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Created by German inventor Phillip Diehl, electronically-controlled ceiling fans arrived in 1882. While ceiling fan styles and features have changed significantly in the past 130 years, their primary operation has remained the same until now, with the introduction of smart home technology.

In this article, we take a look at the hottest smart ceiling fan solutions currently available on the market and the technology behind them.

The Different Types of Ceiling Fans

A ceiling fan has one purpose: to circulate air. In the warmer months, ceiling fans should rotate counterclockwise to push cold air down to the floor. During the colder months, ceiling fans should rotate clockwise to pull cool air up.

ceiling-fan

Pull-chain/pull-cord control ceiling fans usually have three speeds. As the name suggests, these fans include a tethered metal-bean chain or cloth cord.

In the 1970s and 1980, variable-speed control fans gained in popularity. These feature a dial mounted on the fan which, when turned in either direction, vary the speed at which the blades rotate. Wall-mounted control fans are similar, but with the dial found on a wall. Typically, these types of fans use proprietary or specialized switches.

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Finally, you have wireless remote control fans. These hand-held controls are either supplied with the fan or fitted to an existing model. Typically, the remote transmits radio frequency or infrared control signals to a receiver unit installed in the fan. While these type of controllers still exist, increasingly ceiling fan manufacturers are moving towards smart remote controls, which is the basis for this article.

What Makes a Ceiling Fan Smart?

In the broadest terms, smart home products are devices that connect to a central hub using a switch or sensor Which Smart Plug Is the Best One for You? Which Smart Plug Is the Best One for You? Even if you aren't into the whole smart home automation trend, you really should get yourself a few smart plugs. They're one of the easiest smart home products to use. Read More . You control or interact with these devices with a wall-mounted terminal, mobile device, or web-based interface.

There are a lot of competing technologies and industry standards in the smart home space currently, including Zigbee, Z-Wave Which Smart Hub for Home Automation Is Best for You? Which Smart Hub for Home Automation Is Best for You? For a while, people thought of the idea as nothing more than a gimmick, but recent product releases have shown that smart home automation is starting to live up to its promises. Read More , and Apple HomeKit Future Proofing Your Smart Home for Apple HomeKit Compatibility Future Proofing Your Smart Home for Apple HomeKit Compatibility Read More . Most only work with one protocol, although some of the newer products use multiple standards.

The First Integrated Smart Ceiling Fans

One of the largest manufacturers of ceiling fans is Tennessee-based Hunter Fan Company. They’re also the first company to offer ceiling fans that work directly with Apple HomeKit.

hunter-Iphone-fan

The company’s line of Symphony and Signal ceiling fans (all under $400) contain both Wi-Fi and Apple HomeKit technology. In doing so, the fans are controlled inside a home with an included handheld remote or from anywhere in the world through mobile devices.

  • Pros: This is an all-in-one solution
  • Cons: Only works with Apple HomeKit; these models are just coming on the market

Haiku, a division of Kentucky-based manufacturer Big Ass Solutions, also offers smart ceiling fans, using an in-house technology called SenseMe.

haiku-fan

First introduced in 2014, SenseMe allows you to control or schedule both the fan and its built-in LED light from your mobile devices. Haiku products aren’t compatible with Apple HomeKit. However, they do work with some of the other big names in home automation including the Nest Learning Thermostat How to Install and Use the Nest Thermostat to Automate Energy Savings How to Install and Use the Nest Thermostat to Automate Energy Savings If you've ever considered getting started with home automation, purchasing a Nest thermostat is the perfect way to start. In just a week of using it, we cut our energy consumption in half. Read More , Amazon Alexa 7 Creative Uses for Amazon Echo and Alexa 7 Creative Uses for Amazon Echo and Alexa You’ve seen the ads starring Alec Baldwin, but you're still not sure what Amazon Echo does or whether you need one in your home. We’re about to find out. Read More , and the ecobee smart thermostat Save Energy and Money With These Smart Home Devices Save Energy and Money With These Smart Home Devices One of the biggest benefits of a smart home is the energy saving technologies available. As well as saving money, you’ll also be pushing toward a more sustainable, convenient living situation. Read More .

  • Pros: Haiku offers some of the most beautiful ceiling fans on the market
  • Cons: Not compatible with Apple HomeKit; price is high

What’s Old is New Again

If you’re not in the market for a new ceiling fan, but still want to control your existing fans remotely, you’re in luck. You can add smart ceiling fan control to your current set up relatively inexpensively using one of the following solutions.

Z-Wave Smart Fan Control from GE

Available for around $45, the Z-Wave Smart Fan Control from GE replaces any standard in-wall switch to control a ceiling fan remotely. It also features a three-speed control system and integrated LED indicator light, which allows you to locate the switch in a dark room.

  • Pros: Installation looks simple; price
  • Cons: Z-Wave could limit integration with other solutions; no Apple HomeKit support
GE Smart Fan Control, Z-Wave, In-Wall, 12730, Works with Amazon Alexa GE Smart Fan Control, Z-Wave, In-Wall, 12730, Works with Amazon Alexa Works with Amazon Alexa for voice control (hub required, Alexa device and hub sold separately) Buy Now At Amazon $32.49

Insteon Ceiling Fan and Light Controller

The $150 Insteon Hub Pro Advanced Central Controller provides another Apple Homekit-compatible solution for ceiling fans, courtesy of the $80 dual-band Insteon Ceiling Fan and Light Controller. The biggest drawback with this solution is that it only works with AC motor-powered ceiling fans. Ceiling fans with DC-motor and built-in remote control motors are not compatible.

  • Pros: Apple HomeKit
  • Cons: Less expensive solutions are available; AC motor
Insteon Ceiling Fan and Light Fixture Module, White Insteon Ceiling Fan and Light Fixture Module, White Condition: Brand New Buy Now At Amazon $79.99

SIMPLEconnect From Hunter

Hunter’s $79 SIMPLEconnect option turns regular ceiling fans into semi-smart fans using a Bluetooth connection. While this solution doesn’t work remotely, it does allow you to control your fans from the inside of your home using a mobile device. You can also use this solution to schedule when the fan and connected light turn on and off.

  • Pros: Inexpensive solution; could become part of a larger Hunter soution
  • Cons: Only works inside the home.
Hunter Fan Company 99107 SimpleConnect Programmable Control, Small, White Hunter Fan Company 99107 SimpleConnect Programmable Control, Small, White Works with all major brand ceiling fans with pull chains Buy Now At Amazon $40.00

The ONQ Legrand DRD9-W RF Lighting Control in-wall fan speed control is similar to the Z-Wave. In this case, however, the fan uses radio frequency or RF. Regardless, you can still control your fan using a mobile device. The ONQ Legrand retails for around $150.

  • Pros: RF is a known technology
  • Cons: RF is an older technology; price
On-Q/Legrand RFLC In-Wall Fan Speed Controller, White On-Q/Legrand RFLC In-Wall Fan Speed Controller, White Operate fan speed from the switch or remotely Buy Now At Amazon $75.00

Belkin WeMo

The $50 Belkin WeMo Light Switch allows you to schedule your fan and turn it on and off remotely. Better still, it works with Amazon Alexa and Nest.

  • Pros: Price; Belkin name
  • Cons: No Apple HomeKit integration
WeMo Light Switch, Wi-Fi enabled, Works with Amazon Alexa WeMo Light Switch, Wi-Fi enabled, Works with Amazon Alexa Works with Amazon Alexa for voice control (Alexa device sold separately) Buy Now At Amazon $43.95

IFTTT Integration

One of the biggest players in home automation is IFTTT, or “If This Then That.” The free service gives you creative control over products and apps. For example, with IFTTT, you can program lights to turn on at certain times of the day, or adjust the temperature in your home based on the conditions outside. 

ifttt-Ecobee

Many of the products mentioned here work with IFTTT, which is something to consider before making a purchase. Belkin WeMo and Z-Wave products work directly with IFTTT. Because Haiku fans support Amazon Alexa, they also can work with IFTTT.

Making a Choice

When it comes to making a new ceiling fan purchase, you can’t go wrong with either Hunter and Haiku. Both companies offer forward-looking smart ceiling fans solutions. In the case of Haiku, you probably can’t find a more beautiful line of products. The choice is harder to make when it comes to transforming existing ceiling fans into smart ones, although the price of entry is less.

When looking for a solution, make sure the product can become a part of a larger home automation system for your home. By doing so, you can improve the likelihood that your product won’t become obsolete in the not so distant future, thereby saving you time and money.

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