How to Install a Ceiling Fan So You Can Keep Cool All Summer Long

published May 22, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Minette Hand

Whether you’re looking to ward off stifling summer heat or just looking to increase airflow in living or sleeping spaces, it’s hard to beat a ceiling fan. Paired with air conditioning or even on its own, a ceiling fan can make a big difference in the perceived temperature of a room (and for far less money than cranking up the AC ). And unlike box or floor fans, ceiling fans are super small-space friendly — after all, what better way to maximize square footage than to use the space overhead?

Here’s some extra good news: If you have the right equipment, tools, and research, this project is DIYable. (With precautions, however: Always use extreme caution when handling any electrical wires. We recommend consulting a professional if you are inexperienced with electrical wiring or similar installations.)

The main thing that you’ll need to check for if you’re replacing a ceiling light with a ceiling fan is that you have the correct electrical box in your ceiling. First, cut power to the room you’re in by using your electric panel. Failure to do so can result in electrocution, so this step is extremely important. When you have confirmed that there is no power to the room (by turning the light on and off to check), unscrew your light from the ceiling. Use a voltage tester to make sure there are no live wires. If there are not, you’re safe to check the electrical box in which the light is installed. If the box is appropriate for the weight of a ceiling fan, it will have an inscription that says that it is fan-rated. (Note: Older models might not have an inscription. In that case, consult a pro.) If your electrical box is indeed fan-rated, proceed with the steps below. If it’s not fan-rated, you’ll need help from a pro to install the appropriate electrical box. Otherwise, your ceiling fan could come crashing down — not ideal for steamy summer afternoons.

Electrical box good to go? Here’s what you’ll need for this project:

Note: Before you buy a ceiling fan, measure your room. Consult recommended room sizes from manufacturers to make sure that your ceiling fan will work in a space of your size, and make sure that you buy a fan that works with the ceiling height, too.

Your ceiling fan will likely have instructions specific to that model; make sure to follow any enclosed instructions from the manufacturer as you install your fan.

1. Check that the ceiling light is connected to the light switch.

First, turn your light switch on and off to make sure it connects to the ceiling light. (Yes, obvious, but crucial!)

Credit: AT Video

2. Cut power to the room where you’re working.

Use the electrical panel to turn off the power to the room where you’re working. Check to make sure that it’s off by flipping the light switch in the room on and off; if the light doesn’t turn on, proceed to the next step.

Credit: AT Video

3. Unscrew the existing light fixture and make sure power is fully off.

Carefully unscrew the light fixture and pull it down. You’ll see wires exposed at this point. Do not touch the wires with your hands. Instead, touch the wires with a voltage tester. It will light up if a wire is live. If a wire is live, you have not fully cut power to the room. Revisit the electrical panel to make sure you’ve cut power to the correct room and repeat the steps above until there is no power running through the wires that you are working on.

If the power is off, remove the ceiling light completely and set aside.

For the next steps, you’ll need to determine which of your wires is live and which is neutral. In newer homes, they’ll be color-coded: the black wire is the live, or “hot,” wire, and the white wire is the neutral one. For older homes, you’ll need to turn power back on, then use a voltage tester to check which wire is live and which is not. Then, turn the power off from the electrical panel, confirm with a voltage tester that there is no current running through the wires, and use electrical tape to mark which wire is live. Do not touch the wires until you have determined with 100% certainty that there is no current running through them.

1 / 2

4. Mount the ceiling fan’s included bracket.

Your new ceiling fan will come with a bracket that you’ll need to attach to your electrical box. Mount it using the included screws and a Philips head screwdriver. Leave some extra space beneath one of the screws so that you can wrap your green grounding wire around it before tightening.

Pull the ceiling wires through the bracket so they’re accessible for when you attach them to the fan’s motor.

Credit: AT Video

5. Secure the grounding wire.

Tuck the green grounding wire underneath the center screw, wrapping the wire around the screw’s base so it makes full contact. Then, tighten the screw until it’s secure.

6. Make sure the frequency on the ceiling fan motor and remote match.

If your ceiling fan comes with a remote, make sure both are set to the same frequency before installing the motor.

1 / 2

7. Trim and strip wires on the motor.

Trim long wires on the motor, and strip the ends of their rubber coating so about half an inch of wire is exposed.

Credit: AT Video

8. Hang the motor from its safety hook.

If there’s a safety hook in the baseplate, use it to hang the motor from its safety wire. If not, call in assistance from a friend to hold the motor while you work.

Credit: AT Video

9. Attach the wires from the motor to the wires in the ceiling.

Make sure to attach the live wires (black wires) to each other and the neutral wires (white wires) to each other. Twist the wires together, then top with a wire connector.

Credit: AT Video

10. Connect the motor to the ceiling bracket.

Tuck the wires up behind the bracket, then screw the motor in place using a screwdriver.

1 / 3

11. Attach the canopy.

Place the canopy on top of the motor and screw in place.

Credit: AT Video

12. Attach the blades.

Using a screwdriver, attach the blades to the fan motor with the provided hardware.

1 / 2

13. Add the light base.

Screw the light base into place. You’ll use this to attach your light next.

1 / 3

14. Wire the light.

Install the light by attaching its wires to the motor’s wires. Make sure to connect like colors with like. Screw on the light cover per manufacturer’s instructions.

Credit: AT Video

13. Restore power.

Flip the power back on at the circuit breaker and turn the light switch on to check that the fan works. Then, enjoy hot weather ahead in comfort.