How to Install a Ceiling Fan (with Pictures)

Tools Needed for Wiring a Ceiling Fan

Having the right tools will help the project go smoothly. It also ensures you don’t get bogged down trying to use, for example, a razor knifed to strip wires. A pair of actual wire strippers will do the job more accurately and about 10x faster.

Author’s Note: Codes and Safety TipsIt’s always important to follow the local codes in your area when wiring a ceiling fan and light. Permits may be required for interior electrical work. When working with electricity, always remember to turn off the power, test the wiring with an electrical tester (or voltmeter) to ensure the power is off, secure the panel box so no one can accidentally re-engage power while you are working, and consult a professional to ensure you are doing things correctly and within the specifications of your state and local codes. Read all the instructions and safety information that comes with your ceiling fan.

We’ll go through each type of switching methodology and discuss what each entails in terms of wiring and controlling your ceiling fan/light. The four methods are:

  1. Powered ceiling fan and/or light without any switches (no switches)
  2. Switching the light and using the pull chain for the fan (Single switch)
  3. Using the same switch for switching both the light and fan (Single switch)
  4. Switching the light and fan from separate switches (Two switches)
  5. Switching the light and fan from the same switch with power at the switch (Single switch)

Video

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.

Four Fun Facts About Ceiling Fans  

Ceiling fans:  

  • Rotate slower than desk fans. 
  • Do not lower room temperatures — the motor adds a little heat to rooms. We feel cooler because of the breeze they produce. 
  • Were invented in 1882 by German Philip Diehl, who adapted the Singer sewing machine motor to create a ceiling-mounted fan. 
  • Are present in 80 million U.S. homes. 

Do you need an electrician to install a ceiling fan?

If you’re installing a ceiling fan where no previous wiring is present, that’s where the issues come into play. You’ll need the help of a licensed electrician to ensure your safety and to comply with building codes.

2. Switching the Light and Using the Pull Chain for the Fan(Single Switch)

This method and the following are the most commonly used. They only require a single light switch. Many older homes never gave any thought to wiring up a second switch. Mostly, this happened because homes didn’t have a powered ceiling fan. As a result, many homeowners must use a single switch to control the light and/or both aspects of their ceiling fans. The wiring for this type of electrical connection looks like this:

As you can see, we switched the hot line going to the light kit by inserting the switch. Many people use simple 12/2 (Romex) with a ground wire to make this loop. If you do this, wrap black electrical tape around the exposed white wire. This indicates (to you or anyone else who works on the circuit in the future) that it is indeed a “hot” wire and not a neutral line.

While we show a small strip of electrical tape, we recommend actually wrapping it around all the exposed white wire. Note that we opted to wire the fan motor directly to the power source. That lets us use the fan’s pull string to turn it on and off. This also keeps the fan usable regardless of the position of the wall switch. Make your connections for the neutral and ground wires, and you’re all set.

How Much Does It Cost to Run a Ceiling Fan?  

A ceiling fan’s running cost depends on its wattage, speed, and price of electricity.   

Let’s use our Monte Carlo Vision 84 fan, running on a low setting (6.9W) 24/7 for a whole week (168 hours). 

Using the calculation ( = kWh) we have used 1.16 kWh. 

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the United States’ average price per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in December 2020 was 12.80 cents per kWh. So 1.16 kWh x 12.80 cents = 14.85 cents to run the Monte Carlo non-stop on a low setting for a week. An 80W ceiling fan would cost $1.72 in the same situation. The overall cost depends on your energy supplier’s electricity prices. 

Prepare the hanging ball

Slip the collar cover, then the canopy over the do

Slip the collar cover, then the canopy over the downrod. Slide the ball over the downrod and push the pin through both sets of holes, then lift the ball over the pin and tighten the set screw.

Installing a Ceiling Fan

Although installing a ceiling fan will require that you work with electrical components, you can safely and easily handle it, especially if you’re replacing an old fixture (when the wiring is already there, you’ll have a lot less work to do). Just follow these simple steps. You may want to grab a friend as well, since the installation process is much easier with help.

Note: Installation steps and procedures may vary depending on the type of fan you purchase. Always consult the instruction manual.

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  1. Turn off the electricity that runs to the existing fixture.
  2. Unscrew the old fixture from the ceiling and disconnect the wires.
  3. Make sure the existing electrical box is connected to a ceiling rafter or other strong support. If you need a new electrical box, you can buy one specifically for ceiling fans.
  4. There are two different ways you can fasten the fan to the ceiling; you can mount it flush with the ceiling or hang the fan away from the ceiling using a downrod. Screw the preferred mounting device to the electrical box, making sure that it’s fastened securely and that the wires are placed through the opening.
  5. Attach the colored house wires to the corresponding colored fan wires. Most fans come with a temporary hook that lets you hang the fan from the ceiling while you connect the wires. If your fan doesn’t come with this hook, now is a great time to get the help of a friend or spouse.
  6. Attach the fan housing and motor to the mounting device using the screws provided.
  7. Turn the power back on and make sure that all of your connections are working properly. If everything seems to be working correctly, turn the power back off to finish the job.
  8. Secure the fan blades to the irons using the provided screws. Most fan blades are reversible, so make sure you attach the blades with the correct side showing.
  9. Attach the irons (with blades attached) to the fan.
  10. Turn the power back on to test that the fan is working properly.

Continue reading to find out what really happens when you turn your fan on.

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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

How to Install a Ceiling Fan

1. Remove the Existing Light Fixture

  • Make sure electricity to circuit is turned off and carefully remove the glass shade or globe from the old light fixture.
  • Unscrew the retaining nut or screws that hold the fixture to the ceiling.
  • Lower the fixture and disconnect the wires by twisting off the plastic connectors from the ends of the wires.

2. Remove Box and Cut New Hole

  • Remove the old electrical box from the ceiling. If it’s nailed to a joist, pry it free with a flat bar. If it’s suspended from a bar, you may have to take off a metal plate to unscrew the box; then pry the bar from the joists.
  • Hold a 1/2-inch-thick pancake box against the ceiling, centered on a joist, and trace around it with a pencil.
  • Cut along the line with a drywall saw.

Tip: Hold a vacuum cleaner wand next to the saw to catch the dust.

3. Attach New Electrical Box

  • Feed the electrical cable coming from the ceiling through the knockout hole in the pancake box. (Be sure there’s a cable connector attached to the knockout hole.)
  • Set the box into the hole cut through the ceiling and press it tight against the underside of the joist.
  • Attach the box to the joist with the two 1 1/2-inch No. 10 hex-head screws provided. Drive in the screws with a drill/driver equipped with a 5/16-inch nut-driver tip.
  • Wrap the cable’s bare copper wire around the grounding screw inside the box. Allow the wire end to hang down.

4. Glue on the Ceiling Medallion

  • Apply a small bead of urethane-based adhesive to the back of the ceiling medallion.
  • Pass the wires through the medallion (above).
  • Center the medallion on the pancake box and press. Fasten it with four 6d finishing nails driven into the joist.
  • Set the nailheads and fill with caulk or spackle.

5. Mount the Ceiling Plate

  • Hold the fan’s metal ceiling plate up to the pancake box and pull the wires through its center hole.
  • Attach the ceiling plate to the box with two 1 1/2-inch-long 10-32 machine screws.

Tip: If you’re going to paint the medallion, do it before installing the ceiling plate.

6. Assemble the Fan Components

  • With the fan on the floor, feed the wires coming from the motor through the center of the canopy. Set the canopy on top of the motor.
  • Next, pass the wires through the hollow down-rod pipe.
  • Thread the down-rod pipe into the top of the motor. Use a wrench to tighten the square-head locking screw on the side of the pipe.

Tip: The pipe’s threads have a factory-applied coating. Don’t remove this coating; it keeps the pipe from unscrewing.

7. Make the Wire Connections

  • Hook one side of the canopy onto the ceiling plate.
  • Using twist-on wire connectors, join the two green wires to the bare copper wire coming from the cable. (If your room is wired differently from the one shown here, consult a licensed electrician.)
  • Join the two white wires.
  • Then connect the two black wires.
  • Swing the fan up into position against the medallion and secure it with the two canopy screws.

8. Attach the Blades and Lights

  • Attach each fan blade to a blade iron (the bracket that holds the blade to the fan). Then, fasten the blade irons to the motor with the screws provided.
  • Plug the fan’s light-fixture housing into the wire hanging from the underside of the fan’s motor.
  • Install the shades and lightbulbs.
  • Screw the plastic holder for the remote control to the wall beside the wall switch.

Ceiling Fan Care

Dust can damage a ceiling fan’s moving parts if the fan isn’t cleaned regularly.

The easiest way to clean your fan is to simply use dusting spray and a cloth. The dust may fall onto the furniture, so you may want to put down a drop cloth or sheet before starting.

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You should do this every week or two to ensure that your fan continues to work properly. Every few months, you can also unscrew the fan’s lighting globes and wash them in soapy water.

Regularly check your ceiling fan to ensure that all screws and bolts are tight. Over time, these tend to loosen up and can cause the fan to wobble or make noises. Also, lubricate your fan once a year to make sure that all of the parts are well oiled and will work together smoothly.

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Assemble the fan according to the manufacturer’s instructions

Ceiling fans are heavy, so they require support while you attach the wires. Most models provide a way for you to suspend them below the ceiling box while you attach the wires. If yours doesn’t, get a helper to support the fan assembly while you attach the wires.

Wiring schemes differ slightly from fan to fan, depending on whether they’re equipped with a light or speed control. The basic installation of a ceiling fan is no different from that of a standard light fixture. Use wire nuts to attach the fan’s black or colored wire and white wire to matching wires in the ceiling box. If the wiring has a green ground wire, attach it to the green or bare wire in the box.

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