Tag Archives: Ceiling Fan

Installing a ceiling fan.

This is another older draft post from 2015 I didn’t finish that I am finally getting around to posting.

I have always loved ceiling fans because I find their slow movement relaxing and I like how they distribute the air and prevent hot and cold spots. When we saw a small ceiling fan, still in the box, donated old stock up for sale in the Renuzit store for $65 I simply could not resist. Installing it would be a royal pain, I knew that. Even so I wanted it.

 

In the past I have always hired an electrician to it. That was inevitably a multicuss job for them and more than once I had to have them back in because it did not work properly. I decided to give a shot myself. I have learned a lot more about electrical work since the last time I had a fan installed.

Projects like this are best handled with a lot more time spent planning than doing. I think that’s the biggest mistake I made in my early days of Doing It Myself. I’d just start and find myself missing tools, having to take things apart and put them back together again and often stuff just did not go. Since then I have learned that planning is the most important of doing.

Mount the bracket - Install Ceiling Fan

I started with with you tube videos on the topic and a video from The Home Depot. I love it when people put up clear easy to follow do it yourself videos. After watching three or four I felt this was indeed a doable job.   You put all the parts together, connect all the wires correctly and then it goes. Next step was to read the manual. I find I have to read the manual through carefully about three times checking my understanding as I go. Certain things stand out and stick with each reading. Even after that I have to consult the manual on each step along the way. Also inevitable is that you hit snags and have questions come up as you do.

My first problem was the manual clearly specifies you need to have a proper outlet box designed specifically for a ceiling fan. It must be able to hold 35 pounds of weight. (My fan is a small one. Most of them are a lot heavier than that and many are very heavy. Now the question is do I use the old outlet box or tear it out and buy a new one and instal that? After much more research on line I discovered that the old fashioned outlet steel outlet box I have is rated for 50 pounds of weight assuming it is properly installed. I also discovered this old fashioned steel box was installed by first building a wooden box of two by fours around two sides and fitting them into the corner of the joist further increasing its capacity. This gives a four sided box. This is the old fashioned way of doing things.

The new plastic boxes don’t require all that effort to install. But the new plastic boxes cannot be used for more than 7 pounds of weight. So the old fashioned way would seem to be the right way for when, some 40 years later, someone comes along to retrofit something. Everything in this old house was done right and done with love and attention to detail. The very well installed steel outlet box is just one of many examples I have come across. These old houses were built to last, often by the people who would live in them or their neighbours who would be around to complain to if the job was done wrong. So things tended to be done right. Nowadays a stranger arrives, slaps together a whole development and sells off the houses and vanishes. No one thinks about retrofitting or what will happen 40+ years later.

Permits and regulations | City of Vancouver

I digress. Having established that the old steel box can hold the fan with about 15 pounds or a 30% safety margin I began. Ceiling fans have a safety cable you attach that the whole unit can hang from. This allows two things. First you can don’t have to have someone standing and holding the dang thing while you connect wires. Second you have something so if the whole thing does give the fan shouldn’t hit the floor. So my first job after getting the old outlet cover off was to put in a special screw for the purpose of hanging the fan by the back up cable. (Not all fans have it. Some have a cup the fan sits in instead as in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVL4FdMyCfo)

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Next following the directions, I got the motor part hung. There is an upper housing that is just decorative that hides all the wires and such from view. Connecting the wire meant another pause to check on line. You see, my house has some old style thick copper wiring with red being the hot wire and black being the neutral wires and the ground is bare and attached to the steel box. All the wiring arrives on site in a long steel encased conduit. In the wiring diagram for connecting the fan that came with the manual, black is the “hot” one and it is for the fan motor, white is neutral. There is also a blue wire for the lights. There were three possible configurations for the switch. One can have an on off switch for the fan, a separate light switch and a dimmer with that. (Hence all the wires.) However the simplest of the three diagrams is to join the light and motor fan hot wires (black and blue) to the hot wire from the house (red) and just have power off and on and adjust the light and motor using the manual switches at the motor. Since doing it any other way would involve tearing up walls to reinstall all the wiring, we are going with the simplest configuration.

Connecting the wire has to be done properly. I learned from reconnecting my solar panels and my macerator pump. If the connection isn’t right you get trouble. The worst trouble is with the loose connection that lets some power in but makes the electricity have to jump over a space. That leads to heat and that leads to fire. I made  a poor connection while extending the wires on my macerator a few years ago. In rewiring my macerator I created a “hot spot” and while I did not burn myself, I sure gave myself a real scare when I was handling the wire and it was hot. The plastic electrical was partially melted. Because of that scare I had previously researched about the connecting wires. My preference is twist nuts. I used them for connecting lights and fans in outlet boxes and I had the correct sizes and types. When connected properly the nuts are solid if you give them a yank and all the wires are buried in deep with no bare wire showing.

Once the main housing was in the rest was easy. I added the fins and the light shades and then we were done. It worked! Three years later we are still enjoying the benefits of a lovely ceiling fan that keep the air moving. In a small house stale air is a constant issue so the little fan is lovely to have.

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The Ceiling Fan is installed!

After finishing up the installation of the solar panels I am no longer intimidated by electrical stuff. You need to treat it with respect but it’s not that hard. The ceiling fan was a bit more work than the plain switch of the fixture I did earlier. I started as I did with the solar by researching the topic and watching on line videos that explain how to do it. I also read the manual, all of it, very carefully three times before I felt I understood it all. I took out the assorted parts and examined them to make sure I could match all the parts to the diagram well before I started doing anything. Then I slept on it. There were some extra considerations.

The fan weighs 23 pounds and requires a mounting/outlet box that can take 35 pounds of force. Fortunately a bit of snooping on line and I learned that whoever wired this house a long time ago did everything the ultra sturdy old fashioned way. I already had a steel outlet box and that box was bolted to the ceiling joists on two sides and it had two secondary 2X4 pieces attached to the joists forming a full box around the outlet and then those sides were also bolted. Some on line research and I found that a properly installed steel box outlet bolted securely like mine was can take 50 pounds and so not only could it take my 35 pound fan but I had an extra 15 pounds of safety margin. I didn’t have to change the outlet box. If you have a newer home, especially one with a outlet plastic box, you have to be much more careful about that and you will need a proper outlet box designed specifically for ceiling fans.

The fan motor is installed first and, while hanging from the attached safety cable, has the wiring connected. That was a bit tricky because in my house the old wiring was red for live and black for neutral and plain copper bolted to the outlet box itself as ground. The new fan had black (fan motor) and blue (light module) wires to connect to live, white for neutral and green for ground. In order to be sure I had all that right I had to research old and new wiring and use my handy dandy volt meter but I did.

The manual offered multiple wiring options. If I were installing the fan into a new house and had easy access to the inside of the walls I would have used the configuration that allowed the thing to be attached to a fancy multi use wall plate so one could turn the lights off and on and dim them and turn the motor off and on and set it all from the wall. Since I didn’t want to tear the walls up I just installed it so the light switch provides on/off power and we have to set the fan speed, direction and lights using the pull chains. And no dimmer for the lights. They go on or off. I can live with pulling chains myself. Also as your eyes get older you enjoy dimmers less and less. I really can’t recall the last time I used a dimmer switch to do anything but turn the light on as bright as possible.

After I bolted on the decorative cover I ended up with this:

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Once I had reached this point, I decided to quit and take a break.

The next day I tackled the rest. It was time consuming but not difficult with the advance planning. I attached the fan blades, then added the light mount, and then attached the light mount and put the wiring together. That was very easy. The ends were all designed to fit together with a snap and no splice and dice.

The last step was to install the glass light holders, secure them, and then put in the bulbs. And then the real test. I restored power and held my breath. No explosions, shorts or crashes. Instead the motor began turning and the lights went on. It worked perfectly. All four speeds for the fan, both directions and the lights work. No wobble, no whine and no buzz. This is a very nice fan, the quietest I have ever had. it is soundless.

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And there we are. Before.

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After. Cost of the fan $65 from the Renuzit Habitat for Humanity and my time, Three hours for background research on line, about one hour for the outlet box research and inspection, two hours to the first part of the installation, and an hour and half for the rest.

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A thing of beauty is a joy forever, or at least as long as we live here and the fan works.