Complete Resource for Ceiling Fan Installation, Care, and Troubleshooting
Most people, even handymen, know very little about ceiling fans and how they should be operated/maintained to be most effective at doing there job even though they can be found in almost every household in America.
Table of Contents
Ceiling Fan Troubleshooting
Some of the most common issues with ceiling fans:
If the problem with your ceiling fan is a simple one, it’s definitely worth fixing yourself. It will save you the $50 it will cost you to get an electrician to look at it and possible the cost of a new fan. But it is somewhat difficult to perform repairs on fans, so if the problem is electrical or internal it is best to have someone who is qualified perform the work.
If there is power to the switch but the fan won’t turn on, the problem is something with the fan itself. Next check if the lights on the fan work. If the lights work but the fan does not work it may be the reversing switch. Check the switch and make sure it is not between settings and fully one way or the other. Another possible problem are the pull chain switches. Read the section below, “Pull Chain Issues”, for more on this.
Again, if power is making it to the fan but it won’t turn on, it could be a loose wire in the fan housing. Here’s how you check for loose wiring in your ceiling fan:
- You may need help holding the fan up as you check the wiring.
- Turn the breaker off so electricity isn’t going though the wires as you work on it.
- Loosen the screws in the fan housing and slowly lower the fan. Make sure nothing is hot with a tester.
- Check all of the connections between the fan wires and the wires in the box and make sure the nuts are tightened well.
- There might be connections within the fan housing, check these as well.
- Finally, check the connections at the pull chain if you have one and reassemble the fan.
- Turn the power back on and test the fan again.
If you still don’t have power it may be a problem with the box and power may still not be reaching the fan itself. Once again turn off the power and switch the breaker off. Take the fan down completely and disconnect all of the connections to the box. Once the fan is down, turn the power back on and turn the switch to the fan on. Use a non-contact tester to see if electricity is making it to the box. If the power is making it to the box then the problem is with the fan. If the power isn’t making it to the fan then the problem is with a connection between the switch to the box.
If your fan is wobbling is can be noisy and loosen things within the fan causing issues. If your fan is wobbling take the following steps:
- First make sure everything is tight on the fan housing.
- If the problem persists look at the fan blades and fan brackets to see if anything is warped or bent. If any of them aren’t right you can try bending them if they bend to fix the issue or buying a replacement part.
- One common way to fix the wobbling is to put weights on the backs of the blades one by one to balance the fan out; this will stop the wobbling.
If you are having an issue with your pull chain or it is stuck on one speed but is supposed to have several you can replace the switch:
- Purchase a replacement. We recommend this 3-speed universal replacement switch.
- Turn the power off to the fan and the breaker.
- Take the the housing off.
- Splice the wires going to the switch and loosen the retaining nut for the switch.
- Use wire nuts to splice the wires that you spliced back together.
- Put the new switch into the housing
If this doesn’t work, you may want to consult an expert or get a new fan if the issue is too much to deal with (parts and labor may be more expensive than a new fan).
Choosing your fan
Whether you go to a hardware store or choose to purchase your ceiling fan online, the number of choices that you are going to have is daunting. They may all look the same but a ceiling fan’s size and features can effect your experience.
For the ceiling fan to effectively do its job, it must be big enough to create an airflow throughout the room(s) it is circulating air through. In general, you want to follow the following size guidelines:
- Room about 75 sq. ft.: Fan blades should have diameter of 29 to 36 inches.
- Room 76 to 144 sq. ft.: Fan blades should have diameter of 36 to 42 inches.
- Room 144 to 225 sq. ft.: Fan blades should have diameter of 44 inches.
- Room 225 to 400 sq. ft.: Fan blades should have diameter of 50 to 54 inches.
- Larger room: 55 inches or greater.
Following these loose guidelines will give you the best possible airflow and help reduce your energy bills. You can read more about choosing the correct fan here.
Before you go ahead and buy that cheap and attractive fan, you should make sure it isn’t lacking features. The features that consumers rate as the most important that aren’t always included:
- A fan remote that can be used to control your fan. This is especially important when fans are out of reach.
- Reverse mode allows your fan to spin in the opposite direction and is important because it helps maintain airflow in your house during the winter months.
- Pull chain controls allow an alternative way to control your fan and seems like an obvious feature, but some fans that come with remotes don’t have pull chain controls. This makes it very hard to control your fan if your remote fails.
- Thermostat control remotes/fans allow you to control your fan from your thermostat, automating your fan speed based on the temperature. You can usually get one of these separate from your fan, but it’s always nice if it comes with your fan.
Check the fan’s packaging/listing to see which of these features it comes with. If the listing isn’t clear, ask an associate. Many of these features can be added/replaced later on if needed.
Installing your fan
When installing your fan you have the two obvious options of doing it yourself or having other people do it for you. If you would consider yourself a handy person you can probably replace an existing ceiling fan with a new one or even install a new one if there is already electrical going to the location you want the fan to be. But if you need a new switch or need to wire the new fan you will probably have to hire an electrician or be one yourself.
Hiring somebody to install it for you
If you choose to pay somebody else to install your fan for you, you are going to see a different price range based on where you are located, how hard it is to access the location where your new fan will be, and the condition of your homes wiring. If you buy the fan from a hardware store like Lowes or Home Depot you may be able to get a cheaper installation through the store, they will ask you about this. If you choose to hire a local handyman, check out these tips to ensure you get the job done correctly.
If you already have a fan or wiring going to the location where the fan will be
$50 – $215. If you hire a handyman to do the replacement for you and you can use an existing mounting box you are going to pay in the lower end of this range. If you want a new mounting box and the fan is in a location that is hard to reach you are going to pay in the higher end of the range. For the jobs that fall into the lower end of the range you may be about to just use Youtube or other online instructions to do it yourself and skip the appointment and cost.
If you have a switch but do not have wiring going to the location where you want the fan to be
$150 – $350. For this kind of job you are probably going to have to get an electrician involved and they are going to have put new wiring in to get your fan working.
Since the pricing varies so much it is wise to get an estimate for your installation which is offered by stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s home Improvement.
Doing it yourself
If you decide to install the fan yourself then you probably already have the wiring going to the location where the fan will be. If you choose to do it yourself you are best off using the installation guide that every fan comes with to install the fan into your home since every fan is slightly different.
Here is a great video that shows, in general, what you can expect when installing your new ceiling fan. It goes very in depth:
- When installed, the tips of the fan blade should be 30 inches or more from any obstructions, including walls.
- The bottom edge of the fan blades should be 7 feet above the floor.
- Check your manual for further and more accurate specifications.
Operating your fan
The actual practice of operating your ceiling fan is very simple but most people do not know the best practices of operating a ceiling fan. In general there are two things you want to do:
- In the summer you want to run your fan to circulate the cool air, so the hotter it is the higher the fan setting should be.
- In the winter you want to run your fan on reverse to circulate the warm air, so the colder it gets the higher in reverse the fan setting should be.
Very simple, but most people do not realize that in the winter you can actually help keep your house warm and reduce your heating bill by using a ceiling fan properly. This is also why it is so important that your fan be reversible.
Cleaning your fan
Fans, like everything else in your house, are going to get dirty. For the most part you can use a duster made for ceiling fans to clean your fan if you do it regularly. But if your fan is hard to reach or you just don’t get to it, you might opt to clean it less frequently which can be a little more involved. You are going to want to take down the blades and clean them with a cloth. Take the following steps to do so:
- Make sure the ceiling fan is off and for extra safety turn off the power to the switch on the circuit breaker.
- Unscrew the fan blades from the motor by simply unscrewing the screws that hold the fan blade in place. You will probably need to step ladder or sturdy chair to reach your fan and get the blades unscrewed.
- Once you have the blades down wipe them with a cloth and use some water and soap if you need to to remove anything stuck on them.
- Once you are done put the blades back up on the ceiling fan in the same way you took them down.
- Turn the power back on to the fan and enjoy great and clean air circulation.