Author Topic: Mystery switches and adding a fan control  (Read 793 times)

SimpleCycle

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Mystery switches and adding a fan control
« on: February 27, 2017, 04:03:15 PM »
I have two electrical questions I was hoping to get some guidance on.

First, I have a couple mystery switches in my kitchen/dining room.  I haven't been able to track down what they go to, and I've tested all the outlets in the kitchen/dining room to make sure they don't go to outlets or one of the outlet plugs.  So two questions - what are the other possibilities for what these switch?  Condo was built in 1998, so not crazy long ago.  And can I just pull the switches, put a wire nut over the end of each wire, and put a new faceplate on where the switch used to be?

Second, I have a couple ceiling fans that are switched to the same switch as the light fixture.  Is there a way to tell if these can be separated out to a second switch?  One is in the same room as one of the mystery switches (so maybe that's what it used to control?) but the other one is in a room with only a single switch.  How involved is it to run a new switch to the fan if it's not already wired as such? (I would not DIY a new switch, just wondering)

BudgetSlasher

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Re: Mystery switches and adding a fan control
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2017, 05:03:27 PM »
I have two electrical questions I was hoping to get some guidance on.

First, I have a couple mystery switches in my kitchen/dining room.  I haven't been able to track down what they go to, and I've tested all the outlets in the kitchen/dining room to make sure they don't go to outlets or one of the outlet plugs.  So two questions - what are the other possibilities for what these switch?  Condo was built in 1998, so not crazy long ago.  And can I just pull the switches, put a wire nut over the end of each wire, and put a new faceplate on where the switch used to be?

I would recommend a good wire tracer tool (http://www.homedepot.com/p/Klein-Tools-Tone-Cube-and-Probe-Plus-Kit-VDV500-808/203015886, but you can find them for less). Basically you hook it up according to the instructions and it generates a signal on the line that the included probe can detect. You can trace wire through drywall and get a pretty good idea of where they go.

Quote
Second, I have a couple ceiling fans that are switched to the same switch as the light fixture.  Is there a way to tell if these can be separated out to a second switch?  One is in the same room as one of the mystery switches (so maybe that's what it used to control?) but the other one is in a room with only a single switch.  How involved is it to run a new switch to the fan if it's not already wired as such? (I would not DIY a new switch, just wondering)

Well if tracing the wires leads you the the ceiling fan there is a pretty good chance that the answer is yes. Otherwise you can always take down the ceiling fan and inspect the box. If there is a hot wire (usually black or red) that is not in use the answer is likely yes.

If not you can always look into remote control fans/light bulbs to separate the two.

If it is on the same line as the lights, I would be worried that bubba put a fan on light box, which is not designed to support the weight and vibration of a fan.

Running a new wire is going to depend a lot on the distances/circumstances/access from above or below.

SimpleCycle

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Re: Mystery switches and adding a fan control
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2017, 09:38:27 PM »
Thanks!  I've never seen that kind of wire tracer before, good to know.


If it is on the same line as the lights, I would be worried that bubba put a fan on light box, which is not designed to support the weight and vibration of a fan.

Running a new wire is going to depend a lot on the distances/circumstances/access from above or below.

The two ceiling fans on the lower level are definitely on the same line as the lights, it completely annoys me.  I suspect they are original to the condo, but that doesn't mean they were installed correctly.

Only the upstairs ceiling fan has the possibility of two switches.

All three fans have finished levels above them, so access is not so easy.  I probably should just learn to live with it but it's annoying.

lthenderson

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Re: Mystery switches and adding a fan control
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2017, 08:37:00 AM »
For misc switches that people don't know what they go to, I check for the following: ceiling fans, switched outlets, outside light fixtures, outside other electrical stuff that might be switched from the inside. Another way to figure out what it controls is to figure out what circuit it is on in your electrical panel and see if it is labeled. I'm generally not a fan of removing a switch and capping off a live wire in any circumstance. Even if there is no power to the switch, I would try to figure out what it controls before you cover it over.

As for ceiling fans connected to the light on the same switch, they make many models these days that come with a light switch that replaces your existing switch and controls both functions independently. Generally the light is a physical switch and the fan is controlled via RF signals. They also make them so you can have a handheld remote or as a switch that you essentially "stick" on the wall where ever it is convenient.

Spork

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Re: Mystery switches and adding a fan control
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2017, 10:51:28 AM »
As for ceiling fans connected to the light on the same switch, they make many models these days that come with a light switch that replaces your existing switch and controls both functions independently. Generally the light is a physical switch and the fan is controlled via RF signals. They also make them so you can have a handheld remote or as a switch that you essentially "stick" on the wall where ever it is convenient.

I've only had a couple of RF ceiling fans, but I've had really bad luck with them.  They had cheap remotes and were damn near impossible to use.  I much prefer a simple 50 cent switch and finally replaced the RF receivers on my fans with hard wired switches.  (Yes, dragging another hot wire can be a pain, but IMO, worth it.)
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lthenderson

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Re: Mystery switches and adding a fan control
« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2017, 02:25:12 PM »
As for ceiling fans connected to the light on the same switch, they make many models these days that come with a light switch that replaces your existing switch and controls both functions independently. Generally the light is a physical switch and the fan is controlled via RF signals. They also make them so you can have a handheld remote or as a switch that you essentially "stick" on the wall where ever it is convenient.

I've only had a couple of RF ceiling fans, but I've had really bad luck with them.  They had cheap remotes and were damn near impossible to use.  I much prefer a simple 50 cent switch and finally replaced the RF receivers on my fans with hard wired switches.  (Yes, dragging another hot wire can be a pain, but IMO, worth it.)

Most definitely my preference would be hard wired as well. I have two Minka-Aire fans that are four years old and have worked well with the RF receivers. But I mostly leave mine on all the time too and only change the direction twice a year. Lights I use like normal lights.

Mgmny

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Re: Mystery switches and adding a fan control
« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2017, 02:04:52 PM »
Older homes may have a switch for a dishwasher. Do you have/use a dishwasher?


SimpleCycle

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Re: Mystery switches and adding a fan control
« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2017, 04:24:11 PM »
Older homes may have a switch for a dishwasher. Do you have/use a dishwasher?

Yes, we do have a dishwasher switch but it is not one of the mystery switches.