Steps for Installing a Ceiling Fan

Bedroom ceiling fans make sleeping comfortable on all but the hottest nights. They also cost much less to operate than air conditioning.

Before you begin, check local electrical code requirements. If you have any doubt about your ability to wire the fan, hire a licensed electrician to do the job.

Ceiling fans may seem like a good idea for rooms with 8-foot ceilings, and they are often the cheapest alternatives. But if the fan blades measure less than 10 inches from the ceiling, the fan will barely create a breeze even at high speed. Purchase a model with a down pipe. Be sure the fan has a light kit, too.

Choose a Fan and Locate It

A dealer can help you select a fan properly sized for your room. Decide whether you want one with a light fixture, as well. Ideally, the fan will be centered in the room.

Wherever you install the fan, the lowest edge of its blades must be at least 7 feet above the floor, and the blade tips must be at least 24 inches away from any wall. Do not hang a fan below, next to, or between air ducts, beams, or other obstructions that can interfere with its air flow.

If you’re not replacing a light, then locate a point between ceiling joists close to the center of the ceiling. Find this point and make a cutout in the ceiling slightly larger than the size of the electrical box.

Prepare the Electrical Box

If the new fan/light will replace a ceiling light fixture, remove the fixture and examine the electrical box. It must be firmly attached and not wiggle easily when you grab it. The type of box matters less than whether it will be able to withstand years of vibrating and to bear the weight of the fan. Making the box secure may be the most difficult part of your job.

If you have access from an unfinished attic space above, work from there to minimize damage to your ceiling. Reinforce the existing box by cutting a 2×4 to fit snugly between joists and attaching it with screws tight against the top of the box. Then drive screws through the box and into the 2×4. Or buy a new electrical box equipped with a brace and attach the brace to the joists. If you have any doubts, buy a UL-approved box designed for use with a ceiling fan.

If you have no access from above and need to strengthen the box, purchase a special brace designed for the purpose. You will have to cut a hole in the ceiling to install it. Patch and paint the ceiling before installing the fan.

If the ceiling box already is controlled by a wall switch, you will have no major electrical work to do. If you have a ceiling fixture controlled by a pull chain, you can leave it or run electrical cable to the wall and install a switch. If you need a new box, consult with or hire an electrician.

Attach the Bracket

Turn off the power. Install the socket hanger or hanger bracket for the fan according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Some fans call for the hanger to be screwed to the double cars of the box with the mounting screws, locknuts, and washers provided. Other fans are attached to the framing, not the box.

Most fans have a hook arrangement that allows you to hang the fan motor temporarily in place while you wire it.

Wire the Fan

If you have old wiring in the ceiling box, inspect it carefully for damage. Cover any cracked or frayed insulation completely with electrician’s tape. If the wiring going into the box is damaged, consult with an electrician to remedy this dangerous situation. Strip the tips of the wires.

For new wiring, make sure that the cable is secured with a cable clamp and that 8 inches or so stick out. Strip the cable sheathing to within 1 inch or so of the box. Strip the tips of the wires.

Connecting the wires is usually simple. If you have a light kit, you will probably twist the fan’s blue wire with its black wire and attach that to the house’s black wire. Hook white to white and ground to ground. Use twist-type connectors for all the connections.

Because fans vibrate, parts of the wiring inside a fan box sometimes make noise by vibrating against the box or each other. Use electrical tape to tie the wiring tightly and out of the way.

Install Canopy and Blades

Screw the fan body and the canopy in place according to the manufacturer’s directions. Attaching the fan blades will take some time. Attach the blade irons to the fan blades then to the motor. Install the light kit, too, if it is not already attached to the fan motor.

If the fan wobbles, first check that all the screws are tight. Then make sure it is hanging straight down; use a small level to check the down rod for plumb. Then take the blades down and see whether one is warped. If so, take back the entire set and have them replaced. If one of the blade irons is twisted, do the same. If the fan motor wobbles when it is running without blades attached, it is defective and should be replaced.

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