Credit: Amazon

On our most recent IoT Podcast, Dan called into our IoT voicemail hotline with a question about controlling the speed of a small personal fan using a smart outlet. Dan wants a Wi-Fi outlet with dimming capabilities so he can increase or decrease the air flow with a digital assistant.

On the surface, this sounds reasonable and logical. After all, there are outlets and switches that can dim lights by limiting the flow of energy to the bulbs. But variable speed fans are not bulbs. In fact, you could burn out the fan or, in a worst-case situation, cause a fire by trying to use some type of dimming mechanism to control the speed of a fan. So in short: don’t do this!

Powering a motor, such as that in a fan, requires a lot of electricity up front in order to get the motor up to speed quickly. And most motors with variable speeds use some sort of variable frequency drive; something a dimmer control isn’t capable of doing. Put another way: Unlike limiting the flow of power to dim a bulb, for a fan, you need to convert power into some mechanical or moving action that will typically require wide-variances of power immediately. It’s simply not the same as a bulb.

All is not lost, however! We did find a few Wi-Fi-enabled pedestal fans available on Amazon. This one from Nash (shown above) is $95, for example, and a similar-looking option by Wasserstein is available for $60. Both work with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, so along with an app, you can bring up the breezes by voice as well.

To hear Dan’s question, along with our discussion in full, tune in to the IoT Podcast below:

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