An easy-to-install ceiling fan can make a real difference in your home’s climate. A simple ceiling fan is can be more beneficial than other heating and cooling options, as its operating cost is much lower.
In almost all homes, the fan is installed in the center of the room, replacing a central light fixture in the ceiling. This spot provides a smooth air flow throughout most of the room, and since a fan draws about the same amount of power as a ceiling light fixture, the electrical circuit shouldn’t be overloaded.
WARNING: If your fan also includes lights, be sure the circuit has enough extra capacity to handle the load. If not, you must run a new circuit with a new circuit breaker from the house’s main service panel or sub-panel to the fan. If there is no central light fixture, you’ll have to create a place to hang the ceiling fan. Then, you’ll need to bring electrical power to it. You can tap into an existing circuit to do this.
Before removing or installing anything, kill the power to the light fixture. Turn off the circuit you’re working on by switching off a circuit breaker or by unscrewing a fuse, keeping in mind that the house’s main switch should be off when handling fuses. Then, padlock the panel if you can.
WARNING: Using your hands or tools to touch the light fixture wires and parts while the power is still connected to that part of your home presents a risk of shock or electrocution.
Sometimes the power enters at the fixture, even when the switch is located in the circuit beyond it.
Make sure the circuit is truly “dead” before touching any wires or terminals. Check with a high-voltage neon tester.
If there is no existing central light fixture, snap diagonal chalk lines from opposite corners of the room to find its center. Determine whether the lines cross exactly below a ceiling joist, or one of the room’s horizontal support beams. If they do, move aside just far enough between joists to let you fasten the side of the fan’s new junction box directly to the joist.
Cut a hole large enough for the junction box to be slipped in. If it’s next to the beam, drill holes in its side and screw it to the joist.
Installation between joists is also OK. Fasten the box to a 2×4 header nailed between the joists. Sometimes, you can insert a 2×4 header through the junction box’s hole, nailing it to each joist. If not, you may need to open a larger access hole. Then, patch the hole to close it again.
A metal junction box is the only kind that is appropriate for supporting a ceiling fan. Never hang the fan from a plastic box. Depending on the brand, style, and size of your ceiling fan–and your electrical code, you may use a 4 inch or 3 inch octagonal junction box.
WARNING: Some local codes don’t permit the use of 3 inch boxes. You will need to research the specifics for your own area.
The maximum weight for a ceiling fan that can still be reliably supported by an outlet box is 35 punds. Any fan that weighs more than that should be supported by the actual building structure.
However you end up configuring things, make sure that the junction box is supported and augmented by the building structure to a point where it can hold at least 50 pounds – the weight of an average ceiling fan. Remember, your mounting must also be able to withstand vibration while the fan is running, as even a well-balanced fan creates some vibration when it runs.
You’ll use a special beam mount when mounting a fan to a beamed ceiling. Use one kind for a horizontal beam and another for a pitched or sloping beam. Depending on your ceiling, you may need an extender to lower the fan to the proper level.
Fan-mounting is particularly important because any failure to make things secure could allow your fan to fall from the ceiling.
If mounting the fan proves particularly difficult, use a piece of good-looking hardwood plywood as a fan-mount. It should be large enough to extend over two joists. The size may be 18″ x 18″ or 26″ x 26″, or any variant that does the job.
Use brass screws in pilot-drilled holes to attach the plywood to the ceiling joists. The screw length will vary, depending on the thickness of the plywood and plaster or plasterboard ceiling below the joists. Use one screw every 6 inches.
Finish the plywood with an outside corner molding, mitered at the corners for a neat appearance.
Fan assembly varies from brand to brand. Be sure to follow the specific instructions associated with your unit. Regardless of the manufacturer’s instructions, if the fan blades are less than a screwdriver’s length away from the ceiling, it’s best to install the blades before hanging the fan.
The hanger pipe is a hollow length of pipe that usually connects toward the top of the fan and meets the actual ceiling. The electrical wires are drawn up through its center. The hanger pipe is usually placed into its hole on top of the motor. A set screw is tightened securely to make sure the pipe stays in place after it is threaded down. Tighten the set screw well.
Some fans have a separate motor hub into which the hanger pipe mounts. In this case, you’ll place the actual motor housing over the hub.
As stated above, this step can be done earlier in the process depending on how manageable the blades’ size and position are in relation to your work space.
To attach the fan blades, set the motor unit down where it will be stable. The styrene foam packing for the motor housing makes an excellent stabilizer on your worktable.
Most fan blades have a two-pronged attachment consisting of screws that come through holes in the blades and into the flanges. These need to be drawn up securely, but not so tightly that the threads are damaged or the laminated blade material is crushed. On many fans you’ll find that the flanges, or prongs, also need to be mounted to the motor housing. If this is the case, mount them to the housing before the flanges are mounted to the blades themselves.
Now, check the floor-to-ceiling height of the fan blades. You can do this by measuring the floor-to-ceiling distance and subtracting for the part of the fan that will extend below the ceiling down to the lower blade surface. An absolute minimum height of 7 feet is recommended. This may be reinforced by building codes in your area.
If the height is too low, either for your tastes or according to your local code, consider purchasing a low-ceiling mount for your fan. With some models, the fan blade height can be increased by as much as 10 inches.
Just remember that you need at least 12 inches between the ceiling and the tops of the fan blades for proper airflow. If you have the space to spare, aim for an 18 inches, as this is ideal for airflow and cooling potential.
Install the hanger bracket, sometimes called the mounting bracket, onto the box using screws and lock washers. Even if you aren’t supplied with any lock washers, get some, and use them. They’ll prevent your fan’s vibration from loosening the screws over time.
The hanger bracket may accept either a half-ball hanger or a hook-type hanger, depending on which kind your fan uses. In either case, make sure that the hanger is carefully slipped into the bracket.
Next, the unit is wired, and the ceiling cover is slipped up to its full height and tightened in place.
WARNING: Even with the power cut, if you wire your fan incorrectly and then try to operate it once the power is restored, it can be a hazard. Fan manufacturer’s aim to make the process as simple as possible, but mistakes can still happen. If you are uncomfortable with the wiring part of this process, call a professional for help. It may not be expensive at all assuming that you manage to get through the rest of the assembly on your own.
Be sure to connect the black house wires to the black fan wires, and the white house wires to the white fan wires.
Ground Your Fan
The fan should be electrically grounded to its metal box. The grounding wires will be either green or bare copper. A green grounding pigtail attached to the box by a bonding screw will make your work easier. Wire-nut the ground wires from the box, the fan, and the power supply together.
You may wish to wire your new ceiling fan through a fan speed control. This lets you set its operating speed smoothly and easily.
NOTE: All wiring should conform to local electrical codes as well as to the current National Electrical Code (NEC). Research your code before diving into your project or if you have any questions.
Given that a ceiling fan is suspended in the air and spins quite fast, there are a lot of tiny ways that it can function just shy of perfectly. When all is said and done, if you notice any performance issues with your fan, do not be afraid to go back and make adjustments as you see fit.
For example, if the fan wobbles when in use, it could mean the blades are unbalanced. To correct this, try interchanging two adjacent blades. If that doesn’t work, take all the blades off and weigh each one on a food or postal scale. If a blade is underweight, tape a soft object such as a pencil eraser or modeling clay to the top center of the blade to compensate. Fan balancing kits with detailed instructions are also available. Then, reinstall the blades and the fan should run smoothly.
If you wish to have a super-easy installation and a degree of portability in a ceiling fan, consider using a swag kit. These replace the above-ceiling wiring job and come with a unique set of instructions. If this project seems too time consuming or complex, the swag kit is an alternative method that will give you the same result: a functioning fan.