On a recent Internet of Things Podcast, we took a voicemail from Keith on our podcast hotline. Keith has several ceiling fans that have “dumb” remotes, meaning they’re manual remotes for power and speed. He wants to know if he can add some smarts to those old fans for automations and routines. The general answer is yes, but it does depend on the existing fan remote technology. And it will require the purchase of some new hardware.
Fans with wireless remotes typically use one of two radio technologies: infrared or some other radio frequencies (RF). My ceiling fan, for example, uses regular RF for remote control. Others use beams of infrared light for the wireless data to move from the remote to the fan. Knowing this can help because there are devices that can replicate either type of wireless data stream although they typically use one radio technology or the other.
For example, the $69.99 SwitchBot Hub 2 that I recently reviewed has an infrared emitter built-in, alongside its Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios. If my fan remote supported infrared, I could use the Hub 2 to act as a ceiling fan remote. Unfortunately, since my fan remote uses a more standard RF solution, I can’t use the Hub 2 in that manner. However, I did run through the in-app process to set up an infrared remote with the SwitchBot Hub 2. You can choose the brand of your remote or teach the hub to act as a remote.
Stacey used the Homey Bridge several weeks ago and it’s another option to consider to add smarts to a ceiling fan. Like the SwitchBot the Homey 2 supports infrared remote replication. And like the SwitchBot, it’s not too expensive, coming in at $69 for a multi-radio smart home hub. It supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, and Z-Wave in addition to infrared.
Because those two options work with infrared signals, the range is a little limited. Think line of sight range although some IR blasters do send out a wide beam signal. Traditional RF solutions offer more range and that’s what you’ll find in the $99 Bond Bridge.
In fact, the Bond Bridge is purpose-built to add smarts to ceiling fans, shades, and fireplaces with standard RF remotes. It’s a good option for appliances that don’t use infrared controls. And you get the benefit of that broader range: Bond says one Bridge can provide up to 2,500 square feet of coverage for up to 30 devices. We haven’t used the Bond Bridge but have heard very positive things from those who have.
Depending on your fan remote radio protocol then, there are options available to add smarts to your ceiling fans. The right bridge or hub allows app control of the fan and even automations. So you could have the fan turn on if another connected device or sensor detects a rising indoor temperature for example.
To hear Keith’s question in full, as well as our discussion on the topic, tune in to the Internet of Things Podcast below: