How to Size and Install a Ceiling Fan
A step-by-step guide to help you choose the right ceiling fan for your space and put it into place
When the ceiling fan was first invented in the late 19th century, it was mainly used in city meat markets to keep away airborne pests. Today, most ceiling fans are installed with a considerably different purpose—to help homeowners cool themselves down at a fraction of the cost of air conditioning, or simply to add an accent to their home decor.
Whatever your motivation for bringing a ceiling fan into your home, it’s important to choose a model that’s right for your space and install it correctly. The installation process isn’t difficult if you’re replacing an old light fixture with the fan, but if wires have to be fished and circuits added, or the ceiling is higher than 10 feet, you may want to enlist the help of an electrician.
Optimal sizing, speed, and placement
Use this formula to find the best fan size for a room’s occupied space (the part of the room where people gather the most): Occupied space (in square feet) divided by 4 equals the blade span (in inches). Step blade span down a bit for rooms with low ceilings, and go wider if the ceilings are high.
Another good rule of thumb is to remember that blade spans of less than 36 inches are ideal for spaces smaller than 75 square feet, such as baths and breakfast nooks. Spans of 36 to 42 inches work in rooms of up to 225 square feet, like a dining room. Larger living rooms and bedrooms can handle 50- to 54-inch blades.
Make sure that the cubic feet of air that the fan moves per minute (cfm), measured at high speed, is near the top of its class. Some 52-inch fans, for instance, rate as low as 2,050 cfm, while others reach 7,800. High-cfm fans not only provide a better breeze, they usually have robust motors that will last longer and run more quietly.
For optimal performance, the fan should be hung at least 1 1/2 feet from the wall or a sloped ceiling, 7- to 10-feet from the floor, and at least 8 inches from the ceiling. Steer clear of hanging the fan too close to any lights, as rotating blades under a bulb will create an annoying flicker.
Installing the ceiling fan
Replacing an old light fixture with a new ceiling fan is a relatively simple procedure. The advantage of this approach is that you don't have to run new wiring—the fan connects to the existing cable from the old light. Just remember that electrical boxes used for ceiling lights aren't strong enough to hold a ceiling fan, so you have to replace the existing box with a heavy-duty one that’s designed for ceiling fans.
Step 1: Remove the existing light fixture
First, make sure the electricity to the circuit is turned off.
Carefully remove the glass shade or globe from the old light fixture, and unscrew the retaining nut or screws that hold the fixture to the ceiling. Lower the fixture and disconnect the wires by twisting off the plastic connectors from the ends of the wires.