How to Install a Ceiling Fan

If you use it strategically, a ceiling fan is a home upgrade that pays for itself. It creates a cooling sensation during warm weather that allows you to set the thermostat a few degrees higher, and if you reverse the direction, it recirculates warm air so you can set the thermostat a little lower in the winter.

You can pick up a ceiling fan kit at most hardware stores, and if you’re comfortable performing all of the installation steps, you could save yourself a chunk of change by installing it yourself. But before you make that decision, it’s time for a gut check.

Are You Up for the Job?

While ceiling fan installation is not overly complicated, it’s a job that typically involves the following:

  • Working with electrical wiring and observing electrical safety
  • Cutting holes in drywall
  • Using an electric drill
  • Standing on a ladder while supporting the full weight of the fan

You should also keep in mind that some installations are easier than others. If you’re replacing an existing ceiling fan or installing one in place of a light fixture, there should be no need for rewiring or cutting new holes in walls. Attic access to the installation site can also make the job much easier. Factors that make a job harder include lack of attic access, high or vaulted ceilings and lack of existing wiring.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Professional to Install a Ceiling Fan?

If you’re not comfortable tackling this task yourself, it’s a quick job for professional installers. How much does it cost? Labor for quick, simple jobs could cost $100 or less, and most installations can be done for less than $300.

Improper installation could result in the fan becoming unstable and falling, and faulty wiring could pose a fire risk. When in doubt, go with a pro.

Safety Tips for Installing a Ceiling Fan

Before installing a ceiling fan, you must shut off the circuit breakers supplying power to any fixtures or outlets you’ll be working with.

You should also fully unpack your fan kit and read the included installation guide. Verify that all the parts are included, and gather the other tools you’ll need, which may include:

  • Electric drill
  • Pliers
  • Crescent wrench
  • Wire cutters
  • Screwdriver
  • Ladder
  • Drywall saw
  • Safety goggles

Step 1: Choose  the Location & How to Supply Power  

The two big questions you must answer before installing a ceiling fan are where you want to install it and how you’ll be supplying power to that location.

Existing Fans

If you’re replacing an existing fan or light fixture, you’ll want to carefully disassemble the fixture, beginning with light bulbs and decorative glass. Remove the screws holding the light fixture to the electrical box, then disconnect the plastic wiring connectors to remove the fixture completely.

If you’re lucky, the electrical box will be installed directly to a ceiling joist. That means you’ll be able to bracket your fan directly to the joist to give it the support it needs. If the electrical box is installed between two joists, you’ll need to install a support bar that is rated for fan support.

New Fan Installations

When installing a fan where no fixture exists, you have the same options for structural support: either bracket the fan directly to a ceiling joist or install a support bar between joists. The greater challenge will be choosing the best solution for supplying power, which is usually the method that requires the least amount of drywall cutting.

With attic access to the installation site, homeowners who are experienced with electrical rewiring can route new wiring from any electrical access point in the attic. If there is no such access, wiring should be routed from the nearest outlet or switch, which is usually a wall switch in the room where the fan is being installed. In addition to the rewiring, this will often require one or more small holes to be cut in the drywall so that the wiring can be routed around corners.

Step 2: Install an Rated Electrical Box

Ceiling fans must be installed with electrical boxes that are clearly stamped as being rated for fan support. If you’re installing a ceiling fan in place of a small light fixture, you’ll probably need to replace the electrical box with one built to handle fan vibrations. Remove the ground wire from the existing box, then remove the box itself from its joist or support bar.

Your new fan-rated electrical box can be screwed directly to the joist if one is centered over your installation site. If you’re installing between two joists, you’ll need to use a support bar that is rated for fan support. Some support bars attach directly to the joists with screws, but you’ll need attic access to install them. Otherwise, expandable support bars use tension to stay in place and can be installed from the room below.

With the electrical box securely in place, reattach the ground wire before proceeding.

Step 3: Assemble the Fan

Once you have your fan-rated electrical box securely in place and electrical access to the installation point, it’s a simple step-by-step assembly job. The best guide from this point on is the installation booklet included with the fan. But the basic steps will be as follows:

  1. Secure the fan mounting bracket to the electrical box with machine screws, feeding the electrical wiring through the holes in the bracket.
  2. Install the decorative ceiling plate over the mounting bracket. This process varies by model, and may involve the use of screws, brackets, adhesive or some combination to attach the plate.
  3. Assemble the fan motor and canopy per manufacturer instructions.
  4. Attach the fan to the mounting bracket before connecting the wiring, if applicable. Some fan kits are designed to hold the fan in place as you connect the wiring, but if your kit isn’t designed this way, you’ll need a partner to hold the fan in place while you make this connection.
  5. Use plastic wiring connectors to connect the fan’s wiring to your home wiring per manufacturer instructions.
  6. Secure the wiring inside the electrical box, install the fan securely to the mounting bracket and screw the decorative canopy into place.
  7. Install the fan blades and light kit, if applicable, per the manufacturer instructions.

As with most home improvement projects that involve electrical wiring and cutting holes in walls, the best course of action depends on the DIY abilities of the homeowner. Professional installation offers peace of mind and quality assurance, albeit at a price. And doing it yourself can save you money while giving you the satisfaction of a job well done.

Whether you call in the pros or go it alone, remember to turn your new ceiling fan off when the room is empty! Fans only cool people, not air.

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