Replacing Your Ceiling Fan Without New Wiring
Many homeowners attempt to DIY projects around their homes. However, when it comes to projects involving electrical elements, it is important to take caution! One common DIY project involving electrical wiring is replacing ceiling fans.
Do I need new wiring when replacing the ceiling fan in the living room? You may not. A two-wire cable (no ground) is usually sufficient, but you’ll need to confirm your local building codes before tackling this project.
Continue reading to find out how to determine whether you need new wiring when you are replacing your ceiling fan.
Understanding Ceiling Fans
A fan is a mechanical device used for creating flow within a fluid, typically a gas such as air. A ceiling fan uses one or more rotating fan blades to circulate the air to cool individuals or remove hot air from an area. A ceiling fan consists of several components that all serve specific purposes to efficiently operate the fan.
The pinion shaft, motor unit, neck, threaded rod, hanging bracket, and cover plate all allow a fan to provide airflow for cooling or better insulation, while the blades and down rod provide stabilization. Swivels attached to each blade allow for airflow in different directions.
Components A Ceiling Fan
While many people associate fans only with the moving parts that comprise the blades, there are other important components of a ceiling fan that help it function properly and efficiently.
- Pinion Shaft – The pinion shaft attaches to the motor unit and provides support for the other major parts of the ceiling fan.
- Motor Unit – The motor unit is responsible for powering all functions of a fully functioning ceiling fan, such as the rotation of the blades and the generation of oscillation.
- Neck – The neck is a long column that connects the motor unit to a threaded rod. This threaded rod allows a person to appropriately position a ceiling fan in different rooms.*
- Threaded Rod – The threaded rod connects the neck of a ceiling fan with its hanging bracket. A perforated piece of metal is placed over one end, allowing it to be screwed into place with ease.
- Hanging Bracket – While some fans are freestanding and require no additional support from their surrounding structure, most ceiling fans use hanging brackets. These allow an individual to attach their fan securely to various structures ceilings, light fixtures, or beams.
- Cover Plate – The decorative cover plate is found at the top of a fan, just below the ceiling. This component is typically made of metal or plastic and attaches to the hanging bracket through screws.
- Blade Holder Assembly – Traditionally, blade holders provide support for both halves of a ceiling fan’s blades. They are often made of metal and have an attractive design that can complement any decor. These are attached via screws or nails.
- Blades – Each blade consists of one flat side which faces down when installed on a fan. The other side has curved designs meant to push air downward to create airflow throughout an area.
- Down Rod – A down rod is used with larger ceiling fans and facilitates their installation and maintenance. The down rod is connected to the hanging bracket and provides an attachment point for other components of a fan, such as its blades.
- Swivel Joint – Attached to the bottom of each blade, swivels help move air in different directions up or down once it leaves the fan.
If you will replace your old ceiling fan with a new one, you may experience problems in finding the right wiring to power it. Here are some simple steps to help you do so.
Checking Whether You Need New Wiring
- First, determine how many wires are in the cable that currently supplies power to your ceiling fan and light kit. If it is a 3-wire cable (two hot wires and a neutral), you’re set. If not, you can have a cable with two hots, a neutral and a ground installed. You will need to remove the existing light switch (before you begin the ceiling fan replacement) and check this out for yourself. But, if it is your first time messing around with electrical wiring in the home, I recommend that you do not attempt to replace or rewire your ceiling fan.
- Turn off the power at the circuit breaker box and use a tester or voltage sniffer on wires to check for live current before proceeding with any work. Be sure to unplug the ceiling box fan first!
- The most important step is making sure there’s no electricity running through your fan’s circuits. This requires turning off the appropriate circuit(s) at your main service panel or subpanel. Once it is safe to proceed, shut down that pesky power by removing the access panel on the ceiling fan box.
- Replace the light switch with a dimmer if you haven’t already done so, or replace/upgrade the existing dimmer to a smart one that allows you to control multiple lights with your smartphone. Check local electrical codes for any restrictions on the wire used for fan speed controls before proceeding.
- Remove the mounting screws holding down the outlet box and pull it out of its housing. Be sure there are no wires still connected inside the fan box! Replace any corroded or damaged wiring, if needed, but use caution not to damage the insulation of existing wires. Fan-rated cable can typically be substituted for old two-wire wiring provided the circuit is rated at 15 amps or less. Make sure all new connections are wrapped with appropriate wire nuts and press wires firmly into boxes to avoid any potential arcing or other electrical problems.
- Reinstall the ceiling fan box and mount it securely by tightening down all mounting screws, including those for any new outlet box (you shouldn’t need to replace the existing outlet box as long as it’s in good condition). Mount ceiling fan blades and assemble the fan according to manufacturer instructions. Connect the wiring following manufacturer instructions. Restore power and test the system before replacing the access panel on the ceiling fan box.
How To Install A Ceiling Fan
Caution – Electrical Hazard
Turn off the power. Unscrew the light switch plate to expose the electrical wires that are feeding into your home’s electrical box.
Turn off the breaker by either flipping it off, or pressing an “OFF” button on a power strip. Go to each circuit breaker box in your home, and turn off all breakers for safety precautions.
Unscrew the junction box cover with a flat-head screwdriver. Disconnect all of the wires inside of this junction box by pulling them away from each other gently until they pop out of their metal connectors. If screws are holding two tinned wire ends together, loosen them individually using pliers or fingers before pulling them apart.
Swing the ceiling fan’s metal mounting bracket onto the junction box with one hand while keeping your other hand underneath it to catch any loose wires. Remove the cover on the opening of the junction box by unscrewing or pushing it into itself until it separates.
Determine which fan blades you want to use in your new ceiling fan. Use three different fans to get all of them done, or use only one so you don’t have to get up on a ladder as much if all of them are installed at once.
Grab two of your chosen blades together by either holding both ends near their midpoint or grabbing each blade’s end with enough fingers for extra stability. Begin lifting them above the ceiling fan’s mounting bracket. Align the two blades with both of their ends touching either side of the mounting bracket inside of it, and carefully lower them onto the brackets on one end at a time while making sure that they are even across from each other.
Pick one blade up at a time and hold it above the mounting bracket. Slide it into its connectors on top where three separate wires emerge and insert all three wire ends into their individual metal connectors on the underside of this connector piece. If you’re using two blades together, line them up so that they are facing in opposite directions before sliding them into place.
Replace any screws holding each blade’s connector piece in place if they have come loose during handling or replacement. Place any blades not being used back in their original box to prevent them from becoming chafed due to exposure to the open air.
Slide each blade’s connector piece down into the fan’s mounting bracket. Reattach it underneath by turning the screw with a flat-head screwdriver by hand. Tighten all screws on this end of each blade before moving on to the next step if they have loosened during handling.
Make sure that both ends of each fan blade are even across from each other once again before continuing. Turn all three conductor wire connectors for these newly installed blades clockwise until they are tight with one hand while you hold your fingers around the metal connector pieces so that they do not become loose or fall out.
Hang the other end of each fan blade onto their individual metal mounting brackets on top of the fan’s motor housing. Insert the blades’ three separate wire ends into their newly installed connector pieces, and tighten all screws if they have loosened during handling.
Turn the power back on by either pressing an “ON” button on a power strip or flipping your breaker switch back to its original position.
Replacing a ceiling fan is not what one would consider a basic DIY project. If you are unsure of yourself or your abilities, it is a wise idea to hire a local professional for this project.