Ceiling Fans

Hitting the Ceiling

There was a great sale at the local home improvement store and you just couldn’t resist! You’ve owned a beautiful new ceiling fan all summer long . . . only it’s been in a box on the garage floor and not hung where you and your family can enjoy it.

You would have hired an electrician months ago but after a frustrating afternoon of calling everyone in the phone book, you had quotes ranging from $50 (which is more that you paid for the fan) to $600, and no appointment.

You’re not alone! We get calls from homeowners every day who have “the perfect fan” but no way to install it.

No matter what the scenario, we’ve heard it:

The handyman installed it (and it looks great) but the fan works and the light doesn’t . . . or there’s no power in the rest of the room!

The homeowners tackled it as a weekend do-it-yourself project, but it took several weekends and still no working fan!

Ceiling Fans

The husband was going to “get around to it” and now the wife is calling (please don’t call on the home number) to have it installed while he’s away (shhhh . . .)

The neighbor talked big about how he “used to be an electrician” but then “disappeared.”

The in-laws said wait until they were in town (experienced in installing dozens of ceiling fans) but somehow could only remove the old fan (something about not having “the right tools”).

An “electrician” came out to the house. The price was fair but the customer got nervous somewhere along the way.

A licensed, bonded, insured electrical company with a lifetime warranty quoted the project on site but the homeowner was sure they could get a better “deal.” That was months ago and they can’t remember who came out.

Don’t give up yet! Ceiling fans are a worthwhile investment in your home’s energy efficiency and comfort. You can also begin using a ceiling fan no matter what time of the year it is installed. Ceiling fans don’t just provide a cooling breeze in the summer but are also beneficial in cooler months. They release warmer air that that is trapped in the ceiling and help circulate it downward to warm the room. This can ease the cost of expense electric and gas bills anytime of the year.

Ceiling fans are also attractive (that’s why you bought that great looking one in the first place)! They look great in bedrooms, living rooms, family rooms and even on porches.

The most important aspect of enjoying a ceiling fan is having it installed correctly. Ceiling fans that are poorly installed are unsafe, even dangerous. There are many aspects to a properly installed ceiling fan and calling an electrical company with questions about a fan may be confusing. The following definitions can help:

Fan Box. Every ceiling fan needs an adequate support box (“fan-rated” and “UL Listed”). These are metal boxes that are installed in the ceiling in place of the plastic boxes that are used for lighter and stationary fixtures. Using anything other than a fan-rated box for a ceiling fan could result in stress on the plastic box and eventual collapse.

Angle Kit. This special adapter allows the safe installation of ceiling fans on even the most slanted ceilings.

Canopy. The decorative cone-shaped piece that slides onto the down rod and hides the fan box, swivel, and wiring from view. An improperly installed canopy will result in an unfinished look to the fan and is a solid piece with a hole in the middle that must be slid onto the down rod prior to attaching the fan to the ceiling. The canopy is then slid back up into place and secured with small screws.

Down Rod. The rod that extends from the ceiling (through the canopy) to the top of the ceiling fan. These rods come in many styles and finishes; they also come in different lengths. It is very important to purchase the correct Down Rod, especially on higher ceilings, so that the fan is circulating air where it can do the most good. Down Rods are considered a part of the fan and should be selected when purchasing the fan so that they match perfectly. Ceiling fans on regular height (8’) ceiling fans usually are installed as close to the ceiling as possible and may only have a Down Rod that is several inches in length (which is included with the ceiling fan).

Light Kit. The Light Kit is often an optional element that can usually be added after the fan is installed. If your fan does not have a Light Kit, but you would like one, check to see if there is a small removable round plate where the light would go. Measure the diameter of this plate before heading to the store so you are sure to select the right kit for your fan. Light kits can be as simple as a single glass bowl that covers the bulb or as elaborate as a multi-stemmed kit with decorative glass globes.

Pull Chain. The chain that extends from the bottom of the fan. Some fans come with one Pull Chain (to change the fan speed) and some come with two (the second Pull Chain operates the light). The Pull Chains can be pre-set to the desired speed (or brightness) so that the Wall Switch will turn on the fan and/or light at the preset conditions. If you have a fan that currently operates only on a Pull Chain, a new Wall Switch can be installed for the fan and light.

Wall Switch. A Wall Switch operates the fan independently of the Pull Chain. When the Wall Switch is in the “on” position, the Pull Chain settings can also be adjusted. A Wall Switch can be wired into a 2-gang box (a box with two switches) so that the fan and light are switched separately (the fan can be turned on without turning on the light and vice a versa), or as a single switch (the Wall Switch turns on both the fan and the light at the preset conditions determined by the pull chain).

Remote. A separate device from the switch that operates the fan and/or light settings. A Remote can be added to a ceiling fan. The Remote has two parts: the Remote (the handheld device) and the Receiver (a device installed inside the fan).

Fan Mode Switch. An adjustable setting found on the fan itself (usually near the top, or base, of the fan). One direction allows for normal warm weather operation and the other setting reverses the fan direction for cooler months.

Switch Leg/Switch Line (SL). The wiring that connects the ceiling fan to the Wall Switch. A SL is usually needed when a ceiling fan is installed from “scratch” (there is not current wiring in the ceiling), and should only be done by a licensed and qualified electrician with the proper tools to “run” or “fish” the wiring without extra holes or other drywall damage to the walls or ceiling.

Balancing Kit. A set of small self-stick or slide on weights that come with the ceiling fan or can be purchase after market. They are attached to the fan blades and are intended to “balance” fans that “wobble” or “shake” (i.e. incorrectly installed) fans. TE Certified Electricians avoid balancing kits. A properly installed ceiling fan should not wobble. If your fan motor and blades are installed professionally, no balancing is necessary. Most wobbling fans can be fixed by checking and securing all fan blades, tightening all fans connections, and insuring that the fan box is properly installed.

A ceiling fan installation should be completed by those thoroughly experienced in installing each of the above components. It is, after all, a major appliance suspended overhead! It is also important that the right tools are used for the job. This includes the right ladder. Many home accidents and poor installs happen when amateurs attempt to make installs or repairs without the right equipment. The right height ladder will prevent stretching and reaching that could result in toppling the ladder (disaster). Toppled ladders result, at a minimum, in damage to the person, walls, floor and the fixture being installed. Being able to work with comfort and proper visibility allows for a good install! If someone told you you’ll need scaffolding to replace your residential ceiling fan, they probably didn’t know what they were talking about. A good electrician should have the right ladders to safely install fans on ceilings up to 30 feet high.

TE Certified Electricians have installed thousands of ceiling fans and we know how to install them right. Plus, we warranty all our work for life, just in case there is a problem. So get that ceiling fan box off the garage floor and hung where you can enjoy it . . . even if it is the end of Summer!

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