Looking for a solution

I’m looking for something that may not exist.

I have a fan/light combo on a single switch with no neutral. I’m looking to automate it but can’t seem to find a product that will work.

The fan is 3 speed (plus off) on a pull chain with a fwd\rev switch. I have no problems with shortening the pull chains to encourage use of the switch.

The light kit is candelabra base and also on a pull chain (on\off). I am wanting to avoid a bulb solution but will take it as a last resort.

ZigBee does not play well with my 1940’s house. (no 2.4 GHz works well. It’s a 1200 square foot house and i use a wifi router that should cover over 2000 sqft and have weak areas. Old heavy wood I guess.)

Re-wiring to add a neutral is out (old home and difficult to do any work without it becoming a 3-week ordeal.

There is a second switch in the box that controls lights outside if that helps. (also no neutral)

Any suggestions?

You should describe if your fan switch is on/off, fwd/rev. and or multi speed.

Fan is 3 speed (plus off) with a fwd. \rev. switch. I’ll edit the top post to reflect this.

Do I understand correctly that you have both a wall switch (on/off) and a 3-position cord-operated switch for fan speed and another cord-operated switch for the light? And if you flip the (assumed) wall switch to off, both become powerless?

This is correct. Wall switch controls power to the unit and pull chains (normally just left on) control the light (on\off) and fan (3speed plus off) along with a two position switch on the fan that controls fwd\rev

How much space is available in the junction box to which the fan is mounted? You certainly have neutral there or the fan and light would not work.

FYI: I have seen homes that have a wall switch for the fan and one for the light on the fan.

I used something similar to this and installed it in the box above the fan:

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@scottk @QuagmireMan there is practically no space up there - the fan was added by the previous owner and they just used the existing light box instead of putting a new rework box up there. Which would have been easy since they were replacing the ceiling sheetrock when they remodeled. Half my house was built in the 40’s and then it was added onto in the 80’s and then early 2000’s so parts of the house are easy to work with and parts are a nightmare.

@H102 I wish it was that easy. I would throw an inovelli no neutral dimmer on the light and call it done as we rarely adjust the fan.

One of my fans I had to add another box next to it in the attic above to host the controller. (If you have access)

You could also go the less pretty way of an extension too.


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Extension is out as the ceiling is too low already.

Attic is not really accessible but I’m not totally ruling it out. (I can get up there but it is a tight fit and very difficult.) Would rather find another solution if one exists. Would like the solution to be at the switch since I don’t like the post it note method but if that’s the only option I might can make it work.

if i didn’t need the fan i would replace it with just a standard light. it would look better in that space anyway. But airflow in my house is terrible.

I think what QuagmireMan posted is going to be the best option. They also sell those same fan type devices at your local big box store (at least they do here), also 433mhz, but I think the Sonoff ones are actually cheaper. And I like Sonoff, because they give us nice (and hackable) things at reasonable prices. :slight_smile: So personally, I would rather give them my money, and suggest others do the same.

Yeah - I’m gonna wait a bit and see if some other ideas get posted then try to decide what I actually want to do.

In a perfect world the contractor that did the last remodel would have pulled new wire to all the boxes that didn’t have neutral but it was done quick and cheap to sell the house.

If I am understanding you correctly, you have the two wires in the switch box, like they ran a single run of (dual conductor) romex down from where the power is just for the switch. So if the switch is not on, then no power at all is going up to the fan/light, correct? And when you turn it on they both come on?

So assuming that, you are going to have to do whatever control you wish to do either up at the fan, or in the attic. And then just wire the switch straight through and put a blank cover plate, or as you say “the Post-It method” and leave the switch on all the time. :smiley:

You could add local control back to your wired-through switch by sticking some button(s) back on the cover plate. I know these come in 433mhz because I just ordered some from AliExpress not too long ago (I have this same problem in one room). They come in white and black (and other colors) and 1-3 “gang” options. I cannot vouch for how well they work because I haven’t received them yet, but they are cheap (only few dollars each). I think some other systems also offer this sort of stick on button functionality, but I wanted to start experimenting with 433mhz stuff because it is so cheap. Another option is some of the big box options also come with remotes. Picking these signals up to update openHAB though is another story.

Next issues: do you want to control the light mainly? You seem perhaps like you could live without the fan. Maybe you mean just leave the fan on all the time? If that is the case, as you say a “smart bulb” might be the best solution. Generally speaking, I don’t like them either, but they do have their place, and your situation is it.

Next, do you want to control the speed of the fan or just on/off? I am assuming you know that being able to control fan speed is a little more complicated due to reasons I won’t get into unless you are interested. Hence the recommended device, or something similar.

Once you decide how and what you want to control exactly, then you can decide on what “transport layer” for lack of a better term. The fan control devices I have seen have been 433mhz. Smart bulbs come for pretty much every system I think. Then it is a question of what sorts of gateways and devices you may have already, and/or what direction you want to move in the future. Luckily, with openHAB as your controller, you have a lot of options to tie dissimilar systems together.

But the bottom line is, there is no way to control everything (separately) from the switch. Only both on, or both off. So really the question becomes: what tradeoff do you want?

  • Less control for less installation hassle (switch everything on/off together at switch, control fan speed manually with pull chain)
  • Full control of everything separately and remotely, for slightly more installation hassle (climbing through attic, etc.)

Unless I have misunderstood something?

EDIT: Also those fan controls are not really that big, and they are made not to go in the box above but wedged inside the fan bracket bolted to the ceiling (the one that holds up the main weight of the fan). That is why they are sort of long and skinny. Usually there will be some cosmetic cover at the ceiling, pull that down and you will see where the wires all connect, that is where you install the fan contol box. Pretty easy actually, Or maybe in the bottom part where the pull chain switch is located (depending on model; also it’s been a while since I did one).

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I don’t mind it being a basic on\off control for the entire unit. I’m fine with controlling the fan speed via the pull chain. (We rarely change it anyways.) My fan is a “low profile” or “hugger” unit that does not have any extra space in its housing so I would have to put any control device in the attic since it lacks room in the junction box. I’m not totally ruling out that idea but would like to see if anybody comes up with a better idea.

I have no other gateways - all my devices are Z-Wave or ZigBee and run through openhab.

I’m really not wanting to lose physical control via wall switch. I have also not found any candelabra base z-wave bulbs as this room seems to eat 2.4ghz signal so I can’t use Zigbee in here.

I want it to connect with openhab so I can turn it off and on without having to go to the room. (And I also plan to set up a rule to turn on lights if an alarm goes off so people can see to get out the house.)

If I could find a wife approved solution to moving the air I would pull down the fan and put a light up and just install an Inovelli no neutral switch.

I apologize if I am coming off as contrary - I’m just trying to find the best solution that covers the most bases. My wife is not going to accept anything that requires an app or voice control. My children are not going to understand that turning off the switch is not how you turn off the light.

Yeah you have a lot of constraints on finding a solution. Which requires some back and forth, clarification, and digging. No offense taken.

It also just sunk in to me what “candelabra base” means. Yeah. I think that also precludes most smart bulbs (but I have no knowledge in this area). A careful re-reading of your post would seem to imply that Zigbee does make them, but you are having signal issues. I am assuming you know that Zigbee runs on the same 2.4 Ghz as Wi-Fi and is subject to interference? Have you tried walking around the room with an app like “Wifi Analyzer” on your phone and look for channel interference? Maybe you could change your Wi-Fi and/or Zigbee channel and get better signal into that room? Or add a repeater somewhere, etc.? That would probably be the easiest option.

Or what about adding an additional floor or other lamp in the room, and plugging that into a smart outlet or one of those simple plug in devices? Perhaps not ideal, but again we seem to have a lot of constraints here. It also just occurred to me that a Zigbee smart outlet (even if used for something else, or even just plugged in and not being used) would also act as a repeater? I think that’s how Zigbee works, right (I don’t use it myself)?

And yes I am using the word “constraints” a lot as I have been designing some things in FreeCAD lately and that is a term used a lot in the Sketcher part of the Part Design workbench. :smiley:

Anyway, other than that I think you are going to have to get in the attic, friend. :smiley: But I will wait with you too, and maybe learn something myself. :smiley:

I have already tried with channel setting and wifi analyzers and all that - this one room (ok two rooms but I’m not worried about the other one right now) seem to have issues with almost any signal. I have a Zigbee light just 15ft away in the next room but Zigbee items will not stay connected in this room. Wifi is weak in this room. I don’t know if its the old wood or the layout of the electrical system or what but it is a problem. I currently have a third reality clip-on Zigbee switch turning the dumb switch on and off but due to the issues it’s not reliable. And it is ugly. And my wife hates it. Because it’s ugly.

Any non-battery powered Zigbee device will act as a repeater but for some reason that won’t help this room.

And yes there are Zigbee bulbs that work with my light kit but I haven’t found any z-wave ones.

Thanks for all your help!

Yeah you sure have done your leg work. I think most of us here don’t mind helping people like you, it’s the ones that haven’t tried anything that get annoying. :wink:

What about phase (I don’t think that’s the correct term)? You know, how every other slot in your panel is on one leg of the 110 (I am asuming you are in US). Double breakers pick up one from the A side and one from the B side to give you 220. Does Zigbee do power line in addition to wireless? Or maybe it has to do with interference or something. I remember reading about that, but it might not apply to Zigbee? Basically the idea is you are supposed to bridge the 2 sides by making sure you have one or more device on each.

From everything I understand zigbee is radio only. Insteon does both (with intelligent routing).

But yeah while I don’t think your description is quite right it’s close enough that for powerline comms it gets the idea across.

I’m considering adding an insteon modem to my setup but not convinced I actually need it. And it wouldn’t help for this situation anyways.

Im considering the linear/go-control WA00Z-1 scene controller and installing that over my switch. Probably over both switches in the box and just put the outdoor lights on a motion detector. if i do that i can leave my dumb switch on and install a couple relays in the attic (or if i can find the right size i might can squeeze them in the light kit). this would give me control over both the fan and the light while looking better than my current solution. (But still looking worse than a in wall switch and still needing batteries.)
Still not ideal.
Wife shot down the idea to replace the fan\light combo with a light.