Fix or replace dimmer knob for ceiling fan/light

Discussion in 'Electrical and Wiring' started by Flyover, Oct 3, 2019.

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  1. Oct 3, 2019 #1

    Flyover

    Flyover

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    The dimmer knob that controls the fan and lights in my bedroom has stopped working, after months of decline. Ideally I'd like to replace it with a simple switch. All the "how to" videos seem to be about doing it the other way, going from a switch to a dimmer, so I figure I'd reach out to the experts here.

    No idea if seeing the knob helps but I've attached pictures.

    1002191916-00.jpg 1002191917-00.jpg

    Just to clarify:

    It used to be the knob was in the off position if you turned it all the way clockwise until it clicked. Then when you turned it counterclockwise just past the click the lights and fan would turn on. If you kept turning it they would dim (a ceiling fan dimming is really just a ceiling fan that makes a lot of noise) so we pretty much always turned it back clockwise until just before the click. As the thing declined, only that "just before the click" position did anything and all other positions were effectively "off", and it got harder and harder to get it right in that spot because it was real fidgety. Then today there was no click no matter which way we turned it, just off.
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2019
  2. Oct 3, 2019 #2

    kok328

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    Just watch the how-to-videos in reverse.
    Or .... your saying this dimmer controls both fan speed and light dimming?
    You can either replace it or change it to a switch.
    Can you safely remove (pull it out some) the existing dimmer switch from the box so we can see the wires?
     
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  3. Oct 3, 2019 #3

    Flyover

    Flyover

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    Yes, the dimmer controls both fan speed and light dimming, but it's only designed to control the lights so it just ends up making the fan really loud. So when we turned it on we always turned it on as high as it would go (all the way clockwise just BEFORE it clicked to off) and if we wanted to change the fan speed we'd use the pull chain on the fan itself. Thus why we might as well replace the dimmer knob with a regular switch.

    I have no idea. I'm pretty bold about sawing and hammering into non-powered stuff, but anything with electricity running to it freaks me out a bit. (And that's even after a short career as as an electrician in the film industry!) I think I could probably unscrew the controller from whatever's holding it in place and try to pull it out...I'll try to do that later today or tomorrow and post pics.
     
  4. Oct 3, 2019 #4

    afjes_2016

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    Flyover please be sure you shut off the proper circuit breaker that controls this unit before you attempt to pull it out of the box in the wall.
     
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  5. Oct 3, 2019 #5

    Flyover

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    Thanks for the tip. Will do.
     
  6. Oct 3, 2019 #6

    Snoonyb

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    All you have is a standard switch leg, and the only change you will have if you replace the dimmer with a standard single pole switch, is that both the fan and light, with the switch on, are controlled at the fixture, with the individual pull chains, and with the switch in the off position neither function can be actuated at the fixture.

    Remove the dimmer and replace with the switch using the screws on the side of the switch when attaching the conductors.
     
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  7. Oct 4, 2019 #7

    EricK

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    I replace a lot of switches for customers. I consider this an easy DIY job. I doubt that that particular dimmer switch should even be used on your fan. It's probably why your fan is making a lot of noise. Changing it to a switch is a good idea. First, turn off the power at the breaker box. If you want to be extra sure the power is off you can buy a simple voltage detector for 10 to $20 at your local hardware store.

    A switch basically acts has a "gatekeeper" to power to running through you're hot wire. The hot power runs through the switch. Turn the switch off and it breaks the flow of electricity. Turn the switch on and it allows the electricity to flow through. Therefore, you only need to wire the black (or hot) going through the switch. No neutral (white) is necessary. (In newer switches, a ground will also be attached. This has nothing to do with powering the switch. It's a safety precaution by keeping the switch grounded.)

    When you remove your current dimmer switch my guess is you will see two black wires hooked up to it. One is power coming to the dimmer and the other is power leaving the dimmer to your fan. Unhook those two wires and hook them up to your new switch. It doesn't matter which screw you hook up each wire to on the new switch. If there is a ground, hook up the ground wire to the green screw on the new switch. That'll be a green or bare copper wire.

    If your current dimmer is using a neutral (white wire), which I doubt, you can just tie it into the existing neutral wires in your junction box. The new switch will not use a neutral wire.

    Please let us know how things turn out.

    As a previous poster noted, once the fan is on you can control the light and the speed using the chains on the fan.
     
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  8. Oct 5, 2019 #8

    kok328

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    Be careful here with the wire colors. Depending on the year build it could very well be a "switch leg".
    I've seen more than my fair share of switch legs where the white wire was not taped black.
    Be sure to use only the two wires connected to the dimmer; regardless of color.
    I would also see if they ran 14/3 for that switch leg which will give you separate control between the light and the fan. You could have switched fan and dimmed lights.
     
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  9. Oct 5, 2019 #9

    EricK

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    Good point about the switch leg kok328. I forgot this might be an older home where that's a common thing. If that's the case, the switch should still wire the same as the dimmer. But you're right, one of the wires carrying power may be white if it is indeed a switch leg.
     
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  10. Oct 5, 2019 #10

    Flyover

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    The house is from 1979. Not sure if the dimmer was put in then too; the fan seems slightly newer than that.
     
  11. Oct 5, 2019 #11

    Flyover

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    Shut off power, pulled the unit out and took some pictures. For light I used this crazy LED flashlight my grandfather bought off an infomercial and randomly sent me in the mail, and it apparently creates these scan lines when I use my phone camera together with it. So, sorry about that.

    Spaghetti back there in the wall:
    1005191442-00.jpg

    There are two black wires coming out of the unit:
    1005191443-01.jpg

    ...basically confirming what @EricK said. Now I know what to hook up when I buy the switch. I'll post an update once I've bought the switch and tried installing it, if I haven't electrocuted myself.
     
  12. Oct 5, 2019 #12

    Flyover

    Flyover

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    Done! Shockingly easy.

    My wife snapped a photo of me afterward:
    famous-electrocution-quiz-117144768.jpg

    Thanks for your help, everyone. Internet beers all around (in the form of comment likes).
     
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  13. Oct 6, 2019 #13

    EricK

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    Nice job!
     

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