Home & Garden

Bathroom Fan Smart Phone control

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  • Jul 15th, 2020 1:47 pm
[OP]
Newbie
Jul 6, 2020
5 posts

Bathroom Fan Smart Phone control

I moved last year, and have been working to automate my home, and it is going quite well.
But I have run onto a snag. I travel a fair bit, and leave the air off in the home for days at a time, and when I return the loft is terribly hot. (yesterday it was 86 degrees in the loft)
The house has a light switch near the thermostat, to vent the loft of hot air. This switch controls the bathroom exhaust fan in the loft.
When I opened the vent cover for the fan, and find that the fan is plugged into a two prong outlet under the plastic ceiling decorative cover.
I am looking for a way to turn this fan on using my cell phone and an app, so that the house is vented before I come home.
I have control of the nest thermostat, but do not want to cool all the hot air, but would rather vent the hot air, then turn on the central air.
1- Does anyone know of a smart switch that does not use the red wire, I only have black white and ground in the switch box, or ...
2- is there a two prong outlet controller available like the CE smart outlets, but without the ground pin. Or ...
3- does anyone know if I cut off the ground pin and put it in the fan plug, and plug the fan into the CE outlet, will it work?
Thanks for your help!
18 replies
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Mar 23, 2008
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Dusty4s4 wrote: I moved last year, and have been working to automate my home, and it is going quite well.
But I have run onto a snag. I travel a fair bit, and leave the air off in the home for days at a time, and when I return the loft is terribly hot. (yesterday it was 86 degrees in the loft)
The house has a light switch near the thermostat, to vent the loft of hot air. This switch controls the bathroom exhaust fan in the loft.
When I opened the vent cover for the fan, and find that the fan is plugged into a two prong outlet under the plastic ceiling decorative cover.
I am looking for a way to turn this fan on using my cell phone and an app, so that the house is vented before I come home.
I have control of the nest thermostat, but do not want to cool all the hot air, but would rather vent the hot air, then turn on the central air.
1- Does anyone know of a smart switch that does not use the red wire, I only have black white and ground in the switch box, or ...
2- is there a two prong outlet controller available like the CE smart outlets, but without the ground pin. Or ...
3- does anyone know if I cut off the ground pin and put it in the fan plug, and plug the fan into the CE outlet, will it work?
Thanks for your help!
If you have a black (hot), white (neutral), and ground, any smart switch SHOULD work. The issue is typically not having a neutral wire in the box where the switch is, I believe. The red wire is usually a "traveller" wire, for a 3 way switch (being able to control a device from two (or more) switches).

C
[OP]
Newbie
Jul 6, 2020
5 posts
I have tried three different manufacturer's smart switches, and all of them require the load (or the bathroom fan in this case) to run off the red screw on the switch.
I am familiar with 3 way operation, and the red wire is called the traveller, but on these switches the red screw is called the "load".
Have you successfully gotten a smart switch to connect and control anything using only the black, white and ground connections?
if yes, then maybe I missed something when I tried to get it working on three different smart switches!
Deal Guru
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Mar 23, 2008
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Dusty4s4 wrote: I have tried three different manufacturer's smart switches, and all of them require the load (or the bathroom fan in this case) to run off the red screw on the switch.
I am familiar with 3 way operation, and the red wire is called the traveller, but on these switches the red screw is called the "load".
Have you successfully gotten a smart switch to connect and control anything using only the black, white and ground connections?
if yes, then maybe I missed something when I installed the other three smart switches!
All my smart switches (mostly Lutron Caseta's, but a couple other like GE as well) work with the black and ground wires connected. Don't know what you mean by "red screw on the switch".

If you're not running Caseta's already, you probably don't want to go that route, as they require a Lutron hub to connect to most other HA systems, as they use a proprietary frequency to communicate. I think the Wink Hub was the only one that worked with them out of the box.

C
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Sep 13, 2016
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Dusty4s4 wrote: I have tried three different manufacturer's smart switches, and all of them require the load (or the bathroom fan in this case) to run off the red screw on the switch.
I am familiar with 3 way operation, and the red wire is called the traveller, but on these switches the red screw is called the "load".
Have you successfully gotten a smart switch to connect and control anything using only the black, white and ground connections?
if yes, then maybe I missed something when I tried to get it working on three different smart switches!
The red wire is usually used for traveler. But theoretically speaking, any color wire can be used for anything, though it will create confusion.
Essentially you need a live wire, a ground wire, and a neutral wire for your switch to work.
The black (live/line wire) will go to your line side of the switch. neutral and ground will also go to their respective slots. The read screw that you refer as load, will then connect your fan to the switch.
So when the switch is off, no electricity will reach the load side of the circuit. When turned ON, the current which is always present on the line side, will now also flow through to the load side.

And please use the black wire for load side as well. Using a red wire will create confusion.
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CNeufeld wrote: All my smart switches (mostly Lutron Caseta's, but a couple other like GE as well) work with the black and ground wires connected. Don't know what you mean by "red screw on the switch".

If you're not running Caseta's already, you probably don't want to go that route, as they require a Lutron hub to connect to most other HA systems, as they use a proprietary frequency to communicate. I think the Wink Hub was the only one that worked with them out of the box.

C
Some smart switch manufacturers paint the load screw red in color. I think that is creating confusion for the OP.
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Dec 29, 2008
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I think OP needs a smart 3-way switch such as the one from TP-Link. OP I assume you are able to control the fan from the bathroom and the switch next to the thermostat?

If not TP-Link also sells a smart wall outlet which you can replace, but you would loose control from the existing switch in a way.
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Yes.. the TPlink ones should work.
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The TP-Link 3 way switch (HS210) will work for you. I am using one currently for my bathroom fan.
[OP]
Newbie
Jul 6, 2020
5 posts
I hooked up the three switches the same way, once with black to brass screw, white to silver screw and copper to green screw, and it did not work, then I disconnected the black, and put it on the red screw, and still nothing!
Last edited by Dusty4s4 on Jul 14th, 2020 2:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Dusty4s4 wrote: I hooked up the three switches the same way, once with black to brass screw, white to solver screw and copper to green screw, and it did not work, then I disconnected the black, and put it on the red screw, and still nothing!
Unless I’m missing something or not understanding you you are not using enough wires. If you are only connecting 1 black, 1 white and 1 ground wire to your screw you do not have all the required wires. If there is only 1 black wire connected you are connecting EITHER the “hot/live” OR “load” but you need both of those.

Does the switch you are opening only have a single cable in the box? As in the total wires in your box is 1 black, 1 white, 1 bare copper.
[OP]
Newbie
Jul 6, 2020
5 posts
I just added three pictures. One is the switch by the thermostat, with just Black, white and copper. That is where i have been trying to install the smart switches, and none of them worked.
After reading the thread today, I stumbled on the comment that the fan must be controlled by 3 way switches, and got curious, so I opened up the fan switch in the bathroom. That switch has four wires... Three black, and a copper. So I am not sure what is going on in that box, one of the black's must be a white, and I am assuming the other black could be the red wire I was looking for!
So can anyone confirm that; if I install the smart switch in the bathroom, (and not in the box by the thermostat) that what I have for wiring is adequate to have the smartphone turn on the fan remotely?? and how do I determine the TRUE colour of the three black wires? Which is white and which is red??? Thanks for the help so far... looks like I might be able to do this!
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Dusty4s4 wrote: I just added three pictures. One is the switch by the thermostat, with just Black, white and copper. That is where i have been trying to install the smart switches, and none of them worked.
After reading the thread today, I stumbled on the comment that the fan must be controlled by 3 way switches, and got curious, so I opened up the fan switch in the bathroom. That switch has four wires... Three black, and a copper. So I am not sure what is going on in that box, one of the black's must be a white, and I am assuming the other black could be the red wire I was looking for!
So can anyone confirm that; if I install the smart switch in the bathroom, (and not in the box by the thermostat) that what I have for wiring is adequate to have the smartphone turn on the fan remotely?? and how do I determine the TRUE colour of the three black wires? Which is white and which is red??? Thanks for the help so far... looks like I might be able to do this!
Those are both single pole switches. OP in my opinion you should call in an electrician as you seem to be in over your head. It seems evident you have very little knowledge on what you are trying to accomplish and the theory of what needs to be done to meet your goal. You are quite hung up on the colour of the wires which is not what you need to determine, colours are just the colour of the insulation. Every single wire could be a single colour and while it may confusing/against code it would not stop a properly wired circuit from functioning. What you should be concerned with and attempting to determine is the function of each wire as that is what you truly need to know/understand to achieve your goal correctly and safely.

Your switch at the thermostat does not have an identified conductor (“neutral”) so you will not be able to install a smart switch at that location that requires one.
[OP]
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Jul 6, 2020
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Chico thanks for the slap in the face.

I am a senior and in my younger days, I wired and entire cottage that I built from scratch.
I am comfortable working on traditional wiring. You know black, white and copper wires. LOL

What I am not comfortable with is three way switches and the smart gadgets, and the apps on my phone.
I joined this group to get some help to understand what switch I need to purchase. After buying and trying three of them!

So far only one person has suggested a switch, but what that person assumed was that I had wiring for three way switches. I am not sure I do, because neither of the two existing switches are three way. As you pointed out they are both single pole switches. (Which by the way work together to allow me to turn on or off the fan, but only from each location. Meaning on and off on the same switch!)

So...if you are the guy, that knows this stuff, how about giving me some concrete information to allow me to determine if this is something that can be done with the wiring as per the pictures i submitted, or not.

At least that way I will not have to pay an electrician to tell me it is impossible with what I am working with.
This old guy is looking for some help... are you up for it?
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Dusty4s4 wrote: Chico thanks for the slap in the face.

I am a senior and in my younger days, I wired and entire cottage that I built from scratch.
I am comfortable working on traditional wiring. You know black, white and copper wires. LOL

What I am not comfortable with is three way switches and the smart gadgets, and the apps on my phone.
I joined this group to get some help to understand what switch I need to purchase. After buying and trying three of them!

So far only one person has suggested a switch, but what that person assumed was that I had wiring for three way switches. I am not sure I do, because neither of the two existing switches are three way. As you pointed out they are both single pole switches. (Which by the way work together to allow me to turn on or off the fan, but only from each location. Meaning on and off on the same switch!)

So...if you are the guy, that knows this stuff, how about giving me some concrete information to allow me to determine if this is something that can be done with the wiring as per the pictures i submitted, or not.

At least that way I will not have to pay an electrician to tell me it is impossible with what I am working with.
This old guy is looking for some help... are you up for it?
It’s not meant to be a “slap in the face” and I am sorry if I offended you as that was not my intention. It’s an honest opinion from an electrician that doesn’t want to see someone get hurt. Your initial posts show very very little understanding of electrical regardless of “apps” or “smart devices”. A smart switch is marginally different than a traditional switch in terms of the physical installation. It is still doing the same basic concept of a dumb switch. My concern is strictly from your posts showing little understanding of the theory and being hung up on wire colour. The wire colour is not what is important here. What is important is determine line and load. Wire colour does not tell you that with any certainty.

As it stands at the moment it is almost impossible to give you the answer you are looking for. From the photos it is not possible to determine how your circuit is wired as no joints inside boxes are visible. Perhaps with shots of the insides of the boxes it would be easier to determine but at the time there is not enough information to give you the proper way to wire.

I assure you an electrician wouldn’t tell you “it can’t be done”. Anything can be done by someone that knows what they are doing.
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I agree with Chico. Let me try again.
Although your photos still do not show the exact connections, I strongly believe they are both single pole switches.

The switch at Tsat has a black wire which most likely is the always live line side. The white wire is the load side which only gets current when you turn the switch on.

The other switch has two blacks on one side. Which most likely is the always ON line side. One black wire feeds current to the switch, while the second wide takes it forward to next switch/receptacle. The 3rd lone black wire on the other end is the load side which comes to life when you turn the switch on. You can use a no contact voltage tester to verify all I have said.

Then more things you can try:
> Do both switches control the fan.
> To rule out they are 3 way, see if the UP/Down position on one switch affects the behavior of othe switch. i.e. turning second switch UP can both turn off and turn on the fan depending on the position of switch one.
> Then check if both switches need to be turned UP together for fan to work. If this is the case, then these two switches are probably just added in series, one after another.

And now the solution to these 3 scenarios.
1> If only one switch controls the fan, then stop worrying about the other switch.
2> if it is a 3 way setup. There are switches which can work. But you will need a pair of them. In my home automation setup, I have two pairs of GE switches which handle two 3 way circuits. But they are Zwave types. I am not sure if there are wifi versions of such switches. In Zwave/Zigbee world, there are switches which can work without needing the neutral.
3> if it is not a 3 way setup. Then install a smart switch at the place identified in step1.
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bubuski wrote: The TP-Link 3 way switch (HS210) will work for you. I am using one currently for my bathroom fan.
+1

Get this switch and you only need to install one switch in the bathroom. The other one above the thermostat you can leave alone as a dumb switch.
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IndyBeak wrote: I agree with Chico. Let me try again.
Although your photos still do not show the exact connections, I strongly believe they are both single pole switches.

The switch at Tsat has a black wire which most likely is the always live line side. The white wire is the load side which only gets current when you turn the switch on.

The other switch has two blacks on one side. Which most likely is the always ON line side. One black wire feeds current to the switch, while the second wide takes it forward to next switch/receptacle. The 3rd lone black wire on the other end is the load side which comes to life when you turn the switch on. You can use a no contact voltage tester to verify all I have said.

Then more things you can try:
> Do both switches control the fan.
> To rule out they are 3 way, see if the UP/Down position on one switch affects the behavior of othe switch. i.e. turning second switch UP can both turn off and turn on the fan depending on the position of switch one.
> Then check if both switches need to be turned UP together for fan to work. If this is the case, then these two switches are probably just added in series, one after another.

And now the solution to these 3 scenarios.
1> If only one switch controls the fan, then stop worrying about the other switch.
2> if it is a 3 way setup. There are switches which can work. But you will need a pair of them. In my home automation setup, I have two pairs of GE switches which handle two 3 way circuits. But they are Zwave types. I am not sure if there are wifi versions of such switches. In Zwave/Zigbee world, there are switches which can work without needing the neutral.
3> if it is not a 3 way setup. Then install a smart switch at the place identified in step1.
They are more than likely two single pole switches in parallel. Which would me mean if either switch is in the “on” position the fan will run, and it will only turn off if BOTH are in the off position. The reason I believe this to be the case is that the switches are on 2 different floors and from the thermostat you would be unable to determine if the fan is on or not. In a 3 way application you have no “on” and “off” position on a switch so again at the thermostat you would not know if you’re just turned the fan on or off by pressing the switch unless you already knew the current status of the fan. By putting 2 single poles in parallel you ensure that when someone wants to turn on the exhaust at the thermostat they can know for sure that they did in fact turn it on.

I’m not 100% certain it is in parallel as there is not enough information from the current photos but I am pretty confident those are 2 single pole switches so this configuration would make the most sense from my experience.
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ChicoQuente wrote: They are more than likely two single pole switches in parallel. Which would me mean if either switch is in the “on” position the fan will run, and it will only turn off if BOTH are in the off position. The reason I believe this to be the case is that the switches are on 2 different floors and from the thermostat you would be unable to determine if the fan is on or not. In a 3 way application you have no “on” and “off” position on a switch so again at the thermostat you would not know if you’re just turned the fan on or off by pressing the switch unless you already knew the current status of the fan. By putting 2 single poles in parallel you ensure that when someone wants to turn on the exhaust at the thermostat they can know for sure that they did in fact turn it on.

I’m not 100% certain it is in parallel as there is not enough information from the current photos but I am pretty confident those are 2 single pole switches so this configuration would make the most sense from my experience.
ah, yes, the parallel arrangement slipped my mind when responding. Yes, that is indeed a possibility. Anyway, there are a few smart switches on market which can work without neutral. So OP can achieve what he wants. Though he seems to be fixated on color of wires so I am honestly not confident if he should tackle this himself.

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