Angie's LIST Guide to
Ceiling fans

Ceiling fans can help circulate air in rooms of any size. Available in a wide variety of colors and styles, they can be selected to match any room.


ceiling fan
Ceiling fans can help regulate temperatures in any room and can be styled to match any decor. (Photo courtesy of Jason W.)

Choosing the right ceiling fan

Ceiling fans have the capability of creating a comfortable and inviting atmosphere all year long. By circulating fresh air, the space is kept at a desired temperature in both cold and warm seasons.

There are many different sizes, colors and designs available in ceiling fans that can complement any decor, but there are some factors that can be taken into consideration when purchasing a ceiling fan.

The first thing a person should consider is the size of the room. A large fan that is placed in a small space will give off an awkward appearance, while a small fan placed in a large area will not provide desired results for properly circulating the air. It is recommended that there be at least 8 feet of clearance from the floor to the blades of the ceiling fan. For most residential homes, the clearance is only 6 to 7 feet. This means that a ceiling fan that mounts flush with the ceiling should be installed in the room or living space.

Homeowners should also take into account how often they will utilize the fan for comfort. When living in hotter climates or when planning to use the ceiling fan to make the  home more efficient, it is recommended that a fan with a more powerful motor be installed.

When purchasing a ceiling fan for outdoor use or in areas that are humid and damp, consider selecting a waterproof model. The models are designed with shields that prevent the moisture from damaging the motor of the unit.

Step-by-step installation guide

Although it is generally unwise for homeowners to tinker with home electrical systems, installing a ceiling fan in place of an existing ceiling light fixture is one electrical job a competent do-it-yourselfer can reasonably tackle.

Step 1: Turn off Power
The first step of any electrical project is to turn off the electrical supply to the existing lighting fixture. This must be done at the main circuit breaker box. Ensure that the power supply is disconnected by trying the switch that operates the light fixture. If you are unsure of how to do this, call an electrician to help.

Because it involves electrical work, make sure you have some experience with wiring. If you're not comfortable handling the job, hire a licensed professional. (Photo courtesy of Clint Swigart)

Step 2:  Disconnect existing light fixture
Remove any add-ons to the fixture such as glass globes, hoods and bulbs before the actual removal of the fixture begins. This will make the fixture easier to handle during this process and decrease the likelihood of injuries or other hazards. Begin by unscrewing any hardware that connects the fixture to the ceiling. Disconnect wiring, but make note of how the electrical wires are connected to the fixture. Some people use masking tape to label the wires.

Step 3:  Assemble the ceiling fan
The manufacturer’s instructions should be included with the new assembly. These instructions should contain a list of hardware and components included in the kit. Use this list to perform an inventory to ensure that all required pieces are available.

Ceiling fan assembly guide

  1. Turn motor over so it is facing you.
  2. Each fan should have three motor wires. Unbundle these wires so they are easy to access.
  3. Place all three wires through the hanger ball or down rod assembly for the model. Set the down rod assembly into the top coupling of the motor.
  4. Locate the square head set screw, which is located on the top motor coupling of the fan. Loosen this screw so the down rod and ball assembly can be connected.
  5. Once the down rod and ball assembly are in place, the square head set screw can be tightened. Improper placement of the down rod and ball assembly can cause wobbling of the fan to occur when in use.
  6. Connect the blades to the brackets. For models that have reversible options, make sure that the brackets are connected to the side that is desired. Do not connect the blades to the ceiling fan at this point as it is easier to hang the fan without them.

Step 4:  Hang ceiling fan
To hang the ceiling fan, it’s important to make sure that the mounting bracket for the outlet box is attached securely. This can be done by using the two screws that are supplied with the outlet box. It’s recommended that the outlet box be able to hold 75 pounds of pressure in a secure manner before installing the ceiling fan. Pull the three electrical wires through the center hole of the base plate. Once this is completed you can lift the fan and place the hanger ball or down rod assembly on the hanger bracket that attaches to the outlet box. Ensure that the groove located in the ball lines up with the mounting bracket tab.

Step 5:  Wire ceiling fan
Homeowners that don’t feel comfortable with wiring electrical devices should contact a licensed electrician. Here is a proper guide to the wire connection process.

  1. Ensure that power is off to the outlet.
  2. Locate the green grounding wire for the fan and the green grounding wire that is located at the mounting bracket. Connect these two wires with the grounding conductor supply. This may be either a bare wire or a wire that has a green colored insulation surrounding it. Use a wire connector to secure them.
  3. Connect the white wire located on the fan motor with the white or neutral wire on the mounting bracket. Use a wire connector to secure them.
  4. Connect the black wire on the fan motor with the blue wire at the mounting bracket. These are the hot wires. Use a wire connector to secure them.
  5. Once all connections have been completed, the leads should be turned in an upward manner and pushed into the outlet box. The green and white lead wires should be positioned on one side of the outlet box while the black and blue lead wires should be placed on the opposite side.

Step 6:  Install canopy
The canopy is the part of the fan that mounts to the ceiling and secures the electrical wires in place. It is important to ensure that the canopy sits flush against the ceiling and is properly lined up with the screw holes in the mounting bracket. Once completed, the canopy can be screwed into place. Make sure all screws are tight and secure.

Step 7:  Attach blades and accessories
The blades for the fan can now be positioned into place and secured to the fan with the brackets. Extra accessories such as lights, globes, pulls and other decorative features can be added.

Step 8:  Turn power back on

Troubleshooting problems

Over time, homeowners may notice their ceiling fan doesn’t operate as efficiently as it did when it was first installed. The most common problem is wobbling. This is an issue that must be addressed as soon as it’s noticed, as a wobbling fan can lead to serious damage and injuries.

In most situations, the problem is caused by the blades. These blades can be off pitch, out of weight or warped. Here are some troubleshooting solutions that may help.

Off pitch blades: Using a measuring stick, measure the distance from the ceiling to one side of the blade. Do this for all blades of the fan. The measurements should be the same for each blade. If there is a blade that is off pitch, try to bend the blade until the correct distance is established. Be careful bending the blades as they can break, especially for older model ceiling fans.

Out of weight blades: To determine the weight of the blades, each must be removed and weighed separately. If the weight of a blade is off, adhesive weights will need to be applied until desired weight is achieved. Adhesive weights can be purchased at a hardware or home improvement store.

Warped blades: Warping can occur over time. To check for this problem, begin by ensuring all screws in the ceiling fan are tight and properly secured in place. The connection in the down rod and body of the fan should be checked as well.

As with most hard to reach fixtures, ceiling fans have a tendency to collect a large amount of dust that can go unnoticed for an extended length of time.

Cleaning and maintenance

As with most hard to reach fixtures, ceiling fans have a tendency to collect a large amount of dust that can go unnoticed for an extended length of time.

When the ceiling fan is in use, dust can be spread around the home causing homeowners to suffer from allergies, asthma and other respiratory ailments. The dust can also prevent the home from looking and feeling as fresh as desired.

Before cleaning your ceiling fan, make sure it is turned off and the blades are not in motion.

For hard to reach ceiling fans, use a stepladder for easier access to the blades. For heavy grease and grime, use a damp paper towel to slowly and carefully wipe off the dirt and dust.

Make sure any excessive water is rung out of the paper towel, as this can cause water damage to the blades and motor of the fan. Use a dry paper towel to wipe off any remaining dust that is left.

Use a dry cloth to clean pull-chains and accessories. A feather duster or microfiber cloth should be used on the motor housing and electrical features to ensure they're not damaged.

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