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How To Swap A Light Fixture For A Ceiling Fan

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ceiling fan

ceiling fan

In some climates, a ceiling fan is a necessity, even when you have central air. Ceiling fans move the air in your home, and can make it feel several degrees cooler in the summer -- or warmer in the winter, if you reverse the direction of the blades, according to Splendid Fans.

If you already have a light fixture in place, it’s easy to replace it with a ceiling fan. You can use the same wiring, so there’s no need to hire an electrician. Just make sure you shut off the power to the circuit at the breaker box, and also at the wall switch. Then, follow these steps to swap the light fixture for a fan.

Remove Light Fixture

Removing the old light fixture is easy, but again, make sure you turn off the power to the circuit at the electrical box first. If your breakers aren’t labeled and you can’t figure out which circuit your new ceiling fan will be on, shut off power to the whole house, just to be safe. Then make sure the light switch in the room is in the “off” position.

Take the glass shade off the light fixture. This should reveal the screws or mounting nut that fixes the light fixture to the ceiling. Disconnect these and pull the fixture down. This should reveal the wiring. Remove the plastic wire connectors and untwist the ends of the wire from each other to disconnect the light fixture. Set it aside.


Place a Fan-Rated Electrical Box

Now you’ll have to remove the light-rated electrical box from the ceiling and replace it with a fan-rated electrical box. Ceiling fans are much heavier than light fixtures, and they require a sturdier electrical box with a solid brace to support their weight.

Your old electrical box will either be nailed directly to the joist, or it will be screwed to a support brace between the joists. If it’s nailed to the joist, you can pry it off with a pry bar, and then you can attach your new electrical box directly to the joist, eliminating the need to drill a new hole in the ceiling and place a new support brace. If the old electrical box is attached to a brace, remove the metal plate to access the screws holding it in place, and then pry the bar off of the joists on either side.

If at all possible, you should attach your new fan-rated electrical box to a joist, for maximum support. If your light fixture was placed between joists, you can simply move over and cut a new hole in the drywall under the joist with a drywall saw. Or you can install a new support brace. If you can access the joists from your attic, simply screw a length of two-by-four lumber between the joists over the hole, using 2.5-inch decking screws to secure it to the joists. If you can’t access the hole from above, you can buy expanding metal braces that you can insert from below, through the hole in the ceiling.

Size the hole for the electrical box by holding the electrical box up to the ceiling and tracing around it with a pencil. Remove the knockout hole in the back of the electrical box and feed the wiring from the ceiling through it before you attach it to the joist using the screws provided. Finish up by wrapping the bare or green ground wire around the ground screw in the electrical box, letting the end dangle free.


ceiling fans

ceiling fans

Cover the Old Light Fixture Hole with a Ceiling Medallion

If you had to cut a second hole in your ceiling to accommodate a fan electrical box, you can cover the old hole with a ceiling medallion. You simply glue it to the ceiling with urethane adhesive, and anchor it with some finishing nails. If you’re going to paint the medallion, do it before moving on.


Fasten the Mounting Plate to the Electrical Box

Your ceiling fan will come with a mounting plate. Attach it to the electrical box using two 1.5-inch long 10-32 machine screws.


Put the Fan Together

Assemble the parts of your fan on the floor, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Feed the wire motors through the canopy, then through the downrod, if you’re using one. Then screw the downrod into the motor and tighten the locking screw on the side of the pipe with a wrench.


Wire Up the Fan Motor

Most ceiling fans come with an installation hook that allows you to hang the fan motor assembly from the mounting plate while you’re connecting the wires. Join the wires in your fan to the ones in the ceiling by twisting the bare ends together and securing with a wire connector. White attaches to white, black to black, and green or bare to green or bare. Once you’ve wired up the fan, swing it up into position against the mounting plate and attach with the provided screws.


Add the Lights and Blades

You’ll want to attach the fan blades to the blade irons (or brackets) and then attach those to the fan motor. You may need to wire up the light fixture the same way you wired the fan motor, or there may be a simple plug that connects the light fixture to the motor assembly. Attach the light fixture housing to the fan motor using the provided screws, then attach the shades or globe. Once you’ve added light bulbs, it’s time to turn the power back on and test your new ceiling fan!



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