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  1. #1
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    Default Ceiling fan speed control switch question

    Ceiling fans require a fan speed switch verses a light fixture switch dimmer switch. The question is-how can the type switch actually used be determined short of researching the switch listing? i.e. Are all dimmer switches that turn freely to infinate settings light dimmers that are not rated for fans? Can switches that click to three separate settings when turned be assumed to be fan speed switches?

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Ceiling fan speed control switch question

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom McDonnell View Post
    Ceiling fans require a fan speed switch verses a light fixture switch dimmer switch. The question is-how can the type switch actually used be determined short of researching the switch listing? i.e. Are all dimmer switches that turn freely to infinate settings light dimmers that are not rated for fans? Can switches that click to three separate settings when turned be assumed to be fan speed switches?
    I never gave it that much thought before. I don't know....

    Of course you hope that the fan switch is one that meets the manufacturers requirements, but that would be almost impossible for a home inspector to know without the installation guidelines and requirements.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Ceiling fan speed control switch question

    A long time ago I sold lighting fixtures, ceiling fans, etc., (managed 2 lighting store for 13 years) and ... back then ... the ceiling fan controls were of three basic types: 1) the transformer types which came with those cheap ceiling fans; 2) multiple speed setting controls with off-high-medium-low settings; 3) continuous dimmer type speed controls.

    Originally, the continuous dimmer type speed controls started at off-high-to-low, versus dimmers which started at off-low-to-high.

    This was because for lighting it was desirable to start the voltage off low and turn it higher, which allowed the filaments in the lamps to be thermal shocked less than starting at full voltage.

    And for ceiling fans it was desirable to start the voltage off high and turn it lower, which allowed full voltage to initially torque the motor into moving (that old inertia thing had to be overcome) then allowed the voltage to be turned lower.

    Over the years ceiling fan speed controls came out with off-hi-med-low-off, which meant you could actually go from off-low. Sure, the fans took longer to start moving, but, hey, no one really noticed or mentioned it. And, those were UL listed for ceiling fans, soooo ... no biggie.

    Later, when remote controls for fans came out, you could also go directly from off-low (but those remotes came out after my time in the business).

    Then come fully variable ceiling fan speed controls came out which went from off-low (but this too was after my time in the business).

    So, short of doing a code inspection it probably does not matter.

    The easiest way to address it as an HI is to simply state that one does not verify dimmers or ceiling fans speed controls (as I recall, the face plate of the dimmer or fan speed control used to be stamped with that listing, so you could remove the cover plate and read it).

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Talking Re: Ceiling fan speed control switch question

    Thanks guys for the responces. I had heard it said in a seminar somewhere that a light dimmer if used as a fan speed control switch would constitute a fire hazard. While this is probably true, it seams that there is no way to know if a fan switch is properly rated without knowing the fan manufacturer requirements and the listing of the switch which are both beyond the scope of a home inspection. Of course, this would only hold true until the time one shorts causing a fire at which point a young legal eagle might get a hold of it and develop a young legal eagle legal theory as to why the HI could have and should have known.


  5. #5
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    Default Re: Ceiling fan speed control switch question

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom McDonnell View Post
    Thanks guys for the responces. I had heard it said in a seminar somewhere that a light dimmer if used as a fan speed control switch would constitute a fire hazard. While this is probably true, it seams that there is no way to know if a fan switch is properly rated without knowing the fan manufacturer requirements and the listing of the switch which are both beyond the scope of a home inspection. Of course, this would only hold true until the time one shorts causing a fire at which point a young legal eagle might get a hold of it and develop a young legal eagle legal theory as to why the HI could have and should have known.
    Tom: You could always run out like a sharper image inspector and plop down $12K for an Infrared Ray Gun to see if the switches are overheating. Or, you could simply touch them. If they are hot, note that in your report and be happy. Send the $12K my way. I'm saving up to open my own Telesteps Store . . .


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Ceiling fan speed control switch question

    I think you will find that 'motor speed controls' start at full speed,then are used to slow things down. Light dimmers start dim, and get brighter.


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    Default Re: Ceiling fan speed control switch question

    Quote Originally Posted by John Steinke View Post
    I think you will find that 'motor speed controls' start at full speed,then are used to slow things down. Light dimmers start dim, and get brighter.
    That was always my understanding also. Most of the time I see it (dimmer) on a fan / light combo and controls both.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
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    Default Re: Ceiling fan speed control switch question

    Quote Originally Posted by John Steinke View Post
    I think you will find that 'motor speed controls' start at full speed,then are used to slow things down. Light dimmers start dim, and get brighter.

    As I pointed out above: not all ceiling fan speed controls will start out at full and turn down, some will start out on low speed and turn up.

    Just check any remote controlled ceiling fan speed control: the fan is 'off', you can select to turn the fan on at 'low', 'med', or 'high', as you desire.

    Other types of ceiling fan speed controllers turn from 'off' to 'high' to 'med' to 'low' to 'off', again allowing you to go from 'off' to 'low'.

    Once you get into larger motors, I believe you will find that most start on 'high' (full speed) to allow the motor to torque up and get moving before turning the speed down.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: Ceiling fan speed control switch question

    If all else fails take it out and look at the back of it. Most manufactures put the ratings on them. Matter of fact dimmers have the wattage stamped onto the front of them. Speed controls won't list wattage.
    (Sometimes we get caught up in the technical side of things and miss the obvious)


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    Default Re: Ceiling fan speed control switch question

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    (as I recall, the face plate of the dimmer or fan speed control used to be stamped with that listing, so you could remove the cover plate and read it).
    Quote Originally Posted by ken horak View Post
    If all else fails take it out and look at the back of it. Most manufactures put the ratings on them. Matter of fact dimmers have the wattage stamped onto the front of them. Speed controls won't list wattage.
    (Sometimes we get caught up in the technical side of things and miss the obvious)
    Not all of us. At least not all of the time.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: Ceiling fan speed control switch question

    I was stating to look for the stamped rating on the device itself- not the faceplate as you stated.

    I saw your statement about looking a the faceplate, I suggest looking at the device itself.
    Most face plates that came with the speed control or dimmer have been replaced or not used at all.
    The device comes with a single gang plate. When installing them in a 2 (or more) gang box the installer tosses the provided plate and uses the proper plate for the box.


  12. #12
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    Default Re: Ceiling fan speed control switch question

    Quote Originally Posted by ken horak View Post
    I was stating to look for the stamped rating on the device itself- not the faceplate as you stated.
    Incorrect.

    I am talking about the "faceplates" of the devices, read what I said, *NOT* the "covers".

    I saw your statement about looking a the faceplate, I suggest looking at the device itself.
    Same here, go back and read what I wrote.

    Most face plates that came with the speed control or dimmer have been replaced or not used at all.
    You are talking about "cover plates" now.

    I will quote what I wrote for you, but I will add underlining and red text for highlighting.
    (as I recall, the face plate of the dimmer or fan speed control used to be stamped with that listing, so you could remove the cover plate and read it).
    Think of the "faceplate" as the "yoke" of a switch. Key in on the word "stamped", then on the phrase "remove the cover plate".

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: Ceiling fan speed control switch question

    Jerry,Jerry,Jerry,- Come now lets at least get this elementary item correct.

    The Faceplate of the device - wrong,wrong,wrong,wrong.


    The part of the device you so incorrectly are referring to as the "faceplate" is technically called the "strap" or "Mounting yoke" or "Mounting Strap" This the correct terminology used by Manufactures and the NEC. (Yes I looked it up in the copper wiring devices I have in my desk drawer and the NEC on the desk top.) There is zero (0) references to anything as a "faceplate of the device" as that is incorrect.

    (NEC 404.9(A) 406.5 ) there are numerous reference's to Face plates in the NEC so it's too many to dig for and list.

    I will give you "cover plate" as it is in parenthesis in NEC 406.5 and the UL white book

    Devices are still required to be stamped (marked) with the ratings so just remove the FACE PLATE and look at the "Front" ( yoke,mounting strap, strap) of the device to gather the information.


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    Default Re: Ceiling fan speed control switch question

    Ken, Ken, Ken,

    Okay, I will give you that terminology change, but you should have had no problem understanding what what I was saying when that statement continued.

    If you say 'no, you did not', then you are missing more than I did when I used that term.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: Ceiling fan speed control switch question

    Are there any fan dimmer switches made with the push-on, push-off feature? I automatically call those light dimmers but should investigate.

    Also have felt considerable heat generated by these dimmers when they are supplying candleabra light fixtures. Should check wattage ratings in those cases.

    Pulling the 'Cover'plate sounds like a good idea, but be careful not to strip the splines on the knob, eh?

    John Kogel
    www.allsafehome .ca


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    Default Re: Ceiling fan speed control switch question

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    Are there any fan dimmer switches made with the push-on, push-off feature? I automatically call those light dimmers but should investigate.
    Yes, there are. Nice "face plate", BTW.
    Leviton SureSlide Full-Range Fan Speed Controls



    (Model # 6637-P)

    NOTE: DOES NOT INCLUDE FACE PLATE!
    Detail Box Product Brochure (pdf)
    Note: Picture may not represent the actual product. We are continuously working on improving our website and reserve the right to change specifications and availability without prior notice.

    Sureslide 3-way fan speed control with preset on/off. Features:

    • 5 Amps 120V AC 60Hz
    • Residential grade
    • Permanently mounted smooth-action integrated linear slide contol for easy, precise operations
    • Compatible with all Decora designer wallplates
    • Built-in radio/TV interference filter
    • All sureslide devices have a permanently mounted smooth-action integrated linear slide control for easy, precise operations
    • Sureslide features a slim, compact housing that fits easily into a standard wallbox and is suitable for multi-gang installations



  17. #17
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    Default Re: Ceiling fan speed control switch question

    Something to remember when looking into the ratings of light dimmers.
    When you break off any of the tabs along the front sides of the dimmer, it reduces the dimmers rating. It should have this info. on the front of the device as well.


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