Installing a new ceiling fan is a cheap way to save on energy costs all year without compromising on comfort. In the summer, ceiling fans cool down the house by creating a breeze. In the winter, they help circulate the heated air to warm the whole room evenly.
Putting in a ceiling fan is a win-win for your comfort levels and your budget – and it’s a pretty simple DIY project for homeowners. Plan on giving yourself a few hours (depending on the type of fan and your experience level with lighting DIYs), and grab a friend that can help you hold things in place while you work.
If you’re buying a ceiling fan new, it should come with thorough installation instructions. We always recommend following those instructions exactly to be sure that your fan is installed safely and properly. If you’re installing a secondhand fan, you may be able to find the installation guide online by searching with the model number on the fan. Either way, we’ll walk you through the basic steps here so that you can prepare.
Before you break out your tool belt, make sure you have a good plan in place. There’s nothing worse than being in the middle of a project and realizing you don’t have everything you need to complete the task.
Before you take on a ceiling fan installation project, make sure you have all the tools you need so you don’t have to rush off to your local hardware store for a last-minute purchase. To install a ceiling fan you’ll need to have a:
- Voltage Tester
- Measuring Tape
- Ceiling Fan-Rated Junction Box
- Fan Brace
- Light Bulbs
- Globes/Shades if they aren’t included
- An extra-long downrod if you’re installing on a sloped ceiling
- Ceiling Fan and Kit
Choosing the Right Fan Size
Measure the room you’re working in before you start. Not all fans are created equal, so pick one that will fit. Use the following guidelines to help.
- For rooms smaller than 75 square feet (like bathrooms), pick a fan with blade spans of less than 36 inches.
- Blade spans between 36 and 42 inches are ideal for rooms up to 144 square feet.
- A 44-inch span is perfect for rooms up to 225 square feet, like a dining room.
- For rooms that are 225 square feet or larger (a large living room, for example), you’ll need a fan with a 50 to 54-inch blade span.
- The more space between the ceiling and the fan, the better! The ideal ceiling fan height is 8-9 feet above the ground.
- If your ceiling is less than 8 feet, you’ll most likely need to install a flush-mount fan (no downrod).
- High pitched ceilings typically require you to buy an extra-long downrod (so that the blades won’t hit the sloped ceiling), so check your ceiling height and angle before choosing your downrod.
Pro Tip: Once your fan is installed, the tips of the blades should be at least 30 inches from the walls, and the bottom edges of the blades should be at least 7 feet above the floor.
Other Important Tips
- Ceiling fans are heavy! They need to be anchored properly to an electric ceiling box designed to hold the weight of the fan. Inspect the electrical box to ensure it’s fan-rated. There should be an inscription on the box to indicate this. If it’s not, you’ll also need to purchase a fan box before you get started.
- Check to make sure the light switch you’re using is wired appropriately for the fan. If it isn’t, you may need to call a professional to get the job done.
- Check the ceiling joists for any wiring or plumbing pipes that may be in the way.
- If you’re adding a new fan where one didn’t exist, check local building codes to determine if you need a permit.
- Always check your installation guide for any additional requirements that are specific to your fan. For some expert help choosing the perfect fan for your space, give us a visit or a call and we’d be happy to help.
Now that you’re ready to begin, head out to your circuit breaker and turn the power off for the room where you’ll be installing your fan. Also, make sure all of the wall switches in the room are safely in the “off” position. Do not rely on a wall switch alone to protect you from electrical shock! Always use a voltage tester to be sure the power is off before handling wires.
Pro Tip: Place some electrical tape over the switches you’ve turned off on the circuit breaker. This will prevent anyone from switching it back on while you’re working.
3. Remove Your Old Fixture
Let’s get started! First, you’ll need to take down the existing fixture. Most fixtures have easy-to-find attachment points, like screws or twist-off caps. Remove accessories like light bulbs, shades to get down to the base of your fixture, then unscrew the base from the ceiling.
If you’re removing an existing ceiling fan, remove the light bulbs and globes first. Then, take down the light kit (if needed – some fans have them, some don’t). Unscrew and remove the fan blades next. At this point, you may need to enlist a helper as the full weight of the fan base and motor can be heavy. Pull off the canopy (metal cover at the base of the fan). The last step is to remove the mounting bracket with a screwdriver!
Once you have the base of your fixture dropped away from the ceiling, unscrew the wire nuts connecting it to the electrical box. Be sure to test the wires with your voltage tester first!
4. Install a Fan Box
Before you start, check your existing electrical box. If it isn’t rated to support the weight of your fan, you’ll need to install a new one. To see if your existing box is rated to hold a fan, just take a look at the label! If you can’t find a label, err on the side of caution and get a new one.
You’ll have to do a little bit of homework here to figure out what will work best for your project. Fan boxes are easiest to install if you have open access, like in the attic or an unfinished ceiling. If you won’t have easy access you may need to widen your drywall hole a little, but you can usually find a brace that will slip through the existing hole.
Take a look at your rafters to determine the best way to install your fan box. Fan boxes can be attached directly to the rafter with a side bracket. If your new fan won’t be right next to a rafter, look for a brace that will span the space between two rafters. These braces can be a little trickier to install through a small hole in the ceiling, but they’ll give you a lot more breathing room when it comes to getting your fan box in the right place.
5. Install the Mounting Bracket
To secure the mounting bracket to the fan box, start by threading the wires through the mounting bracket. If the fan has a slide-on bracket, leave the bolts on the junction box, slide the bracket over the mounting hardware, and tighten the screws. For fans without a slide-on bracket, place the bracket over the mounting bolts that poke through the bracket. Then, secure it using the provided nuts. If your fan is a flush mount, pull the wiring through the canopy (the part that covers the wiring/mount bracket) and skip to step 7.
6. Install the Downrod
To set the downrod, you’ll want to find a flat work surface. Slip the canopy onto the downrod and pull the primary wires through the hollow downrod. Then, connect the downrod to the fan base. With the downrod and base assembled, attach the other end of the downrod to the mounting bracket.
7. Wire the Fan
Next, it’s time to wire! Hang the downrod – or canopy, if you’re installing a flush mount fan – on the hook on the mounting bracket. If there isn’t a good place to hang it, phone a friend to hold the fan up for you to free up your hands while you connect the wires.
Before you start, check to make sure all your wiring (and the wire nuts) will fit in the ceiling. Use your wire cutters to trim down any wires that won’t. This will also keep them from vibrating against the canopy when the fan is on. Use wire strippers to expose the copper of the wires on the new ends.
Connect the corresponding wires using the provided wire nuts. Your installation guide will have a diagram to follow, but, generally speaking, the fan’s green wire connects to the ground wire, the fan’s black motor wire connects to the black supply wire, and the fan’s white wire connects to the white (or neutral) supply wire.
Double-check your work against the diagram, then gently push the wires into the junction box. Lift the fan into position, then clip it to the mounting bracket and secure the screws.
Pro Tip: Some fans come with additional wires for extra features, like having a separate switch for the light and fan. If your switches or wires don’t match the diagram, you might need to check in with an electrician or a lighting specialist at our showroom to help you get things set up correctly.
8. Blades and Bulbs
Now it’s time to install the fan blades. Every fan is a little bit different – but most fans will have an arm or bracket that you’ll need to attach to the blade and then to the base using a screwdriver. Some fans have quick-install blades that speed up the process using keyhole slots that slip over the fan’s mounting screws and lock into place with a little tug.
Some fans have reversible blades – so make sure you’re checking each time that you have the correct side pointed down!
By now, you should be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel – so let’s install the bulbs! For fans with a light kit, refer to your guide to ensure everything goes in place correctly. Generally, you’ll just need to install the shades, globes, or light cover. If your fan did not come with bulbs, make sure the bulbs you install have the correct base type and wattage
If your fan came with a remote, don’t forget to install the remote control holder!
9. Lights… Fan… Action!
Last, but not least, it’s time to test out your new ceiling fan! Go back to your circuit breaker and turn the power back on. Try switching your fan and lights on and off using the light switch or remote control. Test all of the speed settings to make sure your fan is secured properly and doesn’t wobble or rattle.
Most of the time, installing a ceiling fan is a pretty straightforward DIY project. Occasionally, an odd issue can crop up due to things like old wiring. If you run into any trouble, be sure to give us a call right away, or call an electrician that can help you troubleshoot the issue.
Congratulations DIY master! Now that you’ve successfully installed your new ceiling fan, get ready for a fresh breeze to blow your way–and some savings too. With all that extra cash blowing around, come visit us and we’ll help get you started on your next project.
DISCLAIMER: Be sure to follow all the manufacturer’s installation instructions and take all recommended safety precautions. Check before installing to see if you need a permit and be sure all building and electrical codes are observed. If you have any questions or are unsure about installing the fan yourself, contact a licensed electrician or Shoals Lighting for more help.