How to install a 3-speed ceiling fan switch

Written by markg
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How to install a 3-speed ceiling fan switch
Variable speed switches make fans more convenient. (ceiling fan image by Adrian Hillman from

Controlling a ceiling fan from a wall switch makes the fan more convenient to use. Fans, however, have three speeds and unless you install a fan-speed control switch, you still have to use the fan's pull chain to adjust the speed. Although you cannot use a light dimmer switch to control a fan's speed, a fan-speed control switch is just as easy to install as a two-way light switch.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Screwdriver
  • Wire stripper
  • Three-speed fan control switch
  • Keyhole saw or utility knife (optional)
  • Fish tape (optional)
  • 2-wire NM cable (optional)
  • Electrical tape (optional)
  • Electrical connectors (optional)
  • Drywall patch kit (optional)

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    Replacing a two-way switch

  1. 1

    Turn off the electricity to the fan circuit.

  2. 2

    Disconnect the wiring from the switch. Depending on the location of the switch in the circuit, the white wire may be attached to the switch and marked with electrical tape to indicate it is carrying current, or the switch will have two black wires attached.

  3. 3

    Connect the wiring to the control switch in the same fashion as they were attached to the two-way switch.

  4. 4

    Install the switch in the box.

    Installing a Control Switch

  1. 1

    Turn off the electricity to the fan circuit.

  2. 2

    Cut a hole for the switch box, using the box as a template. Cut a small hole above the switch where the wall and ceiling meet to feed the wiring across the ceiling.

  3. 3

    Remove the fan and disconnect the wiring.

  4. 4

    Feed the two-wire NM cable from the switch to the fan. Using electrician's fish tape, insert the tape through the ceiling access hole and across the ceiling to the fan's junction box. When the fish tape reaches the hole, attach the cable to the tape and pull it back toward you. Drop the cable down to the switch box.

  5. 5

    Complete the wiring at the fan. Connect the black wires from the power source and the switch together. Connect the white wire from the power source back to the white wire from the fan. Wrap a piece of electrical tape around the remaining white wire and attach it to the black wire of the fan. The tape indicates that the white wire is not neutral, but is instead carrying current. Reconnect the fan to its junction box.

  6. 6

    Connect the wires at the switch. Connect the white wire to the silver terminal on the switch. Wrap this wire with electrical tape. Connect the black wire to the brass terminal on the switch. Install the switch in its box.

  7. 7

    Patch the hole in the drywall using a drywall patch kit.

Tips and warnings

  • A two-way light switch takes its name from the fact that it has two terminals for the wires.

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