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Installing 3-way Switches to Control a Ceiling Fan and Light Independently

March 25, 2007

Q: HOW DO I WIRE A CEILING FAN AND LIGHT WITH A 3 WAY CIRCUIT. THAT BOTH THE FAN AND LIGHT ARE INDEPENDENT? I HAVE RAN 14-3 FROM BOX TO BOX AND 14-3 TO THE FAN CONNECTION AND POWER INTO THE OTHER ELECTRICAL BOX. PLEASE TELL ME IF THIS CAN BE DONE AND HOW.

A: You need to install 1 more cable, a 14/2 with ground in between the two switch boxes.

I am going to assume you installed a 2-gang (approximately 4″ square) switch box at each location. Before you get started terminating your wires make sure the power is off.

Let’s start at your ceiling fan. Here, you need to be sure you have a fan rated box. A regular metal or plastic box is not ceiling fan rated and your fan will come down. You can get a fan rated box at you local home improvement store, hardware store or electrical supply. It’s approximately $5.00 for the fan rated box or $15.00 for the kit that includes a bar that spans between the joists, rafters or trusses, the fan rated box and all of the mounting hardware.

After you’ve installed your fan rated box, let’s start terminating the wires.

  • Connect all of the ground (bare and/or green) wires together first.
  • Next connect all of the neutral (white) wires.
  • Now connect the black wire from the 14/3 to the black on the ceiling fan, this will control the fan.
  • Finally, connect the red from the 14/3 to the blue on the ceiling fan, this will control the light.

Now let’s go to the switch box which has the 14/3 that goes to the ceiling fan

  • Start with connecting all of the ground (bare) wires together and leave 2 “pig tails” approximately 6” long and terminate these wires, one to the green ground screw on each 3-way switch.
  • Next connect the neutral (white) wire from each 14/3 cable together and tuck these into the switch box. Do not connect the white wire from the 14/2 to this bundle.
  • Now connect the black wire from the 14/3 cable that comes from the ceiling fan, to the black colored screw on your 3-way switch.
  • Next connect the black wire in the 14/3 cable that comes from the other switch box, to one of the brass colored screws on the 3-way switch.
  • Now connect the red wire in the 14/3 cable that comes from the other switch box, to the other brass colored screw on the 3-way switch.
  • Install the switch. This switch will control the ceiling fan.
  • Next connect the red wire from the 14/3 cable that comes from the ceiling fan, to the black colored screw on the other 3-way switch.
  • Now connect the black wire from the 14/2 cable that comes from the other switch box, to one of the brass colored screws on the 3-way switch.
  • Now connect the white wire in the 14/2 cable that comes from the other switch box, to the other brass colored screw on the 3-way switch.
  • Install the switch. This switch will control the light.

Put the cover plate on and go to the other switch location.

  • Start with connecting all of the ground (bare) wires together and leave 2 “pig tails” approximately 6” long and terminate these wires, one to the green ground screw on each 3-way switch.
  • Next connect the neutral (white) wire from the 14/3 cable to the neutral in the 14/2 power supply cable and tuck these into the switch box. Do not connect the white wire from the 14/2 cable that goes to the other switch box to this bundle.
  • Now cut 2 pieces of black wire approximately 6″ long and splice these to the black wire in the 14/2 power supply cable.
  • Next connect the black wire in the 14/3 cable that comes from the other switch box, to one of the brass colored screws on the 3-way switch.
  • Now connect the red wire in the 14/3 cable that comes from the other switch box, to the other brass colored screw on the 3-way switch
  • Now connect one of the power “pig tails” to the black colored screw on the 3-way switch.
  • Install the switch. This switch will control the ceiling fan
  • Next connect the black wire from the 14/2 cable that comes from the other switch box, to one of the brass colored screws on the 3-way switch
  • Now connect the white wire in the 14/2 cable that comes from the other switch box, to the other brass colored screw on the 3-way switch.
  • Next connect the other power “pig tail” to the black colored screw on the 3-way switch.
  • Install the switch. This switch will control the light

Install the cover plate and go to the power supply location. Before connecting your wires, make sure the power is off. Terminate the ground wire first, then the neutral and finally the hot. Turn on the power and test each switch from both switch locations.

If you need further clarification please submit your electrical question in the comment section of this post.

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Comments

15 Responses to “Installing 3-way Switches to Control a Ceiling Fan and Light Independently”

  1. Henderson Realtor on April 10th, 2007 4:06 pm

    I wonder how many people who try to install this stuff themselves end up at the ER. Thankfully, my best friend since high school is an electrician and does this stuff for me!!! That is a great post though, a lot better than sitting through a Home Depot class.

  2. jb on June 26th, 2007 7:35 pm

    so we’re installing a ceiling fan, and there are 3 wires from the ciling fan motor–blue, white, and black. from the outlet box there are three–red, white and black. what do we do with the red and what do we do with the blue?

  3. Administrator on June 26th, 2007 11:19 pm

    Does your ceiling fan have a light kit? The blue wire is for the light. If your ceiling fan has a light kit, connect the blue from the ceiling fan to the red wire in the outlet box. If it does not have a light kit, put a wirenut on the red wire in the outlet box and tuck it into the outlet box; do the same to the blue wire.

    In the outlet box, the black wire comes from 1 switch to control the fan and the red wire comes from another switch to control the light independently.

  4. Nathan Wiles on May 9th, 2008 2:38 pm

    I am trying to connect a ceiling fan and my switch box sounds like this is the exact fix for it. However, in my switch box coming from the ceiling fan I have two 14/3 cables and two 14/2 cables. The original switches had a three way switch, a single switch, and a dimmer. Can I install two three ways like above but then what do I do with the other single switch. Also, what do I do with the other 14/2 cables that come from somewhere else other than the switch side?

    Thanks

  5. Don on June 29th, 2008 8:04 pm

    I have a light kit that the pull switch went bad, it has 3 wires red, blue, and black. The light kIt has 4 lights each with a black and white wire. the two wires coming down from the fan are black and white. How do I hook these wires together.

  6. Paul Ottendorf on July 3rd, 2009 12:35 pm

    The instructions are excellent, but I have one monkey wrench. Your example illistrates that the 14/3 cable from the ceiling fan comes into the first switch box and the power supply cable comes into the second switch box. In my case, both the ceiling fan and the power supply come into the first switch box, so how do you do the wiring for that????? I.E. I wired up the first switches as suggested and then when I went to the second switch box to wire it, there is no power supply cable. It was also in the first box.

  7. mike on February 16th, 2010 4:56 pm

    I have installed a celling fan and light in my living room. I have a three way switch that controls one receptacle that I have a lamp plugged into that gives me light in the living room. One light switch turns the lamp on when you enter the house and the other one turns it off when you go in the kitchen. I can turn the lamp on or off from either side of the room. I need help getting power to the fan and light. Can you help me get my fan and light to work.

    thank you
    mike

  8. Teri Keller on March 26th, 2010 12:17 pm

    my fan stopped working and i took it apart to replace the 3 way switch. the wires were already broke off the switch. there’s a black one that is hot, a white one and two wires (red and blue) coming out of a black box. i plugged all the wires in, the black on the load part of the switch and the others are labeled one two and three. when i turn the fan on all i’m getting is a humming noise. the blades are not moving. the fan worked before i replaced the switch and the reason i replaced the switch was the chain came out of it. please help me by letting me know what i have done wrong and/or need to do. thank you, teri

  9. Ray Villafane on March 29th, 2011 3:55 pm

    bathroom has a switch that controls -lights and exaust fan- next to switch have a double outlet. My ??? is how do i make the Exaust fan work independently from the lights

  10. Mendy on July 5th, 2011 8:30 am

    I want to install a ceiling fan outside under my porch. Currently there are 4 can lights out there. I want to replece one of the can lights with the fan/light combo. My problem is that all of the can lights run on 1 switch. You can turn them on and off from the switch in the garage or from the one in the house. So how do I make the fan/light work without having all of the can lights on too? I would prefer to have the fan/light not on a switch, but just on the pull cord that comes with it. Can you give me and pointers?

  11. robert reavis on July 28th, 2011 2:13 pm

    i am replacing a pull chain switch for a three speed fan and a light .the problethat i am having is that when i pulled the cover down some of the wiring came loose and i am not sure how they were connected. so what i need to know is where each wire goes.how to connect the wire to the light and to the fan. ineed to know
    what color goes where. what color is hot i would like a complete diagram if that
    is possable. thanks bob

  12. lee smith on December 26th, 2011 6:41 pm

    I have 12-2(power) in one box from that box I have a 12-3 and a 12-2 going to the other box. I also have a 12-3 going from the second box to the light box. Switch boxes are 2×4 boxes. I have two 3-way switches dimmer/fan control in one (Pass & Seymour) from Lowe’s. Please tell me how to hook this up. Thank You

  13. Dan on January 8th, 2012 12:54 pm

    I’m confused. Do you have a diagram
    Thanks
    Dan

  14. Terry Brown on April 9th, 2012 5:25 am

    I understand from my “Stanley Electrical” book that one should not use a dimmer switch on a ceiling fan. Is this true? and if so what kind of switch should one use if they want to be able to vary the speed of the fan and also have it as a 3-way switch with the light functionality.

  15. fred on May 31st, 2013 3:50 pm

    I have a light kit that the pull switch went bad, it has 3 wires red, blue, and black. The light kIt has 3 lights – each with a black and white wire. the two wires coming down from the fan are black and white. How do I hook these wires together and back into the black and white wires from the fan.

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