Ask Electrical Question
E Books

Wiring a Ceiling Fan for Separate Control of Fan and Light

Here is a quesion from a site visitor asking how to wire a ceiling fan and light kit with separate control switches for the fan and the light.

Question:  I would like to wire two ceiling fans — the power comes into the box first — I would also like to have two separate switches for lights and fans. Any diagrams would be helpful. Thanks for your help.

Answer:  In the question above, I am assuming that this is a new installation, and as I understand the question, the power now comes in to the first ceiling box intended for mounting the ceiling fan.  In roughing in wiring for a ceiling box that has a potential to have a ceiling fan installed either now, or in the future, it prudent to wire the circuit for separate control of the fan and the light kit on individual switches.

Make sure you mount the ceiling outlet boxes firmly, and with extra support so as to handle the additional weight of the fan.  Check with your local electrical and building inspector, as well as the manufacturers recommendations. 

With the power coming in to this circuit at the first ceiling fan outlet box, here is how to run the cables for this circuit.

  1. 2-wire cable (power in) to the first ceiling outlet box
  2. 2-wire cable (power out) to the second ceiling outlet box
  3. 3-wire cable (switch legs) from first ceiling outlet, down to a 2-gang box for the first set of switches for ceiling fan / light control.
  4. 3-wire cable from 2nd ceiling outlet down to the second 2-gang box for fan / light control.

Here is a diagram to show how this circuit will be connected.  I will show only the first ceiling fan and control.  Duplicate the spicing for the second ceiling fan / light.

Note that ground connections are not shown to avoid cluttering the diagram.  See THIS article for proper ground connections.

When installing a ceiling fan, if you are dealing with existing wiring, there are 3 main issues that you must check out before beginning.

  1. Is the box that you are going to mount the fan to, secured well enough to handle the weight?
  2. Does the existing circuit incorporate a switch?
  3. Does the existing circuit provide for separate switching of the fan and the light kit?

If the existing wiring has no provisions for switching, and changing or adding to the existing wiring is difficult or impossible, and it only has power present at the ceiling outlet box, then the pull-chain switches that are a part of the ceiling fan assembly will have to be used for control of the fan and the light.

If the existing wiring has only 1 switch for control, and the power comes to the switch first, then you can only control power to the ceiling fan assembly via the switch, and you have to control the fan and the light with the pull-chain switches when the wall switch is on.

If the existing wiring is such that the power comes in to the ceiling box first, and then uses as switch-leg drop arrangement, you can control (for example) the light from the wall switch, and have the fan wired directly to power so as to use the pull-chain switch to control the fan.

There are other options available as well, such as remote control devices allowing you separate control of the fan and the light kit if your wiring options are limited.

This entry was posted in Electrical Wiring and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Joebob6625

    thanks for this i was stumped ran the 3 wire and i know it was the wire to use just didn’t wire it altogether right and my head just would not think been fishing the wire for about 4 hours now and brain is toast

  • Mike

    Can the above be used when adding a ceiling fan to an existing circut of lights that use two 3way switches?

  • Jimpatrick

    Have to power a Fan and Light with the following;  Copper Ground, Black for power (1 wire) with Netural (1 wire)  …..all three are come from one switch, which used to power just a light….HOW TO I WIRE IT SO THAT THE POWER GOES TO THE FAN & LIGHT, AND ATHE ON / 0FF IS CONTROLLED BY PULLING THE ON / OFF CHAIN FOR EITHER THE LIGHT OR THE FAN.

    COMING OUT OF YTHE FAN MOTOR WAS A ….Black, White, Purple & a Copper wire.


    Jim Patrick

  • Gary

    I had to replace the pull switch for my ceiling light & fan. when I went to put the light fixture back together, I don’t know where the blue wire goes now. Can you help me re-wire this ? Thank you Gary

  • rosemary Douglass

    I have four cam lights and two beautiful hanging lights over an island in my kitchen. The problem is that the installer wired all six lights to one switch. I am very disappointed as I cannot turn on the cam lights and hanging lights independently. Is there anything I can do without tearing up the walls and ceiling to do a complete rewire. I was in the hospital when they removed the old lights and my husband did not know to tell them I wanted on a separate switch. Any suggestions would be appreciated


The Basics of Household Wiring DVD

"If you're looking for a good reference to help you understand simple home wiring, I personally recommend 'The Basics of Household Wiring' DVD".

Terry Peterman, the Internet Electrician
Electrical Wiring
Electrical Diagrams
How To
Electrical Tools
Electrical Videos