How to Replace a Ceiling Fan?

Are you looking to replace a dingy old ceiling fan with something more modern and quieter, and maybe even with more features? You don’t need an electrician. Replacing a ceiling fan is a fairly simple job, even if you’re a relative novice at doing your own home repairs. Here’s what you need to do.

Go to the Breaker Box

The very first thing you need to do before you do any work on any of the wirings in your home is to go to the breaker box and turn off the power to that circuit at the breaker. If you’re lucky, and the person who installed your service panel was diligent, then the breakers should be labeled as to which circuits they control. If they’re not, you’re going to have to do some investigative work to determine which breakers control which circuits in your house. There should be labels next to the breaker switches, saying things like “living room” or “kitchen”.

Once you’ve powered the circuit off, you’ll be working on, you need to go to that room and confirm that the power is off. Try flipping the light switch or using a voltage tester to ensure there’s no voltage going to the outlets on the circuit.

Take Apart and Take Down the Old Fan

Removing an old light fixture is pretty simple – just remove the light shades and look for the screws that hold the base of the fixture to the junction box. Undo them and pull the fixture down to reveal the wiring, then pull off the wire nuts and untwist the connected ends of the wiring.

Taking down an older fan is a little more complicated because you have to disassemble it into pieces. At least, it’s much easier to take down an older fan if you do it piece by piece. Remove the fan blades, then take off the light bulbs and shades. Find the screws that fasten the light kit to the fan’s motor and remove the light kit, then disconnect the light kit wiring.

Once the blades and light kit are removed, you can unfasten the screws holding the canopy in place and pull it down to reveal the connection of the downrod to the mounting plate or bracket. Many fans use a ball-and-socket to connect the downrod to the mounting plate, so you can disconnect the wiring, take hold of the fan motor body, and slide the ball at the top of the downrod out of the socket in the mounting bracket.

Examine the Fan Brace and Junction Box

You will need to make sure your new fan is securely anchored to either a ceiling joist or to a fan bracket set between the joists. You will also need to be sure that the junction box you’re attaching your new fan to is rated for use with ceiling fans. Junction boxes rated for use with light fixtures aren’t sturdy enough to bear up under the weight of a ceiling fan. You need a fan-rated, pancake electrical box in your ceiling. Examine the Fan Brace and Junction Box

If you’re not replacing a ceiling fan, or your old fan wasn’t securely anchored in the ceiling, you will need to add a fan bracket and attach a fan-rated electrical box to it through the ceiling hole. If you can only access the ceiling from below, you will need an expanding metal brace that you can insert through the gap and then expand until the spikes on either end bite securely into the joists on either side, anchoring it. If you can access the ceiling from above, another option is to cut a length of two-by-four to fit in an unused space and then screw it in place with 1.5–inch screws. A third option is to move your fixture to one side or the other until it’s placed below a ceiling joist, but this might mean your fan is off-center in the room and it could look weird. If you go this route, you will need to cut a new hole in the ceiling using a hole saw and then cover the old hole by installing a ceiling medallion. Attach your new electrical box directly to the fan brace or, if you’re anchoring your fan to a joist, to the joist.

Secure the Mounting Plate or Bracket

With the brace and fan-rated electrical box in place, it’s time to start installing your new fan. Attach the fan’s mounting plate or bracket to the electrical box in your ceiling. If you’re not sure how to do this, follow your fan’s instructions.

Piece Together the Fan Body

Before you attempt to hang the fan motor, put all the pieces together on the floor. If you’re installing your ceiling fan with a downrod, you’ll need to fasten the downrod to the fan body using the cotter or clevis pins provided, then you’ll need to slide the canopy over the top of the downrod. In the case of a flush-mount fan, pull the wires through the top of the enclosure, through the trim ring if your fan has one, and under the canopy.

Hook Up the Wiring

Get up on your ladder and hang your fan’s motor body from the mounting bracket so you can let go of it to hook up the wiring. There might be a special hook on the mounting plate so you can hang your fan motor body for this purpose, and then swing it up into place when the wiring work is done.

You should have a black, white, and green or bare wire coming out of your fan and the same wires coming out of your ceiling. The black wire is hot, the white wire is neutral, and the green or bare wire is the ground. Connect the wires coming out of the fan motor to the corresponding wires in the ceiling – so black connects to black and so forth. Roll the bare ends of the wires together and clip wire nuts over the connections.

Once you have the wiring in place, you can stuff the wires back up into the junction box, swing the motor body into place, and secure it to the mounting bracket according to your fan’s instructions. Then you can secure the metal canopy that goes over the mounting plate. You shouldn’t need to connect your new fan to the wall switch – if your old fan or light fixture was connected to the wall switch, your new one should be. You can also buy ceiling fans with wireless remotes and wireless wall controls for areas where there is no wall switch or for when you want more complicated wall controls than simply “off” and “on.”

Attach the Light Kit and Blades

Attaching the light kit should be pretty straightforward – you will either need to wire it up yourself, or it will plug into the motor body. Add the light shades and bulbs. Attach the blade brackets to the blades and then attach the blades to the motor housing, making sure they’re all equidistant to the floor.

Now you can restore power and try out your new fan. If your fan wobbles, you probably need to balance it. Once your fan is properly balanced, you can enjoy years of lower energy bills and more comfortable home.

Thank you for reading!

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