How to install a fan

Angie's How To Install a Ceiling Fan

Date Published: March 27, 2015

Time: 4 Hours

A ceiling fan adds both utility and class to a new room, by adding some air circulation and a pleasing aesthetic.

The process of installing a ceiling fan may seem simple, but it includes some complex wiring work. So this task best suits experienced electrical DIYers. If you know your black wire from your green, you shouldn’t have too much trouble, but if you’re new to electrical work, you should leave this job to the experts and hire a highly rated electrician for the job.

Sammie Bracken, owner of Mr. Electric in Plainfield, Indiana, explains the details.

Photos by Eldon Lindsay

Tools & Materials Needed 
Fan kit
Fan support box
Drywall tools
Switches and wiring, depending on your specific needs
electric breaker box
1Shut off the power at the breaker box

This is your most important step. “You’re dealing with ladders and live power, and that’s a bad combination and an easy way to get seriously hurt,” Bracken says. “Make sure you double-test that it’s off.”

stud finder
2Select the mounting point

If you need to create a new hole, you can either go into the attic and cut down from above, or use a stud finder to determine the location of roof trusses.

If you’re replacing an existing light fixture with a ceiling fan, you still need to replace the box with one rated for a fan. Light fixtures don’t have enough strength to hold up a fan. “You want a box that’s rated to hold up whatever the weight of the fan is,” Bracken says. “Most of the time, a standard fan box will cover most of the bases, but double check the fan instructions and the box to make sure it has enough structural support.”

Also, read the directions to make sure you know important information about your box and kit. “People make that mistake all the time!” Bracken says. “Make sure all the pieces are there and that your kit has everything it needs.”

Ceiling fan installation
3Mount the box

Connecting directly to a roof joist creates the most secure mount, but other options offer the ability to place it in between joists. “If you want it in the center of the room, but the closest joists to the center are 10 inches to the left and right, you can use an extendable brace,” Bracken says. “You twist it like a wrench and it expands and attaches itself to the trusses. The box itself hangs down from that bracket.”

wiring a light switch
4Run the wiring and switches

This is where it gets really tricky if you don’t have electrical experience. If wiring already exists at your mounting point, you already have power directly to the box, but otherwise you have to run new wiring.
You also need to install a switch to control the fan and lights. You can choose from a wide variety of options, including a remote control, standard wall switches and dimmer sliders.

ceiling fan installation
5Mount the bracket in the box

“Make sure it’s nice and tight and snug,” Bracken says. This helps balance the fan and prevents wobbling.

ceiling fan installation
6Assemble the fan itself

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, complete the fan assembly, connect it to the bracket, make the remaining electrical connections, put on the canopy and tighten it down. “If you have a separate lighting kit, this is the point where you want to install it,” Bracken says.

ceiling fan installation cleanup
7Test the unit and clean up

If all goes well, you’ll have a fully functioning ceiling fan and lights.

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