Dimmer Switch On Ceiling Fan = Fire Hazard

Reblogger Lizette Fitzpatrick
Real Estate Broker/Owner with Lizette Realty - Richmond KY 205403

Here's a safety issue for ceiling fans. Actually, one that I have never thought of. Take some time to check the fans in your home if they are on dimmer switches.

It might be a good time to change the batteries in those smoke detectors too.

Original content by Reuben Saltzman

I love dimmer switches; I use them to control almost every light in my house.Installing a dimmer switch is a common enough DIY project, but like any other DIY project, I often find them installed improperly.  The most common problem I find is when dimmer switches are connected to a ceiling fan.

Standard dimmer switches should never be used on ceiling fans because they could damage the fan motor or they could overheat and start a fire.  To know whether a dimmer switch is intended for use with a fan, all you usually have to do is remove the switch cover; there is typically fine print right on the front of the switch saying whether or not it can be used with a ceiling fan.

The photo below left comes from a fan speed controller - this is what needs to be used on a ceiling fan.  The photo below right comes from a standard dimmer switch, and this should not be used on a ceiling fan.

Fan Speed Controller Front Incandescent Dimmer

When I find a dimmer switch that is designed for incandescent fixtures connected to a ceiling fan, I always recommend repair.  A safe repair can be as simple as replacing the dimmer switch with a standard toggle switch, but you also lose the ability to dim the light.

If the wiring for a ceiling fan is already in place in your home (ie - you have separate wires for the fan control and the light control), it should be fairly easy for a qualified person to wire up separate controls for the fan and the light, which will include the ability to dim the light.

Universal Ceiling Fan RemoteIf the ceiling fan was a retro install, there probably won't be proper wiring in the wall for separate fan and light controls; not to worry though.  You can actually purchase a device that will do this - it consists of a wireless remote and a receiver that gets wired directly in to the fan.  These devices work very well, and as far as I know, they can be used with any ceiling fan.


Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections - Email - Minneapolis Home Inspections

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Gay E. Rosen
Julia B. Fee Sotheby's International Realty - Larchmont, NY
As Real as Real Estate Gets!

Thanks Lizette.... I always leave that stuff to the electricians.... but it is good to know. Best, Gay

Oct 26, 2010 06:19 AM #1
Bob "RealMan" Timm
Ward County Notary Services - Minot, ND
Owner of Ward Co. Notary Services, retired Realtor

Great tip Lizette. I am one of those crazy do it your selfers who did not know this and may have done it wrong in the past. I will be more careful in the future.


Oct 26, 2010 12:14 PM #2
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector


Dimmer switches are kind of crud little devils and they can get hot. Another thing with fans...often they are too low to the floor and they are not always hooked securely at the ceiling.

Oct 26, 2010 02:28 PM #3
Not a real person
San Diego, CA

Dimmer switches can also be problematic if you have too much wattage connected to them. In one of my inspections a couple of years ago, the dimmer switch was hot to the touch, and I mean hot. It was dimming about 50 60-watt light bulbs in this huge chandelier.

Oct 26, 2010 04:46 PM #4
Nick Pakulla
Nick Pakulla Mortgage Team Maryland, Virginia, District of Columbia - Rockville, MD
Nick Pakulla Mortgage Team, Lender in MD DC VA

Interesting, I will have to check this at my home! thanks

Oct 27, 2010 01:38 PM #5
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Lizette Fitzpatrick

Lizette Realty, Lexington KY MLS - Kentucky Homes
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