Ceiling fan switch

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Posted by: from Sherwood Park
12/8/2012 at 3:08:48 PM

I just purchased a house which has a ceiling fan in the main entrance hall. The fan has lights and operates on a 2 wire wall switch.

Problem is... i cant figure out how to turn the fan on. It seems to be a smart fan and turns on when the wall switch is turned on in some sort if sequence. I am thinking it works something like outdoor sensor lights where you can force them to stay on or off depending on how you flick the wall switch on and off. Sometimes when I turn the switch on, both the fan and lights go on. Other times, just the lights. I have tried flicking it on and off quickly and numerous other paterns but just can't figure it out.

Regardless of the fan workin, the lights always go one when the switch is turned on. Also.... I have no idea what brand this fan is. Operating it with the standard pull cords on the fan is not an option because this fan is two stories up from the main floor.

Does anyone know what sort of sequence the switch may need to be flicked on/off to get the fan to turn the fan on or off when I choose instead of this random thing I am dealing with right now?

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Date/Time12/8/2012 at 4:08:50 PM

I most likely work with a remote control.

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Chris from 2J Electric Ltd in De Winton
Date/Time12/8/2012 at 4:12:07 PM

Sounds like it could be a remote controlled fan, (especially as it is out of reach for manual operation). Guessing the previous owner didn't leave you the controller? You can confirm this by dropping it down from the ceiling and seeing if there is a control box in the top.

Probably cheaper to replace the whole thing than to source a replacement remote.

Hope this helps


2J Electric

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Kim in Sherwood Park
Date/Time12/8/2012 at 4:20:36 PM

If it is missing the remote control would in not simply stay off or stay on when the wall switch is turned on? Ie. it would be consistently on or consistantly off. Right now it seems random.

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Date/Time12/8/2012 at 4:29:44 PM

Put a new switch in. If you don't have the remote its never going to be convenient.


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Date/Time12/8/2012 at 4:38:01 PM


It could also be that the fan wire is loose. Some fan require that the fan and light wires arew connected together and if one is lose, it may just connect (the fan I mean) when the vibration allows for the wires to connect.

As mentioned, check the switch and connections.

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Kim in Sherwood Park
Date/Time12/8/2012 at 5:26:17 PM


If you are suggesting that the wall switch be replaced, I did that; no change in its operation.


I don't think it can b a loose wire. I suspect that the fan would go on and off at random times with the wall switch on. Once the fan is running it will not shut off until the wall switch is turned off. In addition, the fan never just randomly turns on when the wall switch is on. The fan only turns on at the moment the wall switch is turned on. I have done a lot of reno's since I moved in and there has been a lot of banging. At some point the vibration of reno's would have caused it to turn on or off while the wall switch was on.

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Date/Time12/8/2012 at 6:10:32 PM

Hello Kim,

I guess the only way to figure out how to turn the fan on and off is looking what the brand and type of fan it is and thereafter do a bit research on the internet for the manual. This is what I do when I want to know how things work. And most of the time you'll find the manuals on the website of the manufacturers for free.


3D-Tile-Design - Bertram Tasch

Maple Ridge, BC (Greater Vancouver)

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Date/Time12/8/2012 at 6:45:31 PM

You say its a two wire? Since you did not install it, is their a missing remote?

I have used a wall switch that can work the light and the fan separate from each other but would require some rewiring at both ends.

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Date/Time12/8/2012 at 9:18:05 PM

It sounds as though your problem is with a short either in the switch or the fan wiring. Have you checked the connections in both?

Intermittent problems like you are experiencing sounds like a short. You may have to climb a ladder after all, or call an electrician to look at your switch/fan.

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Date/Time12/8/2012 at 9:40:07 PM

Hi Kim:

It sounds like your ceiling fan was wired for a fan only application. For it to work with lights and fan, it must have a three wire and a special fan switch on the wall. It could also be wired for use with a remote, but irregardless, you require two separate feed circuits for the fan and lights to work independently.

I would advise you to get an electrician in.


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Kim in Sherwood Park
Date/Time12/8/2012 at 11:09:10 PM

The fan and light are wired tied into the same circuit. If it were a short would the lights also not fail to work or at least flicker from time to time? As it is, there is never a flicker in the lights. There are no loose connections in the wall switch. This switch was replaced and it did not change the irregular behavior of the the fan. And as posted earlier, I don't think it wld be a loose connection or at times one wld expect the fan to stop working mid operation while the wall switch is on. This had never happened. Once the fan is on, it stayes on.

It is possible that this fan once had a remote and maybe cutting the power and turnin it back on makes it respond in the irregular way I am experiencing. Who knows. I thought maybe there was some odd sequence u had to flick the switch. Similar to outdoor sensor lights. Thanks for the help buy I think I will need to get up there and see if I can locate a manufactures name/model.

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Date/Time12/9/2012 at 2:08:55 AM

Hello Kim,

In case your fan is digitally controlled, there was probably originally a "Digital Fan Control" installed and maybe later replaced by a normal switch.

Digital control. With this style of control, all of the fan's functions on/off status, speed, direction of rotation, and any attached light fixtures are controlled by a computerized wall control, which typically does not require any special wiring. Instead, it uses the normal house wiring to send coded electrical pulses to the fan, which decodes and acts on them using a built-in set of electronics. This style of control typically has anywhere from three to six speeds. ( ).

You have to get up there and figure out the manufactures name/model. Thereafter do your research in the internet.



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Date/Time12/9/2012 at 2:14:54 PM

I would have a certified electrician come in and look at it. It may turn out you need a 3 way switch installed. But it is always better to have an electrician look at it as if something should happen and your home burns down because of something that was done without the electrician then your home insurance will likely cancel before it pays out.

As to the intermittence issue I would say you have a short somewhere in that circuit and an electrician can sort that out pretty quick.

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Date/Time12/10/2012 at 2:35:57 PM

Just a suggestion: The fan probably came with a remote control originally. If it did, then that hand held remote control probably had a button to turn on the lights and another button(s) for fan speed control. It's probably not a switch flicking sequence.

It also sounds like there is a separate issue that the remote control receiver is faulty ( because you mention that sometimes the fan comes on intermitantly when you flick the light switch several times).

Look on the fixture to see if you can locate a short black wire coming out of the fan that has the tip of the wire with a little plastic cap on it. This wouldn't be an electrical wire, it would be the antenna for the remote control. If you see that wire then you can be sure that the fan has a remote.

To find out what model fan control you have installed, the bottom part of the fan that houses the remote control receiver ( a small device with 5 (electrical) connections and an antenna coming out of it ) would have to be disassembled. Then it might be possible to see whom the manufacturer is by reading the markings on that receiver. Check for the manufacturer's website online and if available, call them for assistance. It's probably possible to purchase (separately) a new receiver and/or remote control.

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Kim in Sherwood Park
Date/Time12/10/2012 at 2:50:37 PM

Thanks for all your help. Looks like I will have to climb up there and see what I can figure out.

Again... Thanks! :-)

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Date/Time1/11/2013 at 5:33:08 PM

So what did you find out Kim? Its always nice to get an answer from one of these.


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Kim in Sherwood Park
Date/Time1/17/2013 at 2:42:50 PM

I haven't had a chance to climb up there and check it out. It's up on the second story and I need a really tall freestanding ladder to which I don't own. I was going to borrow one from a friend but I am in the middle of renovating two barrooms at the moment. So..... I will have to wait before I can figure out what's up.

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