With the influx of smart devices in the recent years, integrating ceiling fans are often important as it is the most economical alternative to our coolers (a.k.a Air conditioners). The vast options out there indeed worries any home owner as every fan comes with different technical specifications and different signalling protocol. Here's a guide on how to choose the right ceiling fan for your smart home!
Signalling Protocol in the market
1. Wi-Fi Smart Fans
Popularity of Wi-Fi Smart fans are on the rise due to the accessibility of Tuya chips in the market. Pros of using Wi-Fi smart fans include bi-directional feedback, i.e. being able to have the true status of the fan reflected on the mobile app, and having the flexibility of white ambiance color tuning and brightness adjustment for the LED lights on the ceiling fans.
Why bi-directional feedback helps? Simply put, if my SO were to use the remote to power off the fan, I am able to see that the fan is powered off from the app. I will explain the confusion caused by uni-directional signalling protocol later in this article.
Now, the cons of having a Wi-Fi enabled fan - it contributes to network congestion, on top of your iPads, mobile phones, tablets, laptops, work station etc. now the Smart Fan joins the ecosystem. Not forgetting your smart TV, Smart Washing Machine, Smart Fridge etc. Another consideration is that Wi-Fi chips consume higher electricity than other signal protocols, which begs the question; whether getting a smart home really saves energy.
Wi-Fi enabled fans also comes with their proprietary mobile applications, which means that if you have an ecosystem of smart devices, you will have multiple app on your phone.
Brands with Wi-Fi enabled fans: PO Eco, Haiku, Crestar
2. Remote control enabled ceiling fans
Remote control comes in various forms, RF, IR and Bluetooth. Here is how you identify them
Infra-Red (IR) enabled remote control has a small bulb at the top of the remote. Most air conditioners use IR remote control and can only work with line of sight.
Brands using IR Remote controllers: Haiku, KDK (DC Fans)
Radio Frequency (RF) enabled remote control has an RF chip which is embedded within the remote. RF signals are able to pass through walls and no need any line of sight for the remote to work. RF frequency usually runs between 300-440 hz.
Brands using RF Remote Controllers: Fanco, PO Eco, KDK, Fanztec, Bestar
Bluetooth enabled remote controls are introduced very recently and are a mutated form of the RF, just that it uses radio waves on a frequency band between 2.400 GHz and 2.483.5 GHz for data transmission. Bluetooth technology is said to be the future and it is able to connect to multiple devices including your mobile phones and tablets directly.
Brands using Bluetooth Remote controllers: Crestar
It is still possible to get Crestar RF remote controls but they seem to be phasing out their RF remote controls
IR or RF remote controls are easy to replicate and learn. IR/RF universal remote controllers are readily available online with a simple manual/step by step instructions on the mobile app; it is the simplest way to integrate into smart homes.
Unline Wi-Fi connected fans, IR, RF and bluetooth remote controls are not bi-directional i.e. if my SO turns off the celing fan using the remote (and not via the smart home app) the true status of the fan will not be reflected on the app, making it frustrating to live with someone who doesn't like to use the smart home app. Read on for Home-A-Genius' workaround to fix this problem! :)
3. Good ol' traditional fan wall switch
I'd say we've gone past that since 2019. Most fans have migrated to remote control for many reasons; user convenience, installer's convenience etc. I can't think of any pros of using a traditional wall switch except that there is no need to change put batteries. At this day and age, just go for a remote controlled fan. :)
So what determines the right signalling protocol for you when doing a smart home?
Simple answer: Smart signalling device and Location of your fan
The most generic smart home device is the universal controller - Broadlink. Broadlink has a few versions. Let's zoom into the 2 favourites. Broadlink RM 4 Pro and Broadlink RM 4.
Broadlink RM 4 has IR capabilities and RM 4 Pro has both RF and IR functionalities. Both are able sync up to Google Assistant and Alexa. For your smart fan to work with Broadlink, your fan must be able to receive IR/RF signals. Broadlink can only learn RF signals within the range of 315.XX or 433.XX MHz unencrypted. This does not apply to RF controllers which are sending out rolling codes. Rolling codes mean that every RF signal sent out is different. Broadlink is unable to learn rolling codes as of now.
Examples of fans with Rolling codes: Vento, Aeroair
Note: We've confirmed that Eco-Airx is no longer running on rolling code and we are able to use Broadlink RF blaster to send signalsto the fans!
Broadlink, just like any other electronic devices, is not weatherproof. If you are getting a fan for your balcony, best to get an RF/Wi-Fi fan. This way, you are able to keep the signalling devices indoors while you automate your balcony fans.
How to select a good Fan remote for Broadlink?
TOP Choice for RF fan remote. The above remote control has all the functions needed for:
1. Fan Speed, as represented by the individual 1,2,3,4,5
2. White Ambiance color tuning, as represented by Cool, Day and warm in seperate buttons
3. Seperate off function for fan and light
4. RF control, meaning to say I can keep the Broadlink RM 4 Pro indoors while i control the ceiling fan in the balcony.
Overall the above remote has all the features needed for smart home automation, with all functions available for Broadlink to learn. Also mean that I can easily give voice command to Google/Smart home app for almost every function I need for my fan. The only feature that is lacking for this remote is to be able to control the brightness of the lights via percentage. i.e. the user has to be present to validate the correct brightness.
The above remote control has all the functions needed for:
1. Fan Speed, as represented by the individual 1,2,3,4,5,6
2. Seperate off function for fan
3. Color adjustment of LED light is limited by toggle action.
4. RF control, meaning to say I can keep the Broadlink RM 4 Pro indoors while I control the ceiling fan in the balcony.
My only issue with this remote is that it does not allow me to give voice command to say "Set lights to warm white". The user will need to validate the color of the lights by being physically there.
Sadly, Dyson has the worst remote control for linking up to Broadlink. Don't get me wrong. Dyson fan and remote is good if you are not doing any smart home automation. I'll list down the reasons why its not the best option with Broadlink:
1. There is no specific on/off button.
2. No distinct buttons for specific fan speed
3. Remote control is IR
This means that we are unable to determine the fan speed or if the fan is powered on/off unless we validate it ourselves. Also the IR blaster has to be in line of sight to the Dyson fans.
An alternative is to set up a Google routine by turning on a smart plug and sending an IR signal to the fan.
We recently saw the above fan remote and it can't be linked to Broadlink RM Pro+. We suspect its not RF. What we didnt like about this remote was:
1. There was no distinct speed for the system to determine "Low, Medium, High" fan speed.
2. The LED light buttons were too small for us to figure out which buttons to increase/decrease brightness.
3. We couldnt figure out what the rest of the buttons mean.
Overall, we can't link this fan up and user has to use the fan seperately from the smart home system.
Fine-Tuning/Workaround by Home-A-Genius
1. Ease off network congestion
Most of our ceiling fans are linked up by 1x RF Broadlink, reducing the number of connected devices to the routers to its minimum. As RF remotes can pass through walls, we usually recommend just 1 RF blaster for a single storey apartment.
2. Deep integration with Smart Fans
While Dyson remains one of the favourite fans in Singapore, Home-A-Genius is compatible with Dyson fans, allowing our app users to control on/off and fan speed (from 0% to 100%) with bi-directional feedback. This way, the reliance on smart plugs and IR blasters is eliminated.
While we see IR & RF signals as a way to minimize network congestion, IR/RF signals can only be sent out in sequence. I.e. If you are planning to turn on your Air Con and Ceiling fan at the same time, we will recommend a 2 step process as the signals can only be sent out in sequence. Deep integration on the other hand, is able to manage multiple commands.
3. Powering on/off fans by switches
Home owners who want to capture true status of their homes, using voice command and app control is the best method. However, an alternative option is to power off/on fans. Such situations may poise a problem if the fan motor does not have last state memory. i.e. the fan remains off despite it being powered on before someone presses the switch. Home-A-Genius has implemented a 2-step feature for all ceiling fans whereby pressing on the switch alone will trigger the RF blaster to turn on the fan to the defualt fan speed the family desires.
Disclaimer: Signalling protocol of the above brands are truthful as of December 2021. We are unsure when the companies will change their protocol. Best to check in with the vendors' salesperson before purchasing the ceiling fan of your choice!