Yes, You Can Replace Your Own Ceiling Fan

March 17, 2021

Has your old ceiling fan given up the ghost? Might be time to replace it. Are you looking for a way to make your home more energy efficient? Consider replacing some of your light fixtures with ceiling fans.

Replacing a ceiling fan might seem intimidating, but it’s actually a fairly easy DIY project if you already have a fan or light fixture in place. If you already have a ceiling fan in place, you can simply swap out the old one for the new. If you have a light fixture to replace, the job might be a little more complex -- you’ll need to install a fan-rated electrical box -- but it’s definitely DIY-able. Follow these steps to replace your beat-up old ceiling fan with a shiny, sleek new one.

Remove the Old Fan or Fixture

The first step in any household electrical job is to make sure you’ve shut off the current to the wiring you’ll be working on. Go to the breaker box and shut off power to the room where you’ll be replacing a fan. Set the light switch in the room to the “off” position, too.

Now you can climb up on a ladder and take down the old fan or fixture. If you’re taking down a fan, you’ll probably want someone to help you hold it steady while you’re taking it down. Fans can weigh fifty pounds or more, and you’ll have your hands full, disconnecting wires and removing screws. For a fan, there will be screws in the canopy near the ceiling that you can remove to lower the canopy and reveal the wiring and mounting bracket. Remove the wire caps and untwist the wires to disconnect them. Then remove the screws holding the mounting bracket in place. Once you’ve removed the mounting bracket and disconnected the wires, you should be able to take everything down.

Install a Fan-Rated Electrical Box, If You Need One

If you’re replacing a ceiling fan, you likely already have a fan-rated electrical box in your ceiling (but check to make sure). If you’re replacing a light fixture with a fan, you’ll need to remove the electrical box you have in your ceiling and replace it with a fan-rated one. The best way to do this is by cutting a new hole in your ceiling below a joist, and then fastening the electrical box directly to the joist with 1.50-inch Number 10 screws. However, if you don’t have a joist running where you want to hang the fan, or if you don’t want to cut another hole in your ceiling, or if you can’t just cut the new hole next to the old hole and cover up the old hole with a ceiling medallion, you have some options.

If you have access to the ceiling from above, say, via the attic, you can attach a two-by-four between the joists and mount your fan-rated electrical box to that. If you don’t have access from above, you can buy an expanding metal ceiling fan brace that you can install through the hole from below. Attach the fan-rated box to the joist or brace, pull the wires down through it, and wind the ground wire (the bare or green one) around the ground screw inside the box. Leave the end of the ground wire dangling so you can connect it to the ground wire in the fan motor.

Attach the Mounting Bracket

Most modern ceiling fans you can buy will come with everything you need to install the fan, including the hardware to secure the mounting bracket and the downrod that lowers the fan to a height of eight to nine feet off the floor. Screw the mounting bracket to your fan-rated electrical box and then feed the wiring through the box and bracket, then through the downrod, if you’re using one.

Connect the Motor Assembly

Assemble the fan motor on the floor, then you can lift it up and either have someone hold it, or hang it from the mounting bracket while you connect the wiring. Connect the black wire in the fan to the black wire coming out of the ceiling, the white wire to the white wire, and the green or bare ground wire to the green or bare ground wire. Twist the bare ends of the wiring together and attach wire caps to secure them. Then you can thread the downrod into the motor assembly and tighten the locking screw.

Install the Fan Blades and Light Fixture

Once the motor assembly has been wired up and fastened to the downrod or canopy, you can attach the fan blades and install the light fixture, if there is one. Attach the blade brackets to the blades first, then screw each blade into position on the motor assembly. The light fixture might need to be wired up the same way the fan motor did, or it might just plug into the motor assembly. Wire it up or plug it in and then assemble the shades and screw in the light bulbs.

Congratulations on your brand new ceiling fan! It will bring you years of comfort, and save you hundreds -- or thousands -- on your energy bill.


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