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Gadget Freak

Gadget Freak Case #198: Build a Remote Fan Control

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j-allen
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Gold
Remote fan control
j-allen   11/10/2011 10:24:06 AM
The design is well thought out and I have no doubt the gadget works as described, but it's a lot of labor to build.  There are cheap commercial radio-controlled (300 MHz) appliance switches on the market that would at least turn the fan on and off.  There are also 3-speed models using phase angle controllers for ceiling fans.  I have one that cost <$20 and works just fine.  There's no reason it wouldn't control a table fan just as well.   All one would have to do is install it in a suitable box.

I also like to build stuff but generally do so when there is no economical solution already available. 

Technophile
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Bronze
Re: Remote fan control
Technophile   11/11/2011 12:51:49 AM
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True, there's an inexpensive commercial solution, but what's the fun (and where's the learning) in that?

j-allen
User Rank
Gold
Re: Remote fan control
j-allen   11/11/2011 8:51:25 AM
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You are quite right  that there is fun and learning when you build stuff yourself, but I thought I answered that point in my last line.  We do achieve those goals when we build things that we can't get off the shelf and there are plenty of such opportunities.   At least for me as consultant I design and build numerous non-standard instruments both for my lab and my clients' facilities.  

tucsonics
User Rank
Silver
Re: Remote fan control
tucsonics   11/11/2011 1:27:05 PM
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Putting the learning aspect aside, I'd like to point out that ceiling fans (very popular here in toasty Tucson, AZ) have a UL-approved solution available on most products. Hunter, Hampon Bay, Casablanca are some brands, There is a module inside the fan housing that receives an RF coded signal from the remote control. The module  connects power to the fan motor's multiple windings, as well as to the light fixture which are often part of the ceiling fans.  I never tried buying the control module separately, but it is worth trying before subjecting yourself to an uninsured loss, should, heaven forbid, your homebrew caused a fire. Using any "not to code" wiring or a home brewed control will void your fire insurance in case of a fire. Better hope you will never need it.

j-allen
User Rank
Gold
Re: Remote fan control
j-allen   11/13/2011 1:50:03 PM
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Tucsonics raises an interesting point.   We've all heard stories of the excuses big insurance companies use to shoot down customers' claims. 

 

The question, then, seems to be how directly the non-compliant gadget might have contributed to a fire (or other accident).   Clearly if it is the direct cause then that could be grounds to reject the claim.  But what if the device is connected to the house wiring (say in another room) and is clearly not the cause of the fire?   What if a non-compliant device is simply sitting on a shelf in the house, not plugged in at all?  Any clarification on the rules or conventions on this?

 

As for my radio  fan control, I bought an after-market one and installed it in an exising ceiling fan.  It does not switch between windings but uses a phase angle controller (probably a triac) to adjust the AC voltage to the fan whose original speed switch is permanently set to "high."  It works quite well and it has a additional channel to switch and dim the light fixture attached to the fan.  There is no technical reason why someone could not mount the receiver section in a box with a plug and an outlet to control a table fan.

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Remote fan control
Rob Spiegel   11/21/2011 2:03:29 PM
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Good point, J-Allen,

The problem about insurance companies balking at covering fires when a non-standard gadget is hooked up to the house's wiring could apply to a wide range of gadgets we cover in Gadget Freak. Most of the gadgets are electronic and many connect to the house's wiring. 

sensor pro
User Rank
Gold
Re: Remote fan control
sensor pro   11/16/2011 3:08:09 PM
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This is a great article. Very nice idea and execution. This is a very nice project for school lab.

Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Remote fan control
Ann R. Thryft   11/17/2011 3:36:25 PM
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Thanks for all the ideas, in the article and the comments, on how to build a remote control. I think this is a nifty design idea, and one my electrically-inclined spouse will love to try out.

armorris
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Remote fan control
armorris   11/10/2012 5:41:24 PM
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Alternate sources for the remote control to be hacked up:

Home Depot Westek Model # RFK306LC Store SKU # 567861

Home Depot (Christmas season only) Home Accents Holiday Model # RC-009A-1 Store SKU # 202620 (Same as above units, but has two outlets).

Lowe's SKU # 0357410 (Christmas season only) It is the same as the Home Depot Christmas version, but has a smaller remote, that is electrically identical to the remote used in this gadget.

Both seasonal remote control systems will work in this project, and both cost $10.

Andrew R. Morris morr3763@bellsouth.net

Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Remote fan control
Ann R. Thryft   11/13/2012 4:13:19 PM
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Andy, thanks for those: he hasn't gotten to the project yet so those options are helpful.

thehobe
User Rank
Iron
Great educational article
thehobe   11/11/2011 10:37:50 PM
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This is one of the reason I became a successful IC designer! It' s articles like this that introduce young minds to the art of dreaming up, designing and building projects like this. Good job!

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