Replacing a ceiling fan

How onerous is this as a do-it-yourself job?

I was going to just replace the blades on my kitchen ceiling fan, since they are looking rather shabby (I’d say the fan is nearly 20 years old). Trouble is, I have no idea who the manufacturer is, and I’ve been reading warnings about how using the wrong blades for your fan will damage the motor through imbalance and excessive drag.

Should I just bite the bullet and get a new fan? They’re certainly cheap enough. I’m not keen on paying someone $100 just for installation, though, if I can help it. I’m game to try the installation myself, but I’ve never done electrical work before. So apart from knowing that I need to unscrew the fuse before I get started (yes I have fuses here in my apartment, not a circuit breaker), I don’t know what other issues I need to be aware of.

FWIW, the current fan is mounted directly to the ceiling, and I’d look to do the same with any replacement.

Is there a wall switch and a light kit on the fan? And if there is a wall switch, does it just turn the lights on and the fan is maybe controlled by a pull chain?

Those things just make hooking it up properly more confusing for the average person.
Let us know if the old fan was just a fan (with no lights) and if the new one will be the same.

As far as difficulty, it’s not too challenging…if take notes of how the old one is wired you should be able to wire the new one the same way. The new ones these days will have different mounting adaptor brackets, though, which may cause some confusion. You also need to make sure the electrical box is stable and secure and that the threaded screw holes are not too worn out to accept the new screws satisfactorily.
Somtimes reading the instructions that comes with those things is like reading the Illiad in Greek.

Since the fan is around 20 years old, I would just go ahead and replace the whole thing.

Ceilings fans are easy to replace if you’re the least bit handy. I wouldn’t pay anyone to do it.

Biggest problem with just replacing the blades is the screwholes won’t be in the right place. I’ve seen fans for sale as cheap as $25 so I’d just replace the whole thing. If the original install was done right, there will be a round or hexagonal steel box in the ceiling for the wires and to take the weight of the replacement fan.

But I’d also get an AC voltage sensor (hold it near an active AC line and it’ll beep) for safety’s sake.

There is a light kit with the fan, and a wall switch. The wall switch is the “master” on/off control, if you will, with both the fan and the light having chain pulls so you can have one on but not the other.

I was hoping that I could just mark wires and re-attach accordingly, but since life is rarely so simple (at least for me, it seems!), I figured I’d ask.

Thanks for the tip on the detector, Bryan, I’ll pick one up as well.

Oh, and I should add that any replacement would also be fan + light kit, because it’s the only light in the room.

Easy job. Don’t sweat it. Go slow, read the directions, make sure there’s no juice. You’ll be amazed at how much nicer it looks, and your sense of accomplishment. Good luck.

Depending on the height of your ceilings and the specific model of fan you get, I recommend a helper to hold things steady while you hook wires up, etc.

When I replaced our kitchen light with a ceiling fan, the model I got required a certain amount of assembly before hoisting it to the ceiling for connection of wires. The unwieldy item balanced precariously atop my ladder while I did the fine screwing. I think I lost 5 years off my life.

Years ago there were some issues with the whole electrical box coming loose, and dropping the fans.

Modern practice is to use a purpose made cieling fan support box to avoid this, and is required by code for most new construction. (depending on your location, I guess) The responsible thing to do would be to upgrade to such if not already in place.

If you have access to the attic above the fan, this shouldn’t be too hard. If the cieling space must be accessed from below, then you are into some drywall work, but this still isn’t bad, except for possibly trying to match the existing paint.

Any idea just how many years ago that might have been? And can you clarify the scenario there - was it that the electrical box wasn’t attached to anything, or that it was only attached on one side of the box? The prospect of having to re-do part of the ceiling is not really appealing, I have to admit. I don’t care about the painting - it’s a small room - but I don’t have tools to work with drywall, nor is my apartment exactly spacious as a work space.

It would figure that a simple wish to have better looking fan blades would escalate into a construction job of some kind! :smack:

You will have to take down the old fan to see what it is connected to. The odds are good that the electrical box is attached to a joist and you can just attach the new fan to the old hanger.

Your job will be easier if you disassemble the blades before pulling down the rest of the fan. If you have your new fan with you, simply follow the installation directions in reverse.

The instructions on recent fans I have installed made a big deal of making sure the right type mount was used, but I’m not so clear on what all the wrong things would be.

If the box were only mounted to the drywall, I think it wouldn’t hold the fan at all.

If it is nailed to a joist on one side, then the vibration of the fan can work the nails loose over a few months/years. I actually had one of these (installed by previous house owner) come loose and leave the fan hanging by the wires.

The current cieling fan mounts have a spreader that goes between two joists, with the ends made such that they sit on top of the joists, thus the fasteners only keep the mount in position, and don’t support the weight.

I think there are some spreaders that do NOT hook over the top of the joists, so depend on the fasteners to bear the weight, and I wouldn’t want to hang a fan from that.

Thinking about it, it should be possible to design a mount to be installed from below thorough a box opening. I wouldn’t be suprised if such a thing exists.

The fan hasn’t let lose for the last 20 years, it likely won’t in the near future. People used some very flimsy setups somtimes and the weight of the fan and the wobbling brought them down. Sometimes they hooked them to the old light fixture box, that was only mounted to hold a light light fixture, and it came down later in a crash.

This sentence in the OP is the only part that has me concerned. Fan wiring is pretty simple to anyone who has electrical experience, but you don’t. Get thee to ye ol local library and read up on house wiring.

Fans have two circuits in them, one for the light and one for the fan. The light circuit will usually be controlled by the on/off switch in the room. The fan circuit will usually be constantly hot so that the fan can be turned on while the light is off. If the light originally had a light fixture in it instead of a fan, though, both the fan and the light may be driven off of the same circuit (in which case if you turn off the light switch in the room, both the light and the fan go off). Because there are possibly two circuits involved, pulling one fuse may or may not make both go dead. Check the wires with a meter before touching them.

Basically, with both circuits, you want to wire black to black, white to white, and connect the ground wire to the metal ground screw on the fan. The old fan wiring will probably give you some pretty good clues about what wire goes where. Your new fan will likely wire up almost identically to the way the old one did.

Installation of the fan is pretty simple. Take off the old fan and the bracket that holds it. The new fan should come with its own bracket. Usually, you screw the bracket into the electrical box, then you hang the fan from the bracket while you connect the wires. Once the electrical connections are made, screw the electrical cover into place, attach the lights to the bottom of the fan (there’s usually a plug in connector for the electrical that you just snap into place and then a couple of screws to mechanically hold everything together) and attach the fan blades.

If you are at all unsure about the wiring, find a friend with some electrical experience and have them sort out the wiring for you.

I can affirm that this is a damn nice tool. I didn’t know they existed, and I work frequently with electricians (industrial ones, that is). I picked one up built into a wire stripper just the other day because it seemed a heck of a lot more convenient than getting a contact tester (or a multimeter). I even tested it out in the store and was instantly convinced.

(I’m in the process of renovating my kitchen. I’m not rich yet, so I do everything myself, including the electrical work. This tool was a huge time saver. My wife and I even mapped every single outlet and light switch to each of the 20 breakers – finally, no more hunting for the right breaker!)

Back to the OP… when I first bought my house, I replaced all of the ceiling fans, too. While I was at it, I installed a second switch and ran a second switched wire to each of them, allowing switching from the switch plate rather than a dorky chain. If you have the ability to do so, I really, really recommend it. I had to rip out the boxes and install new ones (causing a little dry wall repair), but you don’t have to – you can get a dual switch that fits in a single gang box. (I couldn’t, because I also use X10 switches which are each full size).

Finally, some of the pricier models come with a remote control to turn the fan on and off independently of the lights, and they use only a single switched lead! I didn’t go that route myself because of the aforementioned X10 which does it for me.

Just wanted to add step 0: Go to the breaker box and shut off the power to the ceiling fan before proceeding. :wink:

On reread I see that a reference was made, but additional emphasis on this matter is always good.

Another vote for it not being that hard. I’ve replaced two in our house, and put a new one in. The mounting box and wiring for the new one was done by an electrician - that’s beyond my level of confidence.

Most were switched from the wall. If it is done right now, it is no problem to do later.

However, if you want to just change the blades, take one off and bring it to a fan store that sells your type of fan to see if you can get replacements. I’m betting you’ll walk out with a new fan and light kit myself.

This seems to be the case for me.

Thanks, everyone, especially engineer_comp_geek, for all the advice and encouragement. I’ve definitely decided to go for a new fan, and try installing it on my own. I can assure everyone that I have a healthy fear of zapping myself :smiley: so if I run into problems, I’ll be sure to bring in someone more competent than yours truly!

Pardon the interruption, but this is an extremely unlikely scenario. There will never be two circuits that feed a fan since it’s only got one common nuetral. You’d need a two pole breaker (to do it leagally) and it’s also unlikely that there is even two circuits in the box. There may be a hot and a switch leg, but they will come from the same breaker (source). If there is a second circuit in that box it will be spliced straight through and the OP will never have to access it.

Actually, the new fan will have a blue, black and a white wire. The black is for the
fan motor (or fan control pullchain, then to the fan), the blue will be for the light kit (or lightkit control pullchain, then to the light) and the white is the common grounded conductor. The Green is to be bonded to the box via the house wiring, IOW, the house wiring should be bonded to the metal box with some type of screw or jumper wire and you will need to get your green wire from the fan to that same point (either wire nut splice, green screw or some other mechanical means of connection). Sounds like the OP will just be combining the black and blue wires to the switchleg from the switch and then taking the white to the white and the green to the ground screw or splice.

Yes, do.
Also, if you’d like to be able to conrol the light from the switch and the fan from the pullchain (even if the light is off) let me know and I can walk you through that scenario (if your wiring will allow it). A simple explanation from you of which wires are in the fan box or wall switch is all that would be needed.

Kevbo, there are spreader bars that you can buy that are insertable through an existing hole in the ceiling just for this type of scenario, that scenario being that you have an unnacceptible ceiling box for a fan installation and you’d like to change it out so that you have a well supported box.

OP, once the old fan is down, physycally push up and pull down on that ceiling box. It shouldn’t feel loose, it will move a little bit but there should be minimal play. Also, you want to look out for a plastic box that’s only mounted on one side. If it’s a metal box mounted on one side it will usually be strong enough/designed for this use. If you have doubts about the secureness of the box feel free to run another wood screw through one of the holes in the box to the joist or top support. Or drill another hole in the box and run another wood screw through that. I sometimes will do that just for assurance using a couple number 8 course thread wood or drywall screws.

Is this a trade definition? I’d still call it two circuits, even if they’re coming off the same breaker, just as engineer_comp_geek did. Circuits are kind of fractal like… each circuit can have many smaller circuits. I ask the “trade” question because it’s obvious you’re calling everything on the load side of a single breaker a single circuit, whereas we engineer geeks see circuits everywhere.