A step-by-step guide to installing a ceiling fan with light.
Lighted ceiling fans offer a lot of bang for the buck. Their gentle, cooling breezes can transform a room that feels like a jail cell on a muggy tropical isle into paradise. What's more, they're easy to install. Replacing an overhead light fixture with a fan should take less than a day.
A ceiling fan can also slash energy consumption and save you money throughout the year. By blowing air downward in warm weather, the fan allows you to turn up the thermostat on your air conditioner and cut cooling bills as much as 35 percent, according to U.S. Department of Energy studies.
Reversing the fan motor during the heating season blows air upward and forces trapped heat down from the ceiling. The result is that you can lower the thermostat and trim your heating bill up to 10 percent. That's a significant benefit considering this winter's dramatic rise in fuel costs.
CHOOSING A FAN
Ceiling fans come in dozens of styles, with or without lights, in various painted and polished-metal surfaces. While prices vary widely, you usually get what you pay for. Bargain-priced fans usually are no bargain; they can be noisy, wobbly contraptions that last about as long as a freshly cut rose. Expect to pay $150 to $250 for a good-quality fan with a light.
Before buying one, match fan size to room size. Choose a 32-in.-dia. unit for rooms up to 64 sq. ft. Move up to a 42-in. fan for spaces up to 144 sq. ft., a 44-in. model for a 225-sq.-ft. room and a 52-in. device for rooms 400 sq. ft. or larger. We chose Hunter Fan's Integra Plus (Model 25884, $299). The 52-in., five-blade fan has a three-speed reversible motor, wireless remote-control switch and built-in light. It also features a bright-brass finish and switchable hardwood-veneer blades (rosewood on one side, oak on the other) and is backed by a 20-year warranty.
The step-by-step installation covered here, which replaces an existing light fixture, is similar to that for other fans. But be sure to read the instructions that come with the model you buy.
1. DISCONNECT the old light fixture by twisting off its wire connectors. Be sure the electricity is shut off before you start work
First, shut off the power at the main electrical panel to the light fixture you'll be replacing. Remove the glass globe and take out the lightbulbs. Unscrew the fixture from the electrical box, then disconnect it by twisting off the wire connectors (photo 1).
Next, install a 2 X 6 brace above the electrical box to support the weight of the fan. (Never hang a fan from an unsupported box; fans weigh up to 40 lbs. and can easily pull the box out of the ceiling.)
If the ceiling is accessible from above, installing the brace is easy. Go into the attic and cut a 2 X 6 to fit between the joists. Lay the board directly over the electrical box (photo 2) and secure it with 3-in. screws driven through the joists and into the ends of the 2 X 6 brace.
What do you do when, for example, the light fixture is on a first-floor ceiling of a two-story house and you can't get to the ceiling from above? You can cut out a section of the drywall or plaster ceiling from below, screw the 2 X 6 brace in place above the electrical box and then patch and paint the ceiling.
An easier, less messy option is to install a retrofit fan brace, about $15 at home centers and lighting showrooms. It consists of an adjustable, threaded steel rod with sharp prongs on each end. To install one, slip the brace up into the ceiling through the existing hole in the ceiling. Rotate the steel bar to lengthen the brace until the prongs dig into the sides of the joists. Then bolt the electrical box to the brace.
After securing the 2 X 6 brace to the joists you need to fasten the ceiling plate to the brace. Drill two 5/16-in.-dia. holes through the electrical box, taking care not to bore into the 2 X 6 brace above. Then fasten the plate with two 1/4-in.-dia. 5 4-in.-long lag screws driven through the box and into the brace (photo 3).
Next, gather up the six wires and feed them through the holes in the canopy and pipe nipple (photo 4). Thread the nipple into the motor housing and tighten the setscrew to lock it in place. Then lift the fan motor and hang it onto the hook protruding from the ceiling plate.
Place the receiver for the remote control inside the canopy (photo 5) and begin connecting the wires as shown in the installation manual. This isn't advanced wiring, just a matter of joining pairs of same-color wires with twist-on wire connectors. Wrap each connection with electrical tape. The one remaining wire, a thin white strand, is the antenna for the remote. Pull it out through the slot in the ceiling plate and let it hang out (photo 6).
Tuck as many wires as possible up into the electrical box. Wind up the excess wires and place them on top of the receiver. Lift the fan motor by the canopy and slide it onto the mounting screws protruding from the side of the ceiling plate. Be sure there aren't any wires sticking out from the canopy. Then tighten the mounting screws.
Next, install the five fan blades. Slide each one through its slot in the rotating ring, called the belly band (photo 7), and secure it with the rubber bushings and screws provided. Attach the light fixture by snapping together the quick-connect electrical fitting (photo 8). Then screw two 40W appliance bulbs into the light sockets and install the frosted-glass globe.
Put a 9V battery into the handheld remote-control transmitter and turn the electrical power back on. Try out the remote to make sure the fan and light are operating properly. To finish, find a convenient location for the wall-mounted remote holder and screw it in place (photo 9).