling fan is more complicated than for other lights in your home. The light and the fan must be separated and switched individually.

A standard light dimmer switch can cause a fire when connected to a motor of any kind.

To control motor speed, a speed controller should be used instead of a dimmer switch.

How Can You Tell if a Dimmer Switch Will Work With Your Fan?

Throughout the process of getting your fan lights to be dimmable, you will need to be detail-oriented to understand the multitude of factors that make a dimmer switch and a ceiling fan work well together.

You can read the “fine print” that comes with or on the dimmer and it might say whether or not it is suitable for ceiling fan use. If you are having trouble locating this, you can remove the casing around the dimmer and it typically is labeled inside.

When purchasing a dimmer switch the description will typically state what bulbs and the maximum load they can work with. Ensure that you follow instructions specifically, and do not be afraid to ask a professional whether or not a switch will work for your fan.

Your best bet is to search for a dimmer switch that is specifically made for ceiling fans and work from there. Some ceiling fans come with dimming capabilities, so if you are looking for a new fan that is an option.

Making Your Ceiling Fan Light Dimmable

Once you are aware of what dimmer switches do not function properly with ceiling fans, there are certainly ways that you can make the light dimmable. Finding the right switch for a ceiling fan delivers flexible lighting without risking damage to the fan.

Dual Switch

The best route for dimming capabilities is to install a dual-switch ceiling fan control. Not only can you adjust the lighting with ease, but you can easily control the speed of the fan without using the pull chains.

Lutron Maestro LED+ Fan Control and Dimmer for LEDs, Halogen and Incandescent Bulbs | Single-Pole | MACL-LFQ-WH | White
Dual Switch-Dimmer and Fan Control

Dual switches will require three wires. One is for the light, one for the fan, and there is a third neutral wire.

If your current switch could be damaging to the fan, but you don’t want to go through the effort of installing a dual switch, another option is to install a switch that connects to the fan wire only to control its speed. This way the wiring for the fan and the light will still have separate controls and you will not need to use the pull chains to operate the fans. 

(Keep in mind that the fan speed controller still requires a neutral wire)

ENERLITES 3 Speed In Wall Ceiling Fan Control, Slide switch, 120VAC, 2.5A, Single-Pole, Neutral Wire Required, 17000-F3-W-F , White
Ceiling Fan Speed Controller

Wiring

Installing a new dimmer to work with your ceiling fan may require you to know and manipulate the wires yourself.

Typically, there will be a wire that controls the fan, a wire that controls the light, and a neutral wire.

The wiring involved with ceiling fan controls is not simple to understand through reading. Below is a helpful video that can give you some insight into the ins and outs of your ceiling fan.

If you plan to adjust the wiring, make sure that the electricity they connect to is off. If the process appears too complex to work with yourself, hiring a professional for assistance can be very helpful.

The Kind of Bulb You Use Makes a Difference

It’s confusing enough to understand what dimmer-switch to use with ceiling fans, but other aspects are important to check for optimal results.

Standard incandescent bulbs are typically used with standard dimmers, but most light bulbs have options that can be dimmed with the right switch. If the bulbs are not specialized for dimming use they could burn out quickly and fail to provide you with the lighting you desire.

LED Bulbs

LED bulbs have become increasingly common. Modern ceiling fans are compatible with LED lights, but not all dimmer switches will work. If you plan to use an LED light bulb in your ceiling fan, make sure that the one that you choose is suitable for ceiling fans and a dimmer.

CFL Bulbs

Similar to LED bulbs, CFL bulbs are energy-conscious alternatives to standard bulbs and can be a good option for ceiling fan use.

The bulb will typically state if it can dim on the packaging, but you can also ask an employee at your local hardware store to direct you to a bulb that is suitable for ceiling fans and what dimmers it can work with.

Related article: Can You Put a Regular Bulb in a Dimmer Controlled Socket?

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