My ceiling fans are controlled by wall dials. The dial has 5 positions - off,1,2,3,4 - and spins between them without stopping (meaning you can turn from off to both 1 and 4 directly, the rotation is never blocked). This has the usability issues that I must look at the dial when trying to adjust/turn off the fan, which is inconvenient, especially at night.

I've considered sticking some indicator (a small screw?) to the off position. But that doesn't remind me which way is 1 and which is 4.

How can I modify this dial so I can operate it intuitively by touch alone? Note that I don't want to replace it completely, just modify the existing dial somehow.

enter image description here

  • I don't understand, surely 1 screw to indicate what the active position is is enough? Or just a marker pen to draw the line. Surely whatever is the top most value is the one that is applied right?
    – musefan
    Commented Aug 20, 2020 at 13:16
  • Buy one of those sensing lights and fit it close to the control. Quick and cheap !
    – PhillipW
    Commented Aug 20, 2020 at 20:30
  • @musefan: Yes, top is the active state. However, I want to somehow know, by touch, that right=1 and left=4.
    – Jonathan
    Commented Aug 21, 2020 at 11:25
  • @PhillipW: Yes, but the writing is quite small, and I'll need to find my glasses or squint from really close, which is suboptimal. That's why I'm striving for a touch-only solution.
    – Jonathan
    Commented Aug 21, 2020 at 11:26
  • Ok, I understand your problem now. To be honest I think you are better off just remembering which side of the screw is 1 and which side is 4. "When screw is at top (off), CLOCKWISE means increasing from 1-4"
    – musefan
    Commented Aug 21, 2020 at 11:28

4 Answers 4


Sounds like you want to be able to spin it one way until it stops in the off position so you don't have to look.

I'm not sure how the dial is constructed and your DIY abilities but I'd try something like this.

Add a stud (screw or dowel for example) to the side of the dial sticking outward. Then add another pin into the backing plate of the dial so it points towards you in such a position that it prevents the dial (with side pin) rotating continuously. If you position both pins in the right place you have the desired outcome.

Added by OP - Illustration:


  • Excellent idea, accepted. I'll report if&when I try it - for now, I just taped something to the off position.
    – Jonathan
    Commented Aug 21, 2020 at 11:30
  • @Jonathan: How are you going to remember which way to turn it?
    – musefan
    Commented Aug 21, 2020 at 11:36
  • 1
    @musefan: It will only turn one way, see illustration I added to this answer
    – Jonathan
    Commented Aug 21, 2020 at 11:42
  • I think that's a really neat solution - it marks both the zero position and indicates which way to turn.
    – PhillipW
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 20:38

I would fix it with a thick semi-circle transparent vinyl adhesive. The edge of the sticker indicates which way to move the dial:

enter image description here

Edit after the comment:

If you put the sticker just on the off state, you are at the same situation as in your question with the screw. The half circle shows:

  • Relief in the center (relief off to the left/relief on to the right) = OFF position
  • Way to the relief ON (CCW) = higher velocity
  • Way to the relief OFF (CW) = lower velocity
  • Interesting idea (and cool photo-edit!) However, how would feeling the off-2.5 line tell me which way is off? Maybe it's better to put the adhesive to only cover the off state?
    – Jonathan
    Commented Aug 20, 2020 at 13:57
  • Answer updated .-
    – Danielillo
    Commented Aug 20, 2020 at 14:05

The screw you propose (or drop of glue, or adhesive googly-eye) secured to the OFF position should help you memorize it by touch pretty quick, once you're no longer relying on your sight to inform you.

I think the issue is the mental model associated with turning this knob. Do not think of it as a water valve (where counter-clockwise means more), but instead think of it as a volume knob, where counter-clockwise means less. The curious exception to this is that you can wrap around to 4 from OFF, but I think that will become less of an issue as you memorize the position of OFF.


If you would like to retain the current dial, I have seen some dials have a constraint, that If you rotate clockwise to the max it achieves max speed and u can turn it off by rotating ant-clockwise. Just like opening and closing the water tap.

Another Idea is that, some pedestal fans have radio buttons on them so u can only press one at a time from Zero (Off) to 3 (Fastest)

Maybe you could incorporate this approach for the ceiling fan as well

enter image description here

  • 1
    There are any number of designs I could use. My question is how to modify the existing dial, not buy/manufacture another control - I'll clarify that in the OP.
    – Jonathan
    Commented Aug 20, 2020 at 12:49

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