Say Goodbye To Pull-Chains: 8 Ways To Add Smart Control To Your Old Ceiling Fan

To me, the idea of having to manually reach up and pull the pull-chain on a ceiling fan is as awful as having to manually lift up your garage door. So, if you’re like me and you’re addicted to everything smart home, you probably have a need to add smart control to any ceiling fans in your home.

Unfortunately, its not always practical to just toss out your old fans and replace them with brand new smart fans.

Fortunately, there’s several available low-cost options to retrofit your old ceiling fan with a brand new smart fan control.



Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

The smart ceiling fan controllers that work best for you will depend on the answers to the following questions:

1. Does your ceiling fan have a remote?

If YES, I recommend the Bond Bridge. Bond requires zero wiring and works with multiple fans.

If NO, continue to question 2.

2. Do you have an AC or DC ceiling fan motor?

If you have a DC fan motor, the only option on this list that might work is the Bond Bridge (to work with Bond, your ceiling fan must have a remote).

If you have an AC fan motor, continue to question 3.

3. Can you currently control both the light and fan from the wall switch(es)?

If YES, you can use any of the controllers on this list. I recommend the following:

Treatlife for a low-cost, WiFi, single gang solution.

Lutron for an extremely reliable, but more expensive option.

Inovelli for maximum home automation capabilities, but more complicated setup.

If NO, continue to question 4.

4. Do you want smart control for both fan and light?

If YES, then you’ll need to install a module in the fan canopy. I recommend the following:


Inovelli for dimmable light, fan speed control, and maximum home automation capabilities, but somewhat complicated setup.

Aubric WiFi Fan Switch for lowest cost and simple setup.

Bond Bridge + Remote kit if you have multiple fans.

If NO, I’ll assume you have a fan without a light fixture so all you need is a smart fan controller. I recommend the following:

Leviton for low cost and no additional hub.

Lutron for an extremely reliable, but more expensive option.

Enbrighten Z-Wave Plus smart fan speed control if you already have a Z-Wave hub.

Aubric WiFi Fan Switch if you don’t currently have a wall switch.

WARNING: DON’T try to use a dimmer switch as a fan speed control.

A smart dimmer switch should not be used as a fan speed control. I know intuitively it seems like it would work, but it’s not a good idea.

A typical ceiling fan motor is an AC induction motor. For a dimmer switch to effectively slow down that type of motor, it requires a variable frequency drive (VFD) or a TRIAC.

If you try using a light dimmer switch on your fan, you will most likely hear a loud humming sound on low speeds. Even worse, the ceiling fan motor could be damaged.


INSTALLATION TIP FOR FAN CONTROLLERS: Set your fan to its highest speed before you disconnect your existing switch. That way, there’s no question that the fan is set to its top speed when you turn the power back on and test your smart fan speed controller.


Lutron Caséta Smart Fan Speed Control

Another great option for a fan controller is the Lutron Caseta Smart Fan Speed Control. Lutron is very high quality and reliable equipment. It also offers the ability to easily integrate 3-way switching by using a Lutron Pico remote.

However, Lutron is a little more expensive. It runs on it’s own wireless protocol so it requires the Lutron bridge. Plus, if you want to control a fan and light, you’ll need to buy both a fan speed control and a light dimmer.

Because of the extra cost of the hub, it doesn’t make much sense to go with Lutron if all you want to automate is a single ceiling fan. However, if you also want a super reliable solution for automating other light switches and even shades, then it’s hard to go wrong with Lutron (see my review). If you want to get started with Lutron switches, I recommend buying a starter pack.


Bond Bridge

The Bond Bridge is a great solution if you have a ceiling fan with a remote. It becomes an even better solution if you have multiple ceiling fans with a remote.

The Bond Bridge can record the signals that your remote control sends. Once the signal is recorded, it remembers and plays it back whenever you (or your smart home) command it to. The ceiling fan then responds to Bond exactly as it would respond to your remote control.

Bond can record and play back any function that your remote can control. Usually that includes light dimming and fan speed.

Once your ceiling fan is connected to Bond, it’s easy to setup voice control with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

Bond can be placed pretty much anywhere in your home. The RF signal used by most ceiling fans easily goes through standard walls and has a range of roughly 40 feet. It also needs to be within WiFi range of your home router.

Bond is fairly expensive if you only plan on using it with one ceiling fan. But, a single Bond Bridge can be used to control up to 30 devices so the “price per device” can be much lower.

Also, its mostly being marketed as a ceiling fan controller, but its not limited to only ceiling fans. It can control any device that uses an RF signal (learn more).

The best part about using a WiFi ceiling fan control like Bond is that there is no wiring. So, if the idea of digging into your wall switches with a screwdriver makes you a little nervous, this may be a great option for you.

Can I Still Use Bond If My Ceiling Fan Doesn’t Have A Remote?

No, but if your old ceiling fan is not set up for remote control, you can buy a universal remote control kit made specifically for ceiling fans. The kits come with a receiver unit that installs inside the housing of your fan and a remote.

To install a remote control kit, you’ll need to open the fan housing and do some wiring. But, once the kit is installed, you’ll be all set to use Bond.

What’s the Best Ceiling Fan Remote Kit?

There are multiple kits available on Amazon from many different brands, and just about any will work.

I found this remote unit from Westinghouse. It’s one of the more expensive kits, but instead of a typical remote control, the remote unit is wired into the wall and replaces an existing switch. Therefore, you won’t ever have to worry about replacing the remote batteries and you won’t ever lose the remote. Plus, it eliminates the problem of someone turning the existing switch off and cutting all power to the fan (which means no smart control until power is restored).

Whichever one you choose, check the dimensions of the receiver and make sure it will fit inside your fan’s housing.


Inovelli Red Series Fan + Light Switch

I’m a big fan of Inovelli. I’ve been using their switches for a couple years and I can say with confidence that their Red Series products are basically smart switches on steroids (see review). The Inovelli Red Series fan and light switch is no different.

It comes with a single gang fan and light switch that installs in the wall and a separate module that installs in the fan canopy. The wall switch communicates wirelessly with the module in the fan canopy. That means you can get smart control of both the fan and light no matter how many load wires you have in the switch box.

To use the Inovelli switch, you will need a Z-Wave hub like SmartThings or Hubitat. And, to use any of the advanced features, there’s a bit of a learning curve. However, once you get it figured out, you can activate custom routines by utilizing multiple taps and create custom notifications via multi-colored LED strips on the switch.


Leviton Fan Speed Controller

The Leviton fan speed controller offers a clean look from a trusted brand. It uses WiFi which makes for a simple, “hub free” setup. Plus, the companion dimmer option allows for easy 3-way switching.

If you also want to control a light, you’ll want the separate Leviton smart dimmer.

The Leviton WiFi switches are a good all around option for entry level to intermediate home automation.


TreatLife Ceiling Fan & Light Dimmer Switch

There is a lot to like about this TreatLife Ceiling Fan & Light Dimmer Switch. If you’re looking for a low cost, easy to install, all-in-one fan/light control, this is hard to beat.

It uses WiFi, so there’s no additional hub. It squeezes both a fan speed control and a light dimmer switch into a single gang. Plus, it’s one of the lowest priced options on this list.

To control both fan and light, you will need load wires for both the light and fan in the switch box.

Because it’s both a fan control and light dimmer, the switch is pretty big. Therefore, if you plan on installing it in a box that’s already stuffed with wires, be prepared for a struggle.


Enbrighten Z-Wave Plus smart fan speed control

The Enbrighten Z-Wave Plus smart fan speed control is a fan speed controller that is installed at the wall switch. It operates using Z-Wave wireless, so it will require a Z-Wave hub. It only controls fan speed, so you’ll want a Z-Wave dimmer or switch if you want to control lighting. Also, the Enbrighten switches are easily adapted to 3-way switching with the Enbrighten Add-on Switch.


Insteon FanLink Controller

The Insteon FanLinc controller controls both fan speed and light dimming in one convenient box which installs in your ceiling fan’s canopy.

However, the controller uses the proprietary Insteon protocol to communicate. That means you’ll need an Insteon hub for it to work. There’s nothing wrong with Insteon, but if you’ve already started building your smart home and it’s not Insteon, then this probably isn’t a very good option for you.

Also, since the FanLinc controller is installed inside the fan housing, you’ll have to make sure any wall switches stay turned on for the controller to work. The best way to do this is to stick with the Insteon system and replace the current wall switches with an Insteon Keypad.


Aubric Smart WiFi Fan Switch

This Aubric WiFi Fan Switch consists of a WiFi controller that installs in the fan canopy and comes with a remote for manual control. The WiFi controller connects to your smart home via the Smart Life app and allows you to control fan speed and light on/off (no dimming).

If you happen to have a fan without any wall switches (pull chain control only), this is the perfect low-cost option to eliminate the need for those pull chains.

There are several brands selling these controllers which use basically the exact same hardware. I prefer to stick to a brand with lots of good reviews. That way, if you get a faulty unit (which will happen from time to time), you can be reasonably sure they’ll make it right without too much hassle.


Final Thoughts

If your fan already has a remote, the Bond Bridge is best for someone that wants an easy install and reliable basic automation. It offers a quick and tool-less setup (No wiring!), voice control, and IFTTT compatibility. It’s perfect for the person that wants to do a little home automation, but doesn’t want to get too deep into any programming. Plus, the price per fan is quite low if you’re using it with multiple fans.

60 thoughts on “Say Goodbye To Pull-Chains: 8 Ways To Add Smart Control To Your Old Ceiling Fan”

  1. My fan and lights are powered by the same lightswitch and I don’t have remotes for them…do you think I could install something similar to the GE fan switch and use smart bulbs to control the lights with Alexa?

    1. I don’t think so. The power to both fan and lights is controlled by the switch. If you installed the fan controller in place of the switch, you would be able to have smart control of the fan. However, every time you turn off the fan, there would be no power to the light.

      1. Travis A Johnson

        Correct me if I’m wrong:
        In theory I believe you can hook the blue wire (if your fan has it) straight to the hot/black wire coming from the breaker which would make the light sockets or pull chain switch of your fan always “hot”. Then you could use smart bulbs and retain the single switch for fan speed.

  2. Yes, smart bulbs would be ideal for your situation. The fire risk I think you are referring to is only if you use a dimmer a switch on the fan power circuit. So you are also correct in that you would definitely not want to replace the wall switch with a dimmer switch.

  3. Hi,

    How did you manage GE Switches with Ceiling Fan with Remote? Do we need to bypass the remote and wire the fan so that we can use both the switches(Light and Fan) and replace them with GE switches? Thank you.

    By the way, good article.

  4. Sheik Sajith

    Hi – i have a fan + led light combo which does not have a wall switch – it is directly hard wired and controlled only through a remote. The remote stopped working and i tried couple of other universal remotes but could not fix it. Is there a way to use on of these smart switch options. I also have Alexa enabled devices. Pls suggest

  5. I want my new ceiling fan to operate off two wall switches (already in place), one for fan, one for light. The problem is the new fan comes with the “smart box”, activated by remote, and only has one set of power inputs. (1 hot, 1 neutral). I left the smart box out, and hot wired directly into the fan and light hot legs. Wall switches now work perfectly except I have no speed control on fan. Any suggestions? I don’t want a remote or phone operation. Looking for “old school” set up.

  6. I been using the Lutron IR Maestro’s:
    https://amzn.to/305p0tR

    Combined with SwitchBot Hub Plus, Smart IR Remote
    https://amzn.to/2VODvmx
    It’s similar to the BOND (IR Blaster), but also acts as a bridge for it’s own push button switches as well a couple of which I was already using (I made my coffee maker smart).

    The configuration does require a bit of savvy with IFTTT and Webhooks though.

  7. Hello, I have purchased and Emswell 52 in. LED Mediterranean Bronze Ceiling Fan with Light Kit Works with Bond and Alexa for the voice command abilities. Can I also install Westinghouse Lighting Westinghouse 7787500 Wireless Ceiling Fan and Light Wall Control for wall control access without complicating the wifi/voice command setup? I fear I will confuse the Smart Ceiling Fan with the Wall control setup?

  8. Robert in Austin

    I have 3 ceiling fans in a large room. There are 3 switches on the wall. One for another set of recessed lights, one for the 3 fans and 1 for the three fan lights. All I want to do is turn the fans on or off remotely. I dont care about speeds or reverse or anything. I just want the one switch to be on or off. What do you suggest.. I want to be able to control it from when i’m in bed.

  9. Can you think of any options for a DC ceiling fan? I have a Craftmade CQ52 with a Craftmade ME-MODULE-ICS receiver and an ICS-WALL controller. All fan and light control is from the internal receiver, but I would replace the receiver if there is an option for integrating it into my Insteon system.

  10. I have 25 year old Honeywell fans with lights installed in two rooms in my house. There is nothing wrong with the fans or fixtures cosmetically…they still look great and fit the decor. The problem is the wall switches….they don’t work anymore. The original Honeywell switch is no longer available. I had one electrician tell me I have to buy new fans…that the switches cannot be replaced with anything else. Is that true? Isn’t there a universal switch that can be used with a Honeywell fan? Can you recommend a replacement switch that has separate controls for the fan and the light that will be compatible with these fans? Thank you!

  11. Hi, I have a hunter ceiling fan that the speed control switch is bad.
    can I some how bypass the switch and make into a remote control fan? Also what remote do I get?

  12. Is there any switch that works with Alexa that doesn’t require a bridge? Lutron makes a nice switch but also needs a bridge. So the switch cost $60 and the bridge cost $80. $140 to be able to say “Alexa, turn off the fan” seems a bit steep.

    There’s no other option like Wemo that doesn’t require a bridge?

    1. I agree, the Lutron option probably only makes sense if you plan to continue adding Lutron switches to your smart home. Here is a potential low-cost option: https://amzn.to/2LPUOzk. It is an all-in-one remote control and wifi module. It seems pretty popular, but its pretty new and I haven’t had a chance to try it yet. It looks like it uses the same hardware as many of the other remote kits. If it is the same, the one annoyance is that the module beeps every time the fan speed or light on/off is changed.

  13. I have the wink enable ceiling fan/light module and remote. Everything works great though wink, but Alexa only recognizes the device as a light, so I only have voice control of the light settings. Do you know of a work around to get Alexa to control the fan, other than Bond?

  14. Hey Eric, nice article! I hope you can help me. I have 4 pull chain 3-speed ceiling fans with lights in the house, 3 with simple power on/off wall switches and one with no wall switch. An inelegant solution for the switched fans is to just replace the wall switch with a non-dimming controllable switch, use smart bulbs, and leave the fan switched to the medium speed. <— phoey! Perhaps I’m a bit dense, but l am having no luck in finding a clear how-to on converting an old 3 speed 2 pull chain ceiling fan/light to a wireless/Alexa control. Then there is the one ceiling fan that has no wall switching, only the two pull chains. Can you point me to a (some) product(s) and ideally a you tube, that would help this old disabled fellah who has an increasing need for remote/voice control? Thanks!

  15. I will try to make this question clear and simple. Can I change out my fan light bulbs for smart bulbs? I have a remote controlled Hunter fan with light kit. The fan is hard wired through an ‘always on’ on-off switch. I want to be able to continue to turn on the fan with the remote but control the hue and intensity of the lights with Alexa.

    1. You should be able to install smart bulbs. However if you do, and you turn off the bulbs with your remote, that will cut the power to the bulbs. Then, they will not respond via voice commands until you turn their power back on with the remote.

  16. Hi Eric, hoping you have suggestions for us as we are an Apple Homekit family. Tried purchasing the Hue light system to find that our fan only fits A15 sized bulbs. For some bizarre reason our light switch on the wall does not have any connection to the ceiling fan! You have to pull the chain every time to operate the light or fan. We thought smart bulbs would be the easy way out and now we are thinking not so much. Any suggestions?

  17. Hi. Bond Is a good option but have a trowback. Bond do not Sync light status. Then, if you turn light with remote you Will have to Sync status with its app manually.

  18. my room has a switch for the light and another for the fan. I want smart iOS switches and also the ease of Bluetooth control for both the lights (w/dimmer) and fan control but I also want ONE remote that controls both the lights and fan. So far I can only find a switch/remote for the fan. Does anyone make a single remote that controls both lights and fan? It would be ideal to control at the switch, smart via phone or Alexa, and a single remote. Suggestions?

  19. I dont use the fan part of my ceiling fan. Just the 3 way lights. Can i use smart bulbs in those if i dont use the fan at all? also, can i use dimming bulbs if i dont use fan?

  20. I’ve got a ceiling fan which has one remote to operate the fan and lights. The switch must always be open.

    I put in a smart switch with dimmer but just realized it will only operate the light. The fan operates with a loud buzz as you warned and only if the light is on.

    Best solution?

  21. I do appreciate your article as it is clear you have expertise that even BOND tech support lacks. I now have to ask for assistance with Bond and its fan capabilities. I have had several electricians over to my house and none of them have the answers. I want to continue with the BOND installation but only if I can figure this out.

    Of the twelve fans in my house I have two Harbor Breeze fans and one of them does NOT have a remote. The electrical setup in each room in my house is as follows:

    Two dial type controls on the wall on the same wall plate. One turns the light on and also acts as a light dimmer. The other control is a dial that controls fan on/off and fan speed. Every room in my house is wired this way with the same separate knob for light and a separate knob for fan speed. Some fans have remotes and some do not. Some fans work well with the light dimmer and others not so well and flicker when trying to dim.

    My goal has been to put all fans on BOND. I realize that those fans that currently do not have remotes I will need to upgrade to ones with remotes. Correct? However, how do I handle the setup of the fans with remotes that also have two wall controls allocated to them. How do I insure that the wall control setup also accommodates BOND and does not create any conflicts. Bond tech support suggested I simply “ignore wall switches.” I am not sure hot to interpret that?

    Jim

  22. JOSEPH P ANTHONY

    Nice article, thanks. In ref, to the GE Z-Wave Plus smart fan speed control. I have a “dumb” fan, up lights, down lights and the fan. On the fixture you can turn the up/down lights on independently and control fan speed, on the wall you have 2 switches 1 controls the lights (all on/off only) and a 2nd switch for Fan on/off only. I hate the idea of using a hub but do not think I have any other options so if I were to install the GE switch it will not work unless I also install some sort of RF receiver in the fan correct? Not concerned about light control or which ones come on/off for this question, I think I have that part figured out. Thanks!

  23. Slight correction regarding Insteon: you don’t need a hub to control it at all. One of the best features is that their controllers can control devices without a hub.
    You can install an Insteon 6 button switch to control all the features from the wall socket, or get an Insteon wireless controller to control the fan (or any other Insteon product).
    The hub is only necessary to control from your phone or other home automation systems.

  24. Great article with your discussion of so many options.
    Do you know of a solution for my bathroom vent/light problem?
    There’s only a 2-conductor wire coming to the wall switch. On-off for both the light and fan. A simple on-off wall switch is ok for the light for me, but I want the vent fan controlled separately and with timer options. I have a SmartThings hub. Any suggestions? Looking at the Aeotec Nano switch as a remote relay installed in the fan box, with a wireless smart wall switch of some sort. Don’t want to dig into the walls. Thanks.

  25. Hunter no longer supports simpleconnect. If your phone is over a certain os then it stops working. They now have a new simpleconnect 2 out that is WiFi and works with everything like Google home and alexa.

  26. I use the Sonoff iFan03 for fan control, it has both wifi and rf capability, with an optional remote control. It works pretty well with Amazon Echo devices, using the eWeLink app. It has some connectivity issues occasionally, but the control works very well. If you want smart lights in the fan, you can hard wire the lights to on position, and use some automation such as IFTTT to control the smart lights on-off and use your smart home hub (Echo etc) to control brightness and color. Lots of smart switches now come with automation, so you can hard wire the light to “on” and automate the bulb wherever it is. I particularly like the Wifi+RF models because you can pair the switch (1-2-3-4 gang models) to both wifi and RF433 switches and they work together very well. RF control is on-off toggle only on most, but some offer a variety of switch modes (momentary on, toggle etc). With hard wired devices it helps to think “out of the box” and rely more on the automation available.

  27. I have a double switch wall plate for my fan. One switch controls the light, the other controls the fan (off/on only–speed is still controlled by the pull down chain). Will the smart switches work and also control the pull down chain? And what kind of plate do I use since these switches all seem to be singles?

    1. Get one smart switch for the light. It could be an on/off or a dimmer.

      Then for the fan, you can get:
      a) on/off smart switch – In this case you will only be able to turn the fan on/off using the switch. You will still control the speed with the pull chain.
      b) smart fan speed controller – With this, you can control on/off and speed using the switch.

  28. Most multi speed fans use taps on the motor winding or more commonly have capacitors in series with the motor for other than top speed. For example, 4ufd for low, 2ufd for medium and direct wired for high. To use an outboard speed controller, the fan is left on high and the capacitors are in the remote, whether hard wired with the capacitors at the wall switch or wireless, where the capcitors and reciever are mounted next to the fan and controlled by a remote transmitter that is through the air or over the AC line. Sometimes you even gain an extra intermediate speed with an intermediate value capacitor. I have seen continuously variable industrial speed controllers that do not buzz. I guess they are pulse width modulation. Triacs work fine with universal motors that are often found on power tools.

  29. I have three basic ceiling fans w/o lights wired to one wall switch. Is there a smart wall switch that will just control the on/off duties and be able to handle the high power requirements? Insteon high power switch did not work nor did their fan controller.

    1. I haven’t tried it yet, but it looks pretty decent. I usually prefer Z-Wave/Zigbee devices since that’s what most of my stuff is, but I think I’ll give this one a try.

      1. Thanks Eric! I have it and installed it. works well to control the light and fan separately in one switch. I did have a a question this one is the same as the lutron one, it has 4 speeds for the fan. I know the fan has only high medium and low settings how does this work?

        Thanks!

  30. I’m trying to get a way to control a Casablanca fan (Holliston mod # c31u97z) that uses a wall control W-84, fcc Id H2WCASA9T. So far I couldn’t find a device that works. Is possible that you could have an idea of a device that could learn the frequencies to be compatible? Bond home isn’t working.

  31. I have a ceiling fan with light. One simple wall switch powers both fan and light. 2-pull chains for control; 1 to turn the lights on/off and the other for fan on/speed.

    What would you recommend to provide wifi control over the fan and light; ideally controllable by android phone?

    Thanks

  32. Great article for most of the options for smart control of fans where only a 2-wire supply is available.
    I kept searching to find a compatible wall switch with built in Smart Control – eventually found this product from Inovelli
    https://inovelli.com/red-series-fan-light-switch-z-wave/
    It is Z-Wave however and won’t communicate directly with Alexa; but you can use with a Smart Hub such as Smart things and use Alexa via that.
    Looks like a great device! Not inexpensive, but certainly a nice compact solution. I have not yet purchased but on paper looks just what I searching for.
    For my Fan that does have separate load feeds for fan and light at the wall switch, I went with the TreatLife Ceiling Fan and Light Dimmer Switch which was an easy Alexa integration without requiring a Hub.

  33. Bond works but it has no clue if you want the light on or off, when used w smart home it simply toggles , so if your smart routine turns all the lights off and the bond light was already off now the bond light is on .. argh

    Looking for a decent truly smart fan that doesnt use bond and doesn’t cost $2k

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