A ceiling fan is a great way to add a gentle breeze to a room, while also helping to redistribute heat in the winter and maximize the air conditioning in the summer. While many modern homes have ceiling fans and overhead wiring in key locations like bathrooms and dining rooms, not all homes come set up with ceiling fans or the necessary wiring to power one.
Is It Hard To Install A Ceiling Fan?
The good news is that installing a ceiling fan is somewhat easy. So, long as you have the skills, the right tools, and proper access to the attic or crawlspace above the ceiling where you want to install the fan. It’s when there is no wiring present that the job becomes a tad bit more complicated.
You also have to take into account how the ceiling fan will be anchored to the ceiling. Even if there is an existing light fixture, chances are the electrical box connecting it isn’t robust enough to safely hold the sizable weight of a ceiling fan.
Do I Need Special Hardware To Mount A Ceiling Fan?
The standard electrical box used to support most light fixtures typically isn’t strong enough to support the weight of a ceiling fan or the forces applied by running a ceiling fan on high. So, if you are replacing an older light with a ceiling fan or installing a ceiling fan in a place where there is no existing wiring, you will need to also install a rated hanger and box between the ceiling joists or screw a fan-rated “Pancake” Box directly into one of the existing ceiling joists.
Thankfully, the cost of these hardware components is relatively low. Though it’s definitely something you need to factor into the process, and may also require a trip up into the attic to install it properly.
Consider Placement, Size & Speed
If you take a tour through the electrical department of just about any box hardware store, you will see a plethora of ceiling fans to suit every size and scale. Though this is just as much about esthetics as it is about functionality and room size.
Ceiling Fan Size
Fortunately, there is a formula you can use to help dial in the size and speed of the fan that will best work in the size of the room you intend to install it in. It starts by defining the “Occupied Space” or square footage of the room in question. You then divide that number by 4, which will give you the approximate blade span in inches. This will help you narrow down the fan size that you need.
If you don’t want to both with the math, or you want to base your choices on the type of relative room size, you can use this basic guide.
A 36-inch blade span is better for rooms of 75 square feet or less.
A 36 to 42-inch blade span is better for rooms of 225 square feet or less.
A 50 to 54-inch blade span is better for rooms larger than 225 square feet.
Ceiling Fan Speed & Performance
It’s also important to note the rated cubic feet of air that a fan can move. This is often described as CFM. In the case of a ceiling fan with a 52-inch blade span, you want a minimum CFM of 2,000. When it comes to CFM you are also getting an insight into the power and overall longevity of the electric ceiling fan motor. So, a higher CFM will likely translate to greater breeze production as well as a likely longer lifespan.
Ceiling Fan Placement
Where the ceiling fan is hung in a room will have a significant impact on its performance, as the wind it generates will effectively refract off the wall and other surfaces in the room. For optimal performance, a ceiling fan should be hung at least 1.5 feet or more from the nearest wall sloped ceiling. This is assuming a room with a ceiling height of 7- to 10-feet from the floor.
How To Install A Ceiling Fan
Once you’ve determined the size and type of ceiling fan you want to install, and where you want to install it in the room, you can get into the nuts and bolts details of wiring it as well as installing all the necessary mounting hardware.
Step 1: Go To The Circuit Panel & Turn Off The Breaker
This important safety step ensures that no electricity will be delivered to the circuit that will control the ceiling fan.
Step 2: Begin Installing The Electrical Box
With the optimum position determined, you can start the process of installing the electrical box or the pancake plate. Ideally, you want a spot with at least one support joist to support the heavy-duty electrical box or screw the pancake plate into.
Step 3: Run Wiring to The Ceiling Fan
This is where attic access comes in handy, as you will need to run the wiring from the switch to the ceiling fan’s location. If you don’t have access to the space above the ceiling you can use fish tape to pull the new wiring through the walls and ceiling to the fan location.
Step 4: Securely Mount The New Ceiling Fan
Once the wiring is installed, you should assemble the new ceiling fan based on the manufacturer’s instructions. and mounted based on the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure that all the wiring connections are secure by either soldering them or using commercial-grade wiring nuts.
Step 5: Turn The Power Back On
Have someone else go to the circuit panel and flip the circuit breaker back into the “On” position. Watch for any obvious signs of sparking, smoking, or other electrical faults. At that point, you can turn on the switch and test the fan to make sure it’s working properly.
Is It Legal To Wiring My Own Ceiling Fan
Most municipal codes allow homeowners to legally handle some basic wiring. Though if the wiring job is not up to code, it could void insurance coverage if there is a fire due to your faulty wiring. If you go to sell the house a few years down the line and an inspection is ordered, wiring that is not up to code can delay the real estate process.