Categories: Ceiling Fan

What is the Red Wire For on a Ceiling Fan?

The red wire on a ceiling fan is used to control the light and fan independently using separate switches. This allows you to turn the light on or off separately from the fan. Here is a more detailed overview of what the red wire does and how to connect it when installing or wiring a ceiling fan.

Ceiling Fan Wiring Basics

Before getting into the specifics of the red wire, let’s review some important basics about ceiling fan wiring:

  • Ceiling fans typically have 4 wires – black, white, blue, and green.

  • The black wire is the hot wire that connects to power. It controls the fan.

  • The white wire is neutral and completes the electrical circuit.

  • The blue wire controls the light.

  • The green wire is ground for safety.

  • The red wire is an additional conductor that allows separate control of the fan and light.

  • The red wire may not always be present, depending on the type of fan and how it was previously wired.

What Does the Red Wire Do?

The red wire enables separate control of the ceiling fan and light from two different switches. Here are the key functions of the red wire:

  • Provides power to the light kit separately from the fan.

  • Allows the light and fan to be controlled by separate wall switches.

  • Allows you to switch the light on or off independently of the fan.

Without the red wire, the light and fan would turn on and off together from a single wall switch.

When is a Red Wire Needed?

There are a few scenarios when you would need to connect a red wire for a ceiling fan:

  • Independent light/fan control – If you want the light and fan to be controlled by separate wall switches, you need a red wire to supply power to the light.

  • Adding light kit later – Even if you don’t need separate switches initially, using a red wire allows you to easily add a light kit later without rewiring the fan.

  • Multiple switched circuits – If the fan/light location has multiple wall switches controlling different circuits, the red wire isolates the light to one circuit.

  • Dimmer switch – To install a dimmer for the lights, the red wire is needed to provide an independent power feed.

How to Connect the Red Wire

Follow these steps to connect the red wire when wiring a ceiling fan:

  1. Connect all green grounding wires together.
  2. Connect the white (neutral) wires together.
  3. Connect the black (hot) fan wire to the black household supply wire.
  4. Connect the blue light wire to the red wire.
  5. Make pigtail connections if needed to connect multiple wires.
  6. Make sure all wire connections are tight and secure.

The key connection is attaching the blue light wire and the red supply wire, as this enables independent operation of the light.

Here are some wiring diagrams that illustrate how the red wire is connected:

One Switch Wiring Diagram

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  • Only the black hot wire is connected to the switch.
  • The red supplies power directly to the light.
  • Pull chains control the fan and light separately.

Two Switch Wiring Diagram

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  • Black hot feeds both switches.
  • One switch controls the fan, other controls light.
  • Provides independent control of light and fan.

Ceiling Fan Wiring Methods

There are several different wiring configurations possible for ceiling fans depending on how many switches control the light and fan:

One Switch

  • Only the fan or light can be wired to the switch; the other is controlled via pull chain.

  • The red wire is connected from the switch to the light or fan to give independent power.

Two Switches

  • Standard method to allow both fan and light to be controlled from separate switches.

  • Requires running a 3-wire cable between the switches and fan.

  • Red wire connects light kit to the light switch.

Fan Remote Control

  • No switch wires required, only black hot wire.

  • Remote receives power and allows control of both fan and light.

  • Most convenient option, but remote can be lost.

Smart Switch

  • Uses smart switches or remotes for wireless app control.

  • Red wire may still be needed depending on wiring method.

  • Convenient and modern, but requires hub/receiver.

Tips for Connecting the Red Wire

Follow these tips when dealing with the red wire during ceiling fan installation:

  • Make sure power is off at the circuit breaker before wiring.

  • The red wire may be labeled as R, L2, or a color other than red in some fans.

  • Cap off with a wire nut if the red wire is not needed for your wiring setup.

  • Double check that all wire connections are tight before turning power back on.

  • Be careful not to overload the circuit when connecting multiple lights and fans.

  • Use pigtail wires as needed when connecting multiple wires to a single terminal.

  • Consult an electrician if you are unsure of the wiring methods needed for your specific situation.

Purpose of Other Ceiling Fan Wires

To help give a full understanding, here is a brief overview of what the other colored wires are used for:

  • Black – Hot wire that connects to power and controls the fan.

  • White – Neutral return wire that completes the circuit.

  • Blue – Controls power flow to the light kit.

  • Green – Ground wire that provides safety for the fan.

  • Yellow – Alternate color used for the light in some fans.

  • Orange – Newer wire color indicating a smart control wire for remotes.


The red wire on a ceiling fan enables separate switching control over the fan and light from two different wall switches. While not always required, connecting this red wire allows the most flexible and optimal control over your ceiling fan. Understanding basic ceiling fan wiring and the purpose of each colored wire will allow you to install a ceiling fan safely and ensure it operates properly.

Wiring hacks, How to wire a ceiling fan when you have a red black and white wire


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