Subscribe to
NSLog(); Header Image

Replacing a Fan with a Light

In the great room I have three switches, all of them dimmers (the five-button kind: off, 1/4 power, half power, 3/4, and full). Two of the switches each control one set of lights. The third controls a fan that's in the middle of the room.

I'd like to replace the fan with a compact fluorescent light, but obviously CFLs don't work very well on dimmer switches. What can I expect to find in the hole when I remove the fan? Can I wire up the new light so that it works properly despite being on a dimmer switch?

I'd rather not replace the dimmer switch, you see.

5 Responses to "Replacing a Fan with a Light"

  1. Actually there are several dimmable CFLs. I don't know how well they work, but I'd probably try that first.

  2. Zach said on December 4, 2009:

    I don't know how well they work…

    Unfortunately, they don't work. That's the problem. 🙂

  3. More than likely you will find either white/black/green(or copper) or white/red/black/green(or copper) in the box. If you have just three, then you should match up with the light. Red is a second hot, used for fan light combos, with the black for one (fan or light) and red for the other. If you do have a red wire, then that should be disconnected in the box at both ends and a wire nut on each end to be sure that it does come in contact with any other hot or neutral.

    Why don't you want to replace the switch? You should have the power off anyway (and test with a non-conductive tester on both ends to be sure). So you'd be able to put in a switch that is similar to the other two and still use the CFL.

    If you use an incandescent light, you'd still be able to use the dimmer. I'm still not convinced that using CFLs is the environmental answer, since they have have mercury in them. In a few states it is illegal to dispose of used CFLs in municipal waste. They also poison most of the workers who make them. Some incandescent lights are being made better and are not the drain that older ones were. What do you use in ovens and refrigerators once the new CFL only laws come into play??

    CFLs also have a very low power factor (this costs the utility money, since they have to provide for the lower power factor). You don't pay more, but the utility does. But, your utility may still get you with a 'line loss' cost. So, unless the power factor is high for your bulb, it may actually take extra utility hardware to compensate for the non-liner load from CFLs. Power Factor is also what causes the dimmer issues. Look to see if you can find a CFL with a PF near 1. Those are not a bad as the older ones with a PF in the 0.4-0.6 PF range and may work better on a dimming circuit.

    I agree with using less energy, but we need something better than a mercury filled, low PF CFL.

    Link for CFL issues:

  4. [...] I wrote about replacing a fan with a light bulb. Today I took down the ceiling fan and one of the sets of track [...]

  5. I'm having better luck with dimming CFLs than i used to. I have them in the living room and master bathroom for over a year now and none of them have burnt out.

    They are getting better and I would purchase more as long as I can easily return them if they die prematurely.

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

Please abide by the comment policy. Valid HTML includes: <blockquote><p>, <em>, <strong>, <ul>, <ol>, and <a href>. Please use the "Quote Me" functionality to quote comments.