How Do Remote Control Fans Work? (Explained for Beginners)

Adding remote control to your fan can be a lifesaver. But it’s not always clear how it works.

How do remote control fans work?

Remote control fans work by sending a signal from their remote controller to the fan. This signal initiates a small switch inside the fan that sends electricity through the windings, rotating the blades and creating wind. You can control power, speed, frequency, and timing.

For the rest of the article, we’re going to dive into exactly how a remote control fan works, including wirelessly controlled fans, and how best to use them.

How Do Remote Control Fans Work? (5 Helpful Ways)

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Remote control and a fan—How Do Remote Control Fans Work
Image by author via Canva—How Do Remote Control Fans Work?

You can control your fan remotely through any wireless device.

For example, through an app on your phone or a remote control that looks and feels similar to your TV remote.

Typically, a fan remote control is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and includes only a few buttons.

The remote control device connects wirelessly to the fan to control a multitude of helpful functions.

That brings us to the next question. What can you control with your remote?

Great question! You can control:

  • Power: Turn your fan off or on anytime, even from across the room or bed.
  • Speed: Control how fast or slow your fan blades turn (or, for bladeless fans, the amount of airflow)
  • Direction: Change the direction of your blades to either push warm air down (during cold weather) or pull it up to the ceiling (during warmer weather).
  • Frequency/Timing: You can schedule your fan to start and stop throughout the day or week.
  • Lighting: If your fan includes a light, you can turn the light on or off, manage how bright it shines, and schedule when the light automatically turns on or off (such as at night)

One of the cool features of remote fans is that you can control some of them even when you are far away from your house.

Let’s say your fan is controlled by an app on your phone.

If you forget to turn it off before you leave for work, you can do so remotely by pushing a button on your phone.

This makes remote fans very convenient, and it’s one of the reasons I installed them in my own house.

Why Do Fans Have Remotes?

Many fans come with remotes for convenience.

For example, if you are in bed on a cold night, you can turn your fan on with the remote rather than getting up to push buttons or pull the chain.

Another benefit of remotes is that they allow for greater speed control.

Yet another reason fans have remotes is that they are often installed in hard-to-reach places.

Some rooms have very high ceilings. Bringing out the ladder every time you want to change the fan speed or direction will get old very fast.

Remote controls also make managing fans easier for young children, the elderly, or individuals with disabilities.

Can a Remote Be Added To a Ceiling Fan?

Yes, you can add a remote to a ceiling fan.

You can purchase and install kits to convert a manual fan (operated by a pull chain and light switch) to a smart fan (controlled remotely).

Most fans, even old fans, can be converted to remote control fans. However, you may need to replace very old or broken parts.

I recently upgraded a 130-year home with all remote fans.

The owners absolutely loved it.

Here is a short, 4-minute video on how to install a remote control ceiling fan:

YouTube video by HandyDadTV—How do remote control fans work?

Do Universal Fan Remotes Work With All Fans?

Universal fan remotes will work with almost any fan. There may be some exceptions, so it is a good idea to check with the manufacture or website to be sure.

Universal fan remotes work by replacing the pull chains and light switch on a ceiling fan with a remote receiver.

The receiver can be programmed to work with your particular fan brand and model.

You’ll then use the universal remote as you normally would, only from across the room or even away from the house.

Can I Control Multiple Fans With One Remote?

You can control more than one fan with a single remote controller (or mobile app).

For example, perhaps you have multiple fans in your living room or bedroom.

When you change the speed of one fan, the others will automatically adjust to match it. Unless, of course, you want the fans at different speeds.

But what if you install fans throughout your house with speeds staggered for each fan?

In this case, you may need more than one remote.

Or, you can build a central dashboard on site. I suggest you use a tablet, laptop, or desktop computer.

Are Remote Control Fans Reliable?

Yes, remote control fans are reliable. They work very well as long as your wi-fi (or Bluetooth) is strong or your remote control batteries stay charged.

Batteries wear out over time.

If your remote control fan is about a year old, it may be time to replace the batteries. Just like any other appliance, if you leave your fan on all day, it will run out of battery faster.

If you control your fan by wi-fi, then any interruption of your wireless internet will also affect your fan.

This is not usually a problem in urban areas.

However, if you live in a remote area, you may experience more issues with a remote fan.

But aside from that, they are reliable devices that provide plenty of convenience for homeowners.

Does a Remote Controlled Fan Need a Wall Switch?

Yes, most remote-controlled fans come with a wall switch. Meaning, you can control your fan with the switch or the remote.

When you install your fan, you (or your hired contractor) will install both the remote control function and the wall switch.

A few fans, however, are remote only.

For these fans, you can only control them wirelessly through your remote control or smart device.

Can I Use My Phone as a Fan Remote?

You can convert most smartphones into a fan remote.

All you’ll need is a universal remote app or an app from the fan manufacturer.

You can find remote control apps on android or apple devices.

Here are some of my favorites:


  • Mi Remote
  • AnyMote Universal Remote
  • Total Controller


  • FanSync Bluetooth
  • Emerson WIFI Ceiling Fan

Keep in mind that apps change all the time.

For the best results, always search for “fan remotes,” read the reviews, and test out a few apps.

I find that apps for fans that come directly from the manufacturer work better than general apps you find on an app store.

Can I Control My Fan With Amazon Alexa?

It’s easy to voice-control your fan with Alexa.

All you’ll need is an Alexa-enabled device (or the Alexa app), wifi, and a remote control fan.

Here are the simple steps:

  1. Connect your fan to Alexa (each fan is a bit different so follow the manufactor’s instructions).
  2. Open the Alexa app on your device.
  3. In the app, open the menu and click on “Smart Home.”
  4. Locate the Groups feature.
  5. Create a new group.
  6. Use Alexa’s voice commands to control your fan through the group.

How Do I Control My Fan With Google?

You can control your fan with any Google Assistant-enabled device.

This includes your phone, tablet, laptop, desktop computer, or smart speaker.

Follow this guide:

  1. Download the Google Home app and check to see whether your Google Assistant-enabled gadget is ready to go.
  2. Make sure your fan is getting power and linked to your mobile app account.
  3. Open your recently downloaded Google Home app.
  4. Select the correct “Home.”
  5. Click Add > Set up device > Works with Google.
  6. Search for your fan.
  7. Select your fan.
  8. Add your fan to a new or existing Google Room.
  9. Close the Rooms screen on your device.
  10. Use voice commands with Google Assistant or the Google Home app to operate your fan.

I highly suggest that you play around with Google Home if you are not familiar with the technology.

Best Remote Fans For Your Needs

Having worked with fans for over a decade, I have strong opinions on which ones I suggest to my friends and family.

Why would I treat you any differently?

Here are my personal recommendations for the best remote fans:

Fan TypeBest Fan
Ceiling FanHampton Bay 52 inch LED Mediterranean Bronze Ceiling Fan with Light
Ceiling Fan (alternative)23″ Bonnett LED Smart Ceiling Fan
Circulator FanVornado 5303DC Energy Smart Air Target
Tower FanOscillating Tower Cooling Fan Amazon
How do remote control fans work?

Final Thoughts: How Do Remote Control Fans Work?

You can absolutely transform the convenience in your life by pairing your fans with a smart device.

Once you go remote fan, you probably won’t go back to regular fans.

I sure haven’t looked back once.

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