How to Install a Ceiling Fan

Ceiling Fan

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When outside temperatures rise and your house heats up, you might find yourself on the prowl for cooling methods that are both low-cost and effective. This can be a difficult combination to find. While window unit ACs dramatically bring down temperatures, they also dramatically increase your power bill. Ceiling fans have long been used as a smart way of dealing with rooms that are either too hot or too cold. During hot months, the fan draws air up to the ceiling, preventing warm air from building up near floor level. During cold months, ceiling fans can be switched to rotate in the opposite direction, pushing ceiling-height warm air down closer to floor level. Best of all, unlike air conditioners, ceiling fans do not run energy-hungry compressors, so they cost very little to operate.

A ceiling fan replaces the existing ceiling light usually located at the center of the room. If you have a ceiling light already, this is a straightforward job. You should be able to work above your head on a ladder for long periods, and you should have basic wiring skills of the level required to install a ceiling light.

Project Metrics

  • Working Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Materials Cost: $50 to $400

What You'll Need

Equipment/Tools

Materials

  • Ceiling fan kit
  • Retrofit ceiling fan brace
  • 4-inch round ceiling box cover
  • Safety glasses
  • Dust mask

Instructions

For this project, you need a functioning ceiling light. If you do not have a ceiling light, the project is much more difficult since you will need to run an electrical cable to the center of the ceiling. If that is the case, help from an electrician and perhaps professional drywall work may be necessary to complete the project.

  1. Check on Permitting

    Contact your local building department to see if a permit is needed for the ceiling fan installation, for the electrical part of this project, or for both tasks.

  2. Remove the Ceiling Light

    At the electrical service panel, turn off the circuit breaker that controls the power running to the ceiling light. Place the six-foot ladder under the light, slightly to the side. Remove the shade and bulbs. With the cordless drill, remove the light fixture but not the wires yet. With the voltage tester, double-check that no wires are live. If the wires are not live, untwist the plastic wire nuts from the wire pigtails. Untwist the pigtails. Set the light fixture aside.

  3. Install a Fan Brace

    A ceiling fan brace allows you to mount an electrical box between two ceiling joists without the need to access the attic. When you purchase this item, make sure that it is called either a retrofit, old-work, or remodel fan brace. Any of these terms indicate that attic access is not necessary.

    With the stud finder, locate a spot equally centered between two studs and about 6 inches from the existing ceiling box. Wearing eye protection and a dust mask, cut a hole at that spot with the 4-inch hole saw. Reach into the hole and clear the ceiling area above the drywall of insulation and debris. First, insert the separate brace section into the hole, with its legs touching the top of the ceiling drywall. Then turn the brace by hand until the brace lengthens and firmly fits between the two joists. You may need to use a wrench for the final turn to firmly seat the brace between the joists.

    Remove the electrical wire from the old ceiling box and pull it through the new hole. Insert the wire into the retrofit brace's included box through one of the knock-out holes in the box. Attach the box to the brace with the included hardware.

  4. Cover the Old Box

    With all of the wires removed from the old box, install the 4-inch round cover plate over the box. These plates are usually white but they can be painted, if you wish.

    Alternatively, if the old box is solely supported by drywall, you may be able to remove it and patch up the hole. If the old box is nailed to the side of a joist, it is difficult to remove without removing a large section of drywall; in this case, leave the box in place and cover it with a plate.

  5. Install the Mounting Bracket

    Nearly all ceiling fans install in two steps: first a mounting bracket is installed on the electrical box, then the bulk of the ceiling fan is slid into place in the mounting bracket. This eliminates the need for holding a heavy ceiling fan motor assembly above head while simultaneously trying to screw it into place. The mounting bracket may be pre-attached to the canopy (the decorative cover). If so, detach the bracket from the canopy, unless otherwise directed by the instructions. Screw the mounting bracket into the electrical box with the provided screws. Make sure that the electrical supply wires (the wires formerly powering the ceiling light) pass through the intended opening in the mounting bracket.

  6. Attach the Fan Canopy to the Fan Motor Assembly

    Slide the fan canopy onto the fan motor assembly. Since this is a ring, this must be done before the fan motor assembly is attached to the electrical box.

  7. Attach the Fan Motor Assembly to the Mounting Bracket

    Standing on the six-foot ladder and with assistance, slide the fan motor assembly into the mounting bracket until it seats. Use the provided hardware to secure the fan motor assembly. Leave the fan blades unattached for now.

  8. Make the Electrical Connections

    Consult the ceiling fan's instructions for wiring details specific to your fan. Hire an electrician at this point if you feel uncomfortable with this procedure. Expose wire ends with a wire stripper and twist them together with the wire nuts typically included in ceiling fan kits.

  9. Attach the Fan Canopy

    Slide the fan canopy upward and screw it into place with the decorative screws from the kit.

  10. Attach the Ceiling Fan Blades

    Your ceiling fan blades may come in two parts: a mount and the blade. The mount is the metal section that attaches the blade to the fan motor assembly. Attach the blade to the mount, then attach both to the ceiling fan. Be precise with this step since any deviation may cause the fan blades to wobble.

  11. Attach the Light Bulbs and Shade

    If your ceiling fan includes a light component, conclude your installation by adding the light bulbs and the light shade.

  12. Test Your Ceiling Fan Installation

Turn the circuit breaker on again. Return to the ceiling fan and test it.