Pre wire for ceiling fans?

Mom23EsJune 29, 2012

We told the builder to go ahead and pre-wire for ceiling fans in almost every room. We like running fans in bedrooms at night, and even though they aren't my favorite look, I think it is a practical thing to do.

Anyway, what exactly does it mean to pre-wire? I've been browsing ceiling fans online, and I'm not sure if I should be looking at special types of fans or not. Will the wall switches control both light and fan? Do they automatically control fan speed? Some fans are pictured with little chains hanging down (the ones in our current house have chains) and some are not. I'd really like to start making some decisions on ceiling fans and lights.

I'm so clueless and embarrassed that I can't figure this out. Can someone explain this to me, please?

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We got our house pre-wired for ceilings fans in all rooms except the dining room and kitchen. We are in the South and its very practical for us. Our pre-wire ceiling fan was basically two light switches(one will control the light and the other will contro the fan). Our switches will not control fan speed. When we move in it will just be a basic lighting outlet and we will have to install our own fans.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 2:39PM
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You can run extra conductors in the cables from fan switch to ceiling to allot separate control of lights and fans, and in many cases fan speed.

There are also wireless systems that do not require much (if any) extra wiring.

A separate wire for the fan and the lights is pretty 'standard' in a pre-wire.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 3:16PM
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So will I need to buy special ceiling fans to work this way or will all ceiling fans work with wall switches? My experience has only been using a single switch to turn a fan/light on and then using the chains to operate the individual components. Will the cheap $79-$89 fans that I've found online work?


    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 3:20PM
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In my experience, ALL ceiling fans can be connected to 2 switches (one for lights and one for fan), even the $26.47 fans. You have to specify to the builder that you want the light and fan to be controlled separately.

You can control fan on/off with a switch, or to control fan speed, all you need is a different type of control where the switch would normally be. This can be rotary (least expensive), or many other variations of slides and such which go up substantially in price. These can also be put in after the fact, as long as the light and fan were wired to be controlled separately. There are even some "combo" switches that allow control of both light and fan in the space of one normal switch.

We found it harder to find light kits for our ceiling fans ... We wanted all of our fans to be able to use medium base bulbs (the size of regular incandescent lightbulbs) so we could use compact fluorescent bulbs. We were finding most of the lights took the little base bulbs.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 11:05PM
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If you like air moving downward over your head then pre-wire for a simple unobtrusive fan. If you want the air movement to be less noticeable you can reverse the fan blades so they pull air upward and distribute it to the walls.

IMHO adding a light hanging down in the center of a room is the worst possible way to light the room and most of the fan/light combinations are not attractive.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 8:47AM
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I agree with Renovator about the fan light BUT if you decide to do away with it, make sure at least one of the outlets in the room is controlled by a switch, so you can turn on a light when you walk into the room. One way to do this is to have the top socket in each outlet be switch-controlled and then plug a lamp, or several, into these. The lower sockets will be live all the time.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 1:14PM
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"make sure at least one of the outlets in the room is controlled by a switch"

The National Electric Code has required a switched outlet for many years in each room.

An outlet can be a ceiling light or a receptacle.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 1:32PM
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Sorry, I don't speak electricianese. When I go to the hardware store and see something labeled an "outlet cover" I assume the thing it's covering is commonly referred to as an outlet. A receptacle to me is something that receives something else -- so it could be a trashcan, an urn, etc. But then again, a "lamp" to me is the electrically wired piece of furniture that sits on a table or the floor, not the lightbulb -- but I've been corrected on that, too.

No doubt my reply confused the electricians and builders among us, but I think it was probably clear to most of rest. But thank you for correcting me on my deficient vocabulary. I will attempt to go and sin no more.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 5:56PM
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I didn't read brickeyee's post as trying to correct you. You gave good information to us and this would be a good note to add to the thread on things that may be forgotten.

I read it as adding to your post. You made a good point about wiring a switch to turn on a lamp and he made the point that it was actually part of the building code to do this (which I wasn't aware of), and was glad to know.


I have ceiling fans in all of my bedrooms and my family rooms. Love to run them at night on low year round. Wish I had skipped the light kits. I may put a small one in my master bath in the next house. Yes, seriously.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 6:18PM
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Thanks everyone! Again, all this great information on GW! :)

I WISH we didn't need to rely on ceiling fans for light, but it's simply not in the cards for our lifestyle right now. With 3 little kids, we have had to eliminate nearly all of our table lamps. I've lost several lamps due to them being knocked over, and then one of the kids got badly burned when he grabbed the light bulb out of curiousity. So, even the lamps we keep around for decoration never get used. We are installing floor outlets so that in the future we can have lamps, but for now, I'm searching for the prettiest ceiling fans possible. Oh the sacrifices we have to make for our kids! ;)

    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 9:59PM
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I pre-wired for both ceiling fans and wall sconces. For ceiling fans you'll generally want 2 switches, one for the fan and one for the lights. I think my builder charged around $150 per fan pre-wire, and $100 for a switched jbox like a sconce outlet.

You can use a dimmer-style switch to control the fan speed and light output. Most fans above the basic $100 models will include a remote for fan and light these days, so the switch ends up being redundant. On most of my fans I end up leaving the light switches on and controlling the fans via the remotes. Then it's kind of a comedy when I accidentally turn off the fan switch in a bank of 4 switches and try to figure out which one it is....

I personally love the look of ceiling fans as a design element - there are a fantastic variety of fans (and lights) available today that can really make a statement and complement your decor.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 11:42PM
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Outlet is the general term for any wiring that terminates at a wall or ceiling. Outlet covers can be designed for a receptacle, a switch, a cable, etc. so they can be called receptacle covers, switch covers, etc. If they are plain/undecorated they are often called plates as in "switchplate". So these terms can be used interchangeably or together.

Nevertheless the distinction between a lighting outlet and a receptacle outlet is important. The code requires a switched lighting outlet in a habitable room but has an exception allowing it to be a receptacle outlet for "cord connected lighting". This exception is important because it is sometimes deleted by state or local amendments.

A switched receptacle should not have a dimmer switch in order to avoid damage to other appliances.

Make sure the fan outlet system (hanger brace & box with hook) is labeled as suitable for supporting a fan. If the weight of the fan is greater than 35 lbs., the box must be labeled with the maximum weight it can support (70 lbs. max.)

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 8:29AM
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