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Ceiling Fan Lights Too Dim | Reasons and Solutions

Ceiling fans combine the comfort of having a fan as well as the practicality of having a light. Many ceiling fans with lights are also dimmable with a remote or wall plate. These brightness settings are useless, though, when the light isn’t bright enough to see comfortably.

If you are reading this, you probably know the bitter disappointment of installing your ceiling fan, only to realize its light is laughably dim. But all is not lost just yet; there are a few simple steps you can try to increase the brightness of your ceiling fan light.


Ceiling fan lights might be dim due to inefficient or incorrect light bulbs, faulty wiring, overloaded circuit, the fan’s settings, or because it has a wattage limiter. Using efficient and appropriate light bulbs, fixing the wiring, readjusting the settings, or removing the limiter should solve the issue.

Using Inefficient Light Bulbs

Although in most cases, higher wattage means a higher amount of light (Lumens) is given out, this is not always necessarily true. 

The energy usage of a light bulb is measured in watts. In most cases, a higher amount of energy used means a higher amount of light output.

However, this doesn’t apply when comparing incandescent bulbs to LED bulbs. The brightness of LED light bulbs is much higher than the one of incandescent bulbs, even though LED bulbs use less energy. 

For example, a 25-Watt incandescent bulb has a 250 Lumen output while a 24-Watt LED bulb has a 1600 Lumen output.

The significant difference here stems from the fact that incandescent bulbs use a higher wattage to achieve a lower Lumens rating. In other words, they are inefficient. 

incandescent bulb has lower brightness and use more energy versus led bulb with higher brightness and use less energy

It is likely that this is your problem if your ceiling fan light uses incandescent bulbs. 

Solution

If your ceiling fan uses incandescent bulbs, it seems likely that your ceiling fan light is too dim for inefficiency reasons. Fortunately, an LED bulb is likely to solve this problem.

You just need to make sure that this LED bulb is compatible with your ceiling fan first. 

You should consider switching to LED even if using CFL or Halogen light bulbs, as LED bulbs are the most efficient. 

Ecosmart LED Technology Soft White 65W 8.5W Replacement Dimmable Light Bulb 6 Pack BR30 1001 729 291

Faulty or Incompatible Light Bulb

If you are already using an LED light bulb in your ceiling fan and it is dim, the problem might be with the bulb itself, whether it is because the bulb is faulty or incompatible. 

For a faulty bulb, some part of the bulb is faulty, meaning it won’t work correctly or at all. If the bulb is faulty, this is a manufacturing error. 

An incompatible light bulb will not connect properly to the fixture and, therefore, won’t work at its best. For example, with a bulb whose wattage is too high for the socket, the problem lies in the overheating of the bulb, which can damage the bulb, wiring, and the light fixture. 

An incompatible bulb results from user error. This would include using a wrong size bulb that doesn’t fit into the fixture correctly or a bulb that exceeds the socket’s wattage limit. 

The signs of a faulty bulb include flickering and/or the bulb being dim. This problem would be apparent soon after the bulb was installed. It would not be a problem that developed over time. 

An incompatible (size-wise) light bulb would be undeniably difficult to install. If the wattage is incompatible, this poses a fire risk.

The bulb may overheat, melting the light socket along with it. This would be one sign of the problem being an incompatible light bulb. But obviously, we don’t want it to reach that point. A much easier way to check it to look at the fan’s instruction manual and compare the recommended light bulb with the one that’s installed.

look at the ceiling fan's instruction manual and compare the recommended light bulb with the one that's installed, replacing ceiling fan light

Solution

For the faulty bulb, all you can do is replace the bulb with a new one. 

The same goes for an incompatible bulb. The correct size or wattage must be chosen in order for the bulb to work properly in your ceiling fan. 

The Fan Is Set to Low Brightness

If you are sure that your light bulb has sufficient brightness, is not faulty, is the right size, and has the right wattage, then the reason behind your issue might actually be the fan’s settings.

Oftentimes, the brightness is automatically set to low, and it stays that way until someone changes it. It is wise to check the fan’s remote or switch first, as this issue is the most simple to fix.

The catch is, however, that not all fan remotes have special buttons for brightness, and so many people, who didn’t read the manual, are unaware that they can adjust it.

Solution

If your remote or wall plate does not have brightness buttons, holding the on/off button for a few seconds should increase the brightness. Holding it for longer will make the lights dim again. I regularly play this game with my sitting room lights and I’m often the loser!

In the event that this does not work, it would be wise to consult a manual or the manufacturer to see what other ways there are to adjust the brightness

Wattage Limiter Is Installed

According to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, wattage limiters are required in ceiling fans manufactured from 2005 onwards. 

The purpose of a wattage limiter is to limit the amount of energy a household uses by regulating the wattage used by ceiling fans. 

If the power usage of a ceiling fan goes over a certain amount, this amount may vary by the ceiling fan; a limiter will cut off the power to the fan. 

The downside of this device is that it can also dim the lights while trying to lower the amount of energy used. 

Solution

The only solution here would be to remove the wattage limiter. Do this with caution. After all, you would be making your ceiling fan noncompliant. It would be easiest to hire an electrician to remove the wattage limiter if they agree it is unnecessary.

Overloaded Circuit

An overloaded circuit is caused by exceeding the rated load for a circuit. This happens when the circuit fails to handle the demand of all the electrical appliances connected to it at the time.

Typically, ceiling fans and their lights draw little power and don’t need a dedicated circuit (you can happily run 14-26 ceiling fans on a 15 A breaker circuit). However, sometimes, the total load is too great.

One of the signs of an overloaded circuit is the dimming of lights. This occurs because the electrical demand is too high, and the electricity sent to each device is reduced as a result. 

Other signs include buzzing noises from switches and outlets, the flickering of lights, and the smell of burning from outlets and switches. 

 signs of an overloaded circuit: dimming of lights, buzzing noises from switches and outlets, flickering of lights, and the smell of burning from outlets and switches

It is likely that an overloaded circuit will trip the breaker, cutting off all power to each appliance connected to this circuit.

If this does not occur, but you notice the circuit is overloaded, turning off the main breaker would be wise.

Solution

In either situation, you need to assess your outlet situation and determine what is overloading the circuit and how electricity could be better distributed. 

Once this situation is fixed, the ceiling fan light should not be so dim if the overloaded circuit was, in fact, the problem.

Using Fluorescent Light Bulbs

An easy way to discern the problem with a dim ceiling fan light is to identify the type of bulb being used. If the bulb is fluorescent, then that is the problem. 

Fluorescent bulbs are slow to brighten because it takes time for the ballast (the device that controls and starts the current in the bulb) to produce the electricity levels needed to excite the mercury gas inside to produce full brightness. 

To further prove that the problem lies in the bulb being fluorescent, wait a few minutes to see if the bulb is not brighter.

Solution

A solution may not be needed if you are content with the light needing a bit of time to reach its full brightness. 

If you are not content with this, though, you can replace the bulb with another kind of bulb that reaches full brightness immediately, like an LED bulb. 

Amazon Basics 60W Equivalent, Soft White, Non-Dimmable, 10,000 Hour Lifetime, A19 LED Light Bulb | 6-Pack

Faulty or Loose Wiring

Let’s say that you are experiencing the signs of an overloaded circuit and your circuit breaker has tripped. You have unplugged a few items and rearranged things so that the demand on your circuit’s decreased. 

But then, the circuit breaker trips again. You may even notice frayed wires and warm or vibrating spots on the walls. In that case, the real issue might be in your wiring instead. 

Fully intact wires carry electricity efficiently, quickly, and safely to their destination.

A frayed or loose wire, on the other hand, does not allow for electricity to move as intended, and it causes the lights to flicker, dim, or go completely out. Not to mention that faulty wiring is also a fire and electrocution hazard. 

Solution

Due to the dangers that come with working with electricity, as well as the complexity of wiring, your best choice when dealing with bad wiring is to contact an electrician to assess and fix it for you.

Although it is possible to do this yourself, it is not recommended for those who have not worked with wires and electronics before. 

If your dim lights are also flickering, then here is a troubleshooting guide to help you out.

Sources

https://www.lumens.com/the-edit/the-guides/light-bulb-facts-the-meaning-of-lumens/

https://www.neatceiling.com/ceiling-fan-light-too-dim/

https://www.electricalexperts.com/blog/2017/march/electrician-explains-what-happens-when-using-wro/

https://mnkbusiness.com/is-it-safe-to-remove-wattage-limiter-in-ceiling-fan/

https://www.wirechiefelectric.com/overloaded-circuit-signs-avoid

https://www.ehow.com/info_12206923_garage-lighting-fluorescent-lights-slow-come.html

https://www.neighborly.com/expert-tips/signs-of-bad-wiring-in-a-house-and-how-to-fix-it

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