General Question

andrew's avatar

Why would my multi-speed fan switch operate at reverse strength?

Asked by andrew (16353points) August 2nd, 2008

The story thus far:

I ended up removing the non-ceiling-fan-rated junction box and brace from before (after 5 trips to various hardware stores in different attempts at a solution).

I was able to hang the ceiling fan, only to realize that I couldn’t turn it on. After calling 7 different ceiling fan stores I was able to get a fan wall switch for my model.

Then I realized that the reason the original dimmer switch didn’t work was that it had been wired incorrectly. Thanking my lucky stars for playing with circuits as a kid, I rewired the new switch into the wall, at which point the fan turned, but made a horrible sound.

Once I opened up the rotor to attach the fan blades, I realized that there was styrofoam surrounding it. So I took that out. But the the motor wouldn’t turn when I turned on the switch.

Turns out the forward/revers switch had been jiggled so the clutch was disengaged from the fan.

Now the fan works from the switch and operates in both forward and reverse with nary a whistle. The only strange thing is… the switch is marked 0 (off) 1 2 3 4. In both forward and reverse, 1 is the strongest setting and 4 is the weakest. Weird, right?

Is this some wiring polarity thing? Or just a practical joke by the makers of ceiling fans?

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13 Answers

monsoon's avatar

Perhaps in the strange fashion of fans the speed directly after off is the highest, then the rest are respectively slower. And they simply numbered them 0–4 for aesthetic purposes?

richardhenry's avatar

Yeah. I’d be surprised if it was supposed to be like that.

AstroChuck's avatar

@andrew. Please use the search feature next time you have a question like this. This exact question was just asked a couple of days ago.

arnbev959's avatar

I have an old room fan that goes: off, high, medium, low. I always thought that was kind of weird. But you’re not alone.

Poser's avatar

I have a new room fan labeled 0, 3, 2, 1, with 1 being the slowest setting. It bugs me. Probably just my OCD.

Response moderated
stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Yes. There are two different issues here. Polarity, which controls forward/reverse and the speed control, which works equally in both polarities. Had trouble with that in building my house, two, since I use DC ceiling fans (run direct from the battery bank instead of going through an inverter).

Jabe73's avatar

I could help you if I could comprehend your question a little better. I don’t know what you mean by the forward/reverse switch being jiggled. Basically, you should only be dealing with a black wire(usually used for power to the fan motor), a blue wire(usually used for power to the light/lamp) the white for your neutral and the green/yellow ground wire itself. Are you using a dimmer for the switch on the wall, or a regular single pole switch? Since your fan already has a multi speed switch on it the wires on it should already be in place, same with the forward/reverse switch, you can’t change “polarity” on an AC motor to change directions like a DC motor, you change the rotation of a single phase capacitor start/run AC motor by reversing the “run” winding connections.

Do you just have a single gang switch to control one thing on the fan or are you using a 2 gang switch box with one switch controlling the fan motor on/off and the dimmer switch controlling the light on the fan? What did you want the wall switch to control? I don’t have enough info from your question to help you.

Jabe73's avatar

Didn’t realize question was that old sorry.

andrew's avatar

No no, it’s fine—ignore all that stuff about the “switch” etc.

The basic question was why the speed switch—the one mounted on the wall—would have 4 level marked 0 1 2 3 4, but 1 is the fastest and 4 is the slowest.

It seems like 4 should be the fastest!

Jabe73's avatar

There are many variables with ac induction motors and without seeing the wiring myself or a diagram the only thing I can think to tell you is: You have a 3 or 4 speed multi-tap motor. You most likely have a capacitor in the circuit. The multi-tap windings themselves determine the speed of the motor (unless you are using a freq cont which obviously you are not here). You should have a common/white wire directly wired to one end of the primary or run winding. You need a multi-meter to check the ohms/continuity for the switch/motor windings. You should have a black/hot wire connected to your wall switch on “0” so you can open/close the switch to supply power to the fan motor itself. Set your meter to a low ohm setting, make sure power is off, disconnect white/common wire and disconnect the multi-tap leads on the wall switch (should be 3 wires). Place one of your meter leads on the common and then check each of the other wires on the switch. The higher speed wire lead to the common wire should have the highest number of ohms (this would be the wire you want on the “4” setting on wall switch, the lower the ohm reading to the common the lower the fan speed, you want to go in order of highest ohm reading to 4 and lowest to 1. Follow all your wires from wall switch to fan to make sure they are going where they need to. There are many variables with wire #‘s and colors however, I tried to use as simple terms as I could but its hard to explain over the internet without looking at it. Hope this helped. You may be better off getting someone who knows what they are doing however, electrical work is NOT a hobby, even if you want to save money.

dabbler's avatar

My guess about why it is wired that way is to avoid stalling when switching from off to slowest speed. If it kicks into full power right away the fan is sure to get moving. If it stalls you may have risk of fire.
Agreed that isn’t intuitive behaviour considerring the labelling.

peggylou's avatar

Andrew, our lovely cobalt blue kitchen fan does exactly the same thing. It drives your Dad and me crazy because each time we turn it on, it becomes a guessing game as to whether the remote is messed up, or the switch on the fan is turned off. Every time, the same thing happens until we remember that the speeds are backward!!! Congratulations on your electricity knowledge and performances!! Such a FINE boy!!!

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