How to Control Your Ceiling Fans in a Smarthome

A Haiku Smart fan hanging from a ceiling
Big Ass Fans

A smarthome promises to be released wall switches and pull chains. Instead, you get voice control and powerful automation. That's how it works for smart light bulbs. Why not make ceiling fans in your home smart?

Smart fans are another benefit for the home. With a connected fan, you not only get voice and remote control, but you can also add programs and routines. You can add smart fans to your home in several ways: install a new one, convert an existing "stupid" fan, install a smart fan switch, or add a smart bridge for fans.

The expensive option: buy a new smart fan

A Hunter intelligent fan hanging from the ceiling.
Hunter Fans

If you want a fan that easily integrates with your existing smarthome system, installing a new smart fan is the easiest option. Smart fans are usually in Wi-Fi or Zigbee format. If you choose a Wi-Fi fan, like those of hunter or haikuyou do not need a hub.

As a general rule, you always have a standard infrared (IR) remote control and access via smartphone or tablet application. Wi-Fi fans usually offer Alexa and Google Assistant integration, with voice control of built-in lights and fan. You will need to install a dedicated app on your smartphone or tablet. And, of course, you run the risk of interference if you have too many Wi-Fi devices on your network.

ZigBee fans, however, need a smart hub. The most popular offers, from Gardiner and Hampton Bay, are specially designed for Wink hubs. If you have multiple ZigBee Smart Home devices, they will form a mesh network with the ZigBee fan for better reach. Unfortunately, although they include Alexa and Google Assistant, this usually does not include voice control of the fan: voice assisters can only turn on and off the built-in light.

If you have already installed a fan with an infrared remote control, the installation of a smart fan follows the same process. You wire an IR module that also includes Wi-Fi or ZigBee radios when installing the fan.

The biggest disadvantage – in addition to having to install the fans – is the expense. Smart fans range from $ 130 to $ 640. It also introduces an additional point of failure: our intelligent fan ZigBee Radio failed after four months, and neither the manufacturer nor the store wanted to repair it. The fan still works, but as a standard stupid fan.

Turn your "stupid" fan into a smart fan

A smart Z-wave fan module.
An intelligent ventilation module and a standard infrared fan module are almost identical. Hampton Bay

If you do not want to buy all the new fans, you may be able to convert the ones you already have. If your fan already has an IR module, you can replace it with a adapter with Wi-Fi or Zigbee radios.

You will encounter the same positives and negatives as you would with a real Wi-Fi or Zigbee fan. The ZigBee Wink controller still does not allow your voice assistant to control the fan speed, for example. But between $ 50 and $ 70, adding radios to your current fan costs a lot less than buying a brand new fan.

To add an intelligent module to your existing fan with IR, you must separate it, remove it, and replace it with the smart module. They are usually the same shape and size, but with an additional antenna.

If your fan does not include an infrared remote control, you may be able to add a smart module. But you should first disassemble your fan and check that you have enough room in the motor housing for an additional device. You will want to look at where the wiring of your fan connects to the wiring in your home.

Replace your fan wall switch with a smart switch

Lutron, Smart Switch, Wireless Remote Control, and Lutron Smart Bridge and App.

If you control your fans with a dedicated wall switch (often located next to a switch), you can avoid buying a new fan or converting an existing fan. Instead, you can replace your current mute fan switch with a smart fan switch. Smart fan switches arrive Wi-Fi (Lutron Caseta), ZigBee (GE), and Z-Wave (also GE) models. They usually go between $ 45 and $ 60. Often, they need a hub to integrate with your smart system, which includes some Wi-Fi switches, like Lutron, which also increases the cost, if you do not already have the hub.

Smart fan switches work a lot like smart lighting switches. You must replace your current switch with the smart switch. In general, the smart version is larger and some require a neutral wire. So, you will want to check that you have both the space and the wiring needed. If you do not feel comfortable with the wiring in your home, consider using an electrician. And if you rent rather than own your home, you must make sure that you are allowed to install the switch.

Lutron Caseta switches have an optional wireless remote that works with the wired switch. You can mount this elsewhere for easy control in many places.

Once installed, you can continue to use your fan switch as you have always done. But you can also connect to the switch via an app, Alexa or Google Assistant.

Add a smart bridge to avoid any wiring

Bond smart bridge for Google Home and Alexa.

You do not need to install a new fan, wire a new receiver or replace a switch. If your existing fan has an infrared remote, you can use a bridge to control it. If you already have a Logitech Harmony, you can program it to work with most infrared devices.

You can try entering your fan number and model number in the field Logitech Harmony compatibility site to see if it's supported natively (five of the fans we tried were not). Even if your fan is not listed, you can manually program an infrared remote in Logitech Harmony. Once you have paired your fan with Harmony, you can control it through the Logitech app or use basic voice commands with or without Alexa or Google Assistant.

For an easier and cheaper option, you can consider the Bond Smart Bridgewhich goes for $ 100. Bond designed his deck specifically to control the fans. It also works with electric fireplaces and some air conditioners. The configuration is simple: when the gateway is in scan mode, point your IR remote control at it and hold down the power button. Bond compares the code to his database and, if he finds a match, he automatically programs the rest. The bridge acts as an IR blaster to replace your remote.

Bond includes an application, but it is true that it is not very stable. In our experience, he often successfully sends a control command, but complains that the command failed. But, thanks to the integration of Alexa and Google, you no longer need the application after pairing. You can use the Google or Alexa app instead, or voice commands. And with Bond, almost all the functions of your remote and your voice can be. If you have properly grouped and named your devices, you can say "Turn on the fan" or "Turn on the fan at 60%" when an echo or Google Home is in the same room as the fan.

IR blaster bridges, like Logitech and Bond, are not perfect, however. If a physical switch controls your fan, turning it off will prevent the bridges from working properly – just as a smart bulb can not work when the switch is off.

Smart bridges of fans also do not follow the current power state. So, if you use a voice command to turn off all the devices in a room, your smart bridge can send the Deactivate command even when the fan is already off. Since many infrared devices use the same command to turn on and off, it means that while the rest of the room is off, your fan and lighting may turn on.

But a bridge could be the least intimidating method to convert your current fan into a smart fan. If you can install an echo and associate a smart bulb, you can probably install an IR smart bridge and associate a fan.

If your fan does not have an IR remote control, you can either add a universal IR module and use it with a smart fan or install one of the smart radios above.

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