Installing a Ceiling Fan

Q: I'd like to install a ceiling fan, but I'm afraid the project is a bit over my head. How difficult is this, and can a novice install a fan?

A: You can install your own ceiling fan, but there are a couple of things you need to be comfortable with. First, you must be comfortable working on a ladder. And second, you must be willing to take all the precautions necessary to work safely with electricity. If you're up for those two things, here's how to proceed:

Safety alert: Remember the first ladder-safety basic: work with a partner. Ditto for anytime you're working with electricity. Should anything happen to you, you'll need someone else present to seek medical attention.


  • Ladder
  • Work partner
  • Ceiling-fan kit
  • Screwdrivers
  • Support brace

  1. Turn off the electricity.

    Safety alert: Always turn off the breaker before working with any electricity within your house. Make sure you attach a bold note to the breaker box that says, "Do not touch. I'm working with the electricity."

  2. Read through the manufacturer's instructions and assemble all the tools you'll need.

  3. Put up a support brace between the ceiling joists where you want the fan, because fans can weigh up to 50 pounds. If your ceiling is covered with drywall, you'll need to access the joists through the attic to attach the support brace. If you're attaching the fan where a light has already been, that's all you need to do. But if it's a new area, you'll then need to cut a piece of drywall the size of your electrical box from the ceiling, so that you attach an electrical box to house the fan.

  4. After taking the old light off, add the ceiling-fan bracket, simply screwing it into the electrical box with a couple of screws (figure A).

  5. Identify the wiring that is coming out of the electrical box. In this case, I'm working with a bare copper ground wire, the black "hot" wire and the white neutral wire. They will supply electricity to the fan. There's also a green ground wire that goes to the fan itself.

  6. Put the fan motor in by slipping the swivel ball into the bracket (figure B).

  7. Match the wires from the electrical box to the wires from the ceiling fan, following the manufacturer's instructions and twisting them. Fasten the ends together with wire nuts (figure C).

    Working smarter: Bring extra wire nuts when you go up on the ladder, so you won't have to come back down to get more if you drop one.

  8. Stuff the wires back into the electrical box, and attach the cover (figure D). Slip the cover's keyhole slots over the screws to keep the cover in place. Then finish attaching the screws, and slip the trim ring over the screws to cover them up.

  9. Attach each of the fan blades to its bracket.

    Working smarter: Save time by assembling the fan blades before you install the fan.

  10. Attach the fan blade brackets into the appropriate notches on the fan motor, using screws and a screwdriver (figure E).

  11. Attach the light by clicking the light connector to the corresponding fan connector, and then screwing the fixture to the fan (figure F). Last, snap the dome over the light, screwing it in place if necessary.

More questions:

Q: I can never remember which direction my fan blades should run in the summer compared to the winter. Set me straight.

A : Here's the theory: In the winter, you want the blades to spin counterclockwise, to draw the warm air up from the floor and then circulate it back down to the room. In the summertime, you want the blades to circulate clockwise, so that you're creating a breeze.

Q: Do most ceiling fans come with remotes, and are there any benefits?

A: The benefit is that you can be lazy. If you have a vaulted ceiling that you truly can't reach, you might want one. But they are expensive, anywhere from $40 to $100, so take that into consideration.

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You can install your own ceiling fan with a friend and some simple tools, but remember: safety first.

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Figure A

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Figure B

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Figure C

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Figure D

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Figure E

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Figure F

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