Control Types

When it comes to operating a ceiling fan, you have a number of control types. Typically, all fans have a pull chain, which is used to turn the fan and/or light on and off. However, the way in which a ceiling fan works has a lot to do on the way it was made by the manufacturer, as well as the age of the fan and the style. Regardless, we wanted to provide you with information about the various control types that you may or may not have on an existing fan. This information will also help you choose a new fan if you were in the market.

Pull Chain

With this type of fan control, you have a metal chain that hangs down from the ceiling fan. When pulled on, it turns the fan and/or light on and off. Additionally, when you are operating the fan's pull chain, you would pull once to turn the fan on, starting at a low speed, twice for medium speed, three times for high speed, and then four times to turn the fan off. Keep in mind that some fans feature four speeds but this would simply require one additional pull on the chain.

You will also find that pull chains in today's market feature all types of whimsical, classical, or modern attachments on the end. For instance, if you have a ceiling fan in your son's room and he loves baseball, you would be able to find an attachment for the pull chain that looks like a baseball. These attachments are made out of glass, crystal, wood, metal, and other materials. With literally thousands and thousands of options, you can add a little bit of personality to the fan's pull chain system.

Variable Speed

This type of ceiling fan control is just what it sounds, made to control speed. From the 1970s to the 1980s this type of control feature was common using a dial mounted onto the fan. However, fans newer than 1990 on have a rotary click-type of switch, which works with infinite speed, using a set of numbers. Again, the option for variable speed varies from one manufacturer to another.

Variable Speed Only

The variable speed control can control the fan on its own or you could turn the know to the on or off position.

Variable Speed with Pull Chain

Often, you would find a variable speed control along with a pull chain.


In this case, the fan has a pull chain and variable speed control whereby two speeds are controlled by the pull chain and the higher or full power speed is controlled with the variable speed control.

Wall-Mounted Control

Depending on the type of fan you have, it may or may not have a wall-mounted control instead of the control being on the fan. Typically, these are more common with the newer styles. The following two section explain the two main options for wall mounted controls.


With this, every one of the fan's functions can be controlled via a computerized wall control, requiring no special wiring


With this option, the wall control would be used to determine the amount of power being sent to the fan, as well as the speed of the rotation. However, older models have a type of transformer for the resistor, which were unsightly and bulky. Newer fans using the choke-style control use electronic equipment as the resistor, which is smaller.

Wireless Remote Control

One of the latest and greatest changes is the wireless remote control. Today, these controls are affordable and allow a person to control all the functions of the ceiling fan from bed, the couch, or other locations within the room. We anticipate that there will be even more innovations in the upcoming years in this area.