The how to guide for installing a ceiling fan

Tools Required

  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Level 2-ft.
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Non-contact voltage tester
  • Nut driver
  • Tape measure
  • Wire stripper/cutter
  • Wrench set

Additional Ceiling Fan Features

  • Lights – Ceiling fans are either designed with or without lights, but more commonly they are designed to include lights as in many cases a homeowner is replacing a light fixture with a ceiling fan. Outdoor ceiling fans are more likely to come without lights included.
  • Ceiling fan with a remote – Ceiling fans with remote controls start at around $70 and can be as much as $1,100, depending on the brand and other design features. You don’t have to install a new fan to have a working remote control since a remote-control kit for your fan can be purchased for $20–$100. It should take about an hour for an experienced worker to complete the task, and if your handyman is able to install the remote control in the fan housing, it will likely cost around $75, or if you hire an electrician to do the work, the total cost will be around $120.
  • Ceiling fan remote app – Smart technology gives homeowners the ability to schedule a ceiling fan to work in conjunction with the HVAC, with responsive on-off controls based on temperatures inside the home. Many products are also compatible with the like of Nest, Alexa, and Google Home, and that allows for the addition of features like being able to control the fan using voice, or over the internet when away from the house.

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Video

Screw the Fan Bracket to a Ceiling Joist

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Here's an option that eliminates the need for a new ceiling fan box. Screw the fan's mounting bracket directly to a nearby joist. The plate will be off-center, so you may need a medallion to cover the hole.

Installing Outdoor Ceiling Fan

Ceiling fans designed for exterior installation are designed to handle both a wetter and windier environment. In regards to the potential moisture exposure, the global safety consulting and certification company UL LLC has created three rating classifications so homeowners can safely purchase the right fan for the desired location.

 Dry Rated – Fans with this rating are only

  • Dry Rated – Fans with this rating are only suitable for the interior of a home in areas where there will not be any exposure to moisture. Such locations include, but are not limited to, bedrooms, dining rooms, finished basements, a foyer, or a living room. Dry rated ceiling fans range from $50–$565.
  • Damp Rated – This rating indicates suitability for use in both interior and exterior areas where exposure to damp conditions is a likely, regular occurrence. Interior locations include bathrooms and kitchens. On the exterior of the home, they can be used in carports, covered patios, or screened-in porches. The common thread in the installation location is that while there could be a high moisture content in the air, the fan itself will be installed in a ceiling structure which will prevent water coming into direct contact the housing for the fan. Expect to spend around $64–$4,458 for a damp rated fan.
  • Wet Rated – To handle moisture as well as direct contact from water, fans with the UL Wet rating are designed for exterior installation in locations like exposed decks, gazebos, pergolas, and verandas. In addition to being able to withstand exposure to rain, they are also suitable for locations that experience snow and ice during the winter months. Wet rated fans cost around $70–$700 on average.

For any bathroom, kitchen, or exterior ceiling fan installation on your property, check the UL rating on the fan to ensure it is adequate for that location to make sure you, your family, and your guests are protected.

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Step 2: Mount your ceiling fan

Once the old fan or light fixture is removed, the existing wiring from the previous fixture should be poking out of the hole in the ceiling. Install the new fan’s mounting bracket by threading the existing wires through it and using the provided mounting screws to secure it to the electrical box.

For the most efficient operation, your new fan should sit roughly 9 feet above the floor. If your ceiling is vaulted, a downrod will help lower the fan unit. If you’re using a downrod, place the fan’s canopy on the downrod and then thread the fan’s wires through it. Secure it to the fan’s base, or motor housing, with the provided pins and screws. Now is a good time to trim off any excess wire using a wire cutter. Then, attach the downrod to the mounting bracket on the ceiling using the hanger ball on the downrod.

Install the ceiling brace

Feed the fan brace up into the hole, rest the flat

Feed the fan brace up into the hole, rest the flat edge of the feet against the ceiling and center the shaft over the hole. If your ceiling is more than 1/2 in. thick, as ours was, rotate the feet and position the rod the depth of the box from the ceiling. Rotate the shaft to secure the brace to the framing. Snap the metal saddle over the shaft so it’s centered over the hole.

Close-up of fan brace

The brace ends fit against the ceiling and the end

The brace ends fit against the ceiling and the end screws drive into the joints as you rotate the shaft.

Before starting any work, shut off the circuit breaker that feeds the switch and light fixture. If there’s a working bulb in the fixture, turn it on. Then you’ll know you have the right breaker when the bulb goes out. Check the wires with a voltage tester to make sure they’re off after removing the fixture and when changing the wall switch.

The next step is to remove the existing plastic or metal electrical box and install a “fan brace” that’s designed to hold ceiling fans. Few conventional boxes are strong enough to support a ceiling fan, so don’t even think about trying to hang your fan from an existing box. Instead, buy a fan brace when you purchase your fan. You can choose braces that fasten with screws if the framing is accessible from the attic or if it’s new construction. Otherwise, pick a brace that’s designed to slip through the ceiling hole and through the electrical box. These braces (Photos 3 and closeup) adjust to fit between the framing members in your ceiling; you simply rotate the shaft to anchor them to the framing.

Most existing electrical boxes are fastened to the framing with nails, making them easy to pound out with a hammer and a block of wood (Photo 2). After you free the cable, just leave the old box in the cavity (Photo 3) rather than struggling to work the box through the ceiling hole. Then pull the cable through the hole and slip the fan brace through the opening and secure it, following the directions that came with the brace. Little feet on the ends of braces keep them the correct distance from the backside of 1/2-in. thick ceilings so the new electrical box will be flush with the surface. If you have a thicker ceiling (like ours), rotate the ends to achieve the correct spacing.

Project details

Skill

1 out of 5 Easy Somewhat easy. It takes a bit of work to install a fan-approved electrical box, but the ceiling-fan assembly and installation are very straightforward.

Cost

$50 to over $350, depending on size and features of the ceiling fan

STEP 1: Select a ceiling fan that suits the size of the room

Photo: istockphoto.com

When choosing a fan, note the size of your room. The blades need to be at least 18 to 24 inches away from all walls, a minimum of 7 feet from the floor, and 10 inches from the ceiling. Use the following figures as a guide to selecting the right size ceiling fan for your space:

  • 36-inch fan if the room is less than 144 square feet
  • 42-inch fan if the room is between 144 and 225 square feet
  • 52-inch fan if the room is more than 225 square feet

Our researched guide to the best ceiling fans offers terrific fan options at a variety of price points. After selecting the fan, select a ceiling box that’s approved for fans. Boxes for overhead lights are not strong enough to support the weight of a fan; your best bet is to choose a metal box that can support a fan’s weight. If you have access from an attic above or have open ceiling framing, you can add framing between joists to attach the box. If not, use a brace bar. A brace bar can be screwed into the joists, and the ceiling box and fan will hang from the newly added support.

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STEP 4: Connect the ceiling fan wires

Photo: istockphoto.com

Carefully pull the wires through the knockout hole in the receptacle box. A handy pair of needle-nose pliers can help. Then, attach the fan’s mounting bracket with the hardware included. Attach the fan’s down rod with the ball end toward the ceiling, and secure (usually with an included cotter pin).

Next, connect the fan’s wires to the circuit wires: white to white, black to black, and the grounding wire to the green lead wire of the fan or a grounding screw. Secure all connections with wire connectors, and tuck them into the ceiling box.

Step 1: Install Brace

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To install a braced box, slip the brace through the hole. Rotate the shaft of the brace clockwise until it touches a joist on either side and its legs rest on top of the drywall or plaster.

Follow the manufacturer’s directions to install the adjustable hanger bar and ceiling box



You install most hanger bars by pushing them thr

You install most hanger bars by pushing them through the hole in the ceiling left by the old electrical box. When you have the hanger bar completely through the hole, rotate it until it’s perpendicular to the ceiling joists. The bar expands until it engages the ceiling joists. The ends of the hanger bar are equipped with sharp steel pins that dig into the wood joists when the hanger bar is expanded. You then attach the special ceiling box to the hanger bar, locking it in place to provide a secure base for the fan.

Choose the Installation Height Install Optional Downrod

You’ll need to decide whether or not to use a downrod when installing a ceiling fan. For sloped ceilings this is mandatory. For all other applications, it depends on the ceiling height. You want to make sure that the fan blades are at least 7-feet off the ground. Beyond that, it’s up to personal preference. If you aren’t using a downrod, skip to the part where you attach the canopy to the ceiling mounting plate.

Run Your Wiring Up Through the Canopy & Downrod

You need to get the wiring from the motor up to the ceiling. To do this, thread the hot (black and blue), neutral (white), and ground (green, if present) wires from the top of the fan motor through both the canopy and the downrod.

Secure the Downrod to the Motor

Insert the downrod into the top of the fan which has a receiving “yoke”. Line up the holes and insert the connector pin, securing it (usually with an included cotter pin). Be careful to not sever or pinch the electrical wiring. You can separate the legs of the cotter pin and bend them over to hold the pin in permanently. Tighten any set screws once the downrod is in place. This will kill any wobble in the rod.

Note: You may need to first remove the canopy before installing the downrod. Some fans come with the canopy pre-attached.

Hanging the Fan with a Downrod

If you chose to use a downrod, install it into the mount with the ball end toward the ceiling. This lets it hang freely. Take care to match up to any channels or grooves that exist in the downrod with the mounting bracket. If you have a vaulted ceiling, for example, the grooves in the ball let the fan angle downward as needed to remain vertical even with a sloped ceiling.

Attach the Canopy to the Ceiling Mounting Plate

Secure the canopy to the mounting plate with the included screws. The canopy should fit over the plate completely and allow the downrod to come out from beneath, providing a nice clean appearance.

Finding the Mounting Position When Installing aCeilingFan

When installing a ceiling fan, you must mount it to a metal junction or outlet box. This must be securely attached to the ceiling joist, either directly or via a secure cross brace. The box and whatever is supporting it must be capable of handling a ceiling fan in motion. There are several choices for this, including solutions for new construction and “old work” (existing installations):

For new construction, you simply attach your choice of fan box to a vertically-positioned 2×4 which braces between two ceiling joists. Conveniently, both thick and thin boxes are available, though you should ensure that all exposed wiring stays within the box and ceiling fan canopy. For existing installations, if you don’t already have an adequate mounting electrical box, you can use an expanding metal ceiling fan hanger bar. Some of these are meant to be inserted from below and expanded once they are positioned between the joists.

Be sure to measure your fan mounting position well if you are doing new construction. There’s nothing worse than mounting a fan and realizing it is off-center after the installation is complete!

Note: For detailed wiring examples and options, please see our article on wiring a ceiling fan, which details several different ways to make the necessary electrical connections in a variety of situations you may encounter.

The ingredients you’ll need

Once you’ve made all the necessary measurements and chosen a fan, it’s time to begin the installation. Review the instructions that came with your fan to be sure you have all the parts and tools you’ll need. Tools for the job typically include:

  • Ladder
  • Voltage tester
  • Flashlight
  • Screwdriver
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Wire strippers/cutters
  • Wire nuts

How to know the right size of fan for the room

To determine what size of fan will be the most efficient for your space, measure the square footage of your room. For rooms measuring up to 75 square feet, you’ll want to install a fan that’s 36 inches in diameter or smaller. Between 75 and 144 square feet, choose a fan in the 36 to 42 inch range. For spaces measuring 144 to 224 square feet, look for fans in the 50 to 54 inch range. Larger rooms may need fans with as much as a 72 inch blade span.

Next, measure the area directly around the fixture. There should be at least 30 inches of clearance between the tips of the fan blades and the walls. So, if you are installing a 36-inch diameter ceiling fan, the center of the unit should be a minimum of 66 inches from the nearest wall. Measure the height, as well. The bottom of the fan should hang at least 7 feet from the floor. Check your fan’s instruction manual to see if there are any additional details about ceiling height or blade clearance.

Safety first

You don’t want any “shocking” surprises when working with electrical wiring, so the first step is to turn off the power at the breaker box. Locate the switch that controls power to the room you’re working in and flip it to the off position. It’s wise to notify the rest of the household that you are doing this, as well as post a warning on the door of the breaker box.

Turning off the lights

  1. Find the light switch that controls the fixture you’ll be working on and turn it to the OFF position.
  2. Detach the light shade. This is usually accomplished by loosening three or four screws. Unscrew the light bulb and use your voltage meter to be sure there are no live wires.
  3. Disconnect the fixture wires, remove the mounting nut with your wrench and remove any screws that may be holding the old fixture in place.
  4. Examine your existing wiring. There should be a bare copper ground wire, a white neutral wire and a black supply wire. If your wiring looks different, stop and consult an electrician.

Prep the Junction Box

  1. Once the light fixture is out of the way, remove the existing junction box. If it is rated for ceiling fans, there will be a marking indicating that on the interior. If not, you will need a new box. Junction boxes rated for fans are typically made of metal and can hold up to 70 pounds.
  2. Using a flashlight, examine the interior of the hole where the box was mounted to determine if you need to install support. If this fixture previously held a ceiling fan, you may be good to go. Generally, though, you’ll need to add bracing.

Bracing your fixture for support

Ceiling fans can be quite heavy, with some weighing up to 50 pounds, and they need solid internal support. This support is usually achieved with an extendable metal fan brace. Many fan kits include this brace. If yours doesn’t, purchase a brace that is rated for the weight of your fan. You’ll also need a U-bolt bracket that fits over the center of the brace, and the appropriate mounting bolts for attaching the junction box.

Extendable braces consist of a square metal tube with a rotating internal mechanism that extends two spiked feet.

  1. Insert the brace vertically up through the hole.
  2. Turn it horizontally inside the hole and lay it flush with the ceiling, with the ends pointed to the two ceiling joists. Make sure it’s centered over the hole.
  3. Rotate the square bar with your fingers until you feel the spiked feet anchor securely into the wooden joists.
  4. Slip the U-bolt bracket over the brace so it hangs centrally over the hole and carefully feed the mounting bolts into their slots.
  5. Slide all of the wiring into the opening in the rear of the junction box, and attach the box to the U-bolt bracket, leaving the nuts loose for the moment.

Install the Fan

You’re almost there! Ceiling fan kits usually come with a fan mounting bracket. This bracket has a circular divot which holds the ball mount at the end of the fan’s downrod. The mounting bracket will attach to the junction box either by clipping into or sliding over the box’s mounting bolts. Check the instructions to see how your bracket should be attached.

  1. Feed the wiring through the center of the bracket, then secure the bracket to the bolts as indicated by the instructions.
  2. Working on the floor or a table, feed the fan wires through the downrod.
  3. Secure the downrod to the fan motor and slide the canopy over the rod so that the open end faces upward.
  4. To attach the fan to the ceiling, line up the fan’s ball mount and insert it into the divot in the mounting bracket. It may be helpful to have an extra set of hands to help support the fan for this step.

Making the wires connect

  1. Measure how much length you’ll need by holding each fan wire up next to its partner in the ceiling, leaving some slack.
  2. Snip off any excess from the fan end with your wire cutters to minimize the bulk you’ll need to tuck inside the mounting bracket.
  3. Make clean connections by stripping about half an inch of the insulating vinyl from the ends of the wires you’ll be connecting.

Get Grounded

You should have a bare copper wire coming from the ceiling. This is your ground wire.The ground wire neutralizes current, preventing overloads and short circuits by tripping the breaker. You will also have a ground on the fan side. This may be a green wire coming from the fan motor or located on the mounting bracket. Alternatively, it might be a green screw inside the mounting bracket. If there’s a green wire, connect it to the house’s copper ground wire with a wire nut. If there’s only a green screw, wrap the end of the copper ground wire securely around the screw’s shaft, then tighten down the screw.

Knowing your wires

The next step depends on the type of ceiling fan you’re installing.

  1. For a standard ceiling fan without a light
    • Simply connect the two black (supply) wires with a wire nut.
    • Attach the fan’s white (neutral) wire to the house’s white wire, using a wire nut. This completes the electrical circuit.
  1. For a ceiling fan with a light
    • Combine the light’s blue wire with the two black wires using a wire nut, so that all three wires connect. If your fan and light will use a remote control, your kit will come with a receiver.
    • Attach the house wires to the receiver’s power-in side, then connect the receiver’s control side wires to the matching fan wires.
    • When you’ve finished connecting all the wires, tuck them into the mounting bracket or junction box, keeping the ground and white wires to one side and the black wires on the other side.

Putting in the finishing touches

  1. Slide the fan’s canopy over the mounting bracket and attach it securely with the included screws. It should fit flush against the ceiling and hide your wiring.
  2. Connect a blade mounting bracket to each fan blade, then insert the brackets into the rotating bezel below the motor. Loose blades may cause the fan to wobble, so be sure each one is firmly attached.
  3. If your ceiling fan has a light, follow the manual’s instructions to assemble the fixture.
  4. Attach the fixture to the fan motor and connect the wiring.
  5. Screw in the bulb, then finish by installing the glass light shade.

Controlling your new ceiling fan

Examine your fan controls. A standard fan with pull cord controls can be operated by the existing light switch, with no further steps needed. However, many fans are controlled by a rheostat-style switch that controls both ON/OFF and fan speed. To replace the existing light switch with one included in your kit, remove the wall plate and unscrew the switch housing. At this point, you may wish to take a picture of the wiring connections for reference. Detach the wiring from the old switch and attach it to the ceiling fan’s control switch according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Replace the plate, turn the power back on, and test the fan and light operation.

Installing an energy efficient ceiling fan adds both comfort and value to your home. Your fan will provide refreshing breezes, circulate warm air and save you on energy costs. This simple DIY job can be accomplished in a fairly short time, doesn’t require any specialty tools, and takes only a moderate skill level. Take your time, perform each step carefully and enjoy the satisfaction of doing it yourself.

Step 4: Assemble the rest of your ceiling fan

If your new fan includes blades that are “easy mount,” this next step shouldn’t be too difficult. Install the fan blades according to the manufacturer’s installation instructions, which typically involves screwing a blade mount into the motor housing unit and either screwing or snapping fan blades into place on the mount.

Assembling the lighting components according to the manufacturer’s instructions is also fairly straightforward. The fan will typically include a fixture for the light bulbs that attaches to the blade mount. Then, simply attach light shades, if included, and light bulbs.

Restore power to the ceiling fan at the breaker box, and switch on the unit to be sure the fan and lights are working properly.

Your new fan will help regulate the temperature in your space and provide good ventilation. The good news is installing a new ceiling fan isn’t a tough job, and you can get your space feeling cool or cozy after just a few hours of mild labor.

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