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How to Swap Out a Home Ceiling Fan

Do you have a dying or dead ceiling fan to replace in your home? Are you wanting to take out a light fixture and replace it with a ceiling fan? Well, if you’re even remotely handy, you should have the skills necessary to swap out a home ceiling fan or replace a light fixture with a ceiling fan. Here are the steps you need to follow.

Turn Off the Electrical Circuit

Before you get to work on changing out your ceiling fan, you need to make sure to turn off the electrical circuit you’ll be working on. If you don’t, you could be seriously hurt or killed by an electrical shock. Go to the breaker box and flip the correct switch to the “off” position. Then go to the room where you’ll be working and flip the light switch or stick a voltage tester into an outlet to make sure the circuit is dead. 

Take Down the Fixture You Want to Replace

Now it’s time to get started. Get up on a ladder and take down the fixture you’re replacing. If it’s a light fixture, simply remove the glass shade or globe and then unscrew the screws holding the fixture in place. Pull the fixture down and disconnect the wiring. If it’s a ceiling fan, remove the blades and light fixture from the fan first, then undo the screws holding the fan canopy in place, pull it down, and pull the wiring out of the electrical box in the ceiling. Disconnect the wiring, then take the fan motor down and set it aside.

Install a Fan Brace and Fan-Rated Electrical Box in Your Ceiling

If you are swapping out an old ceiling fan for a new one, you probably already have a fan-rated electrical box and fan brace in your ceiling – otherwise, your old fan would have come crashing down long ago. But look in your ceiling to verify that you have the right kind of electrical box and that there’s a fan brace to anchor your fan to – or, alternatively, that your fan is anchored directly to a ceiling joist.

If you’re taking down an old light fixture to replace it with a ceiling fan, make sure you can either anchor your new fan directly to a joist or that you’ve installed a fan ceiling brace in your ceiling. You can buy expanding fan braces that you can insert into your ceiling from below, but if you can get to the joists from above, you can install a piece of two-by-four between the joists in the appropriate place. Anchor it to the joists using 1.5-inch screws. Remove the electrical junction box that held your light fixture up and replace it with a fan-rated box attached to the fan brace. Once you have the fan brace and electrical box in place, you should attach the ceiling bracket that came with your fan to the electrical box.

Assemble the Fan Motor 

Your fan will come with instructions to help you assemble the motor, which you should do on the floor. Most indoor and outdoor ceiling fans have a downrod that attaches to the motor housing with pins, and you can pull the wiring up through the downrod. The top of the downrod should connect to the ceiling bracket – most fan ceiling brackets have a hook so you can hang up the fan motor while you’re connecting the wiring.

Connect the Fan Wiring

The wiring coming out of your fan should match the wiring coming out of your house – that is, there should be a black wire, a white wire, and a green or bare wire coming from both your ceiling and your fan motor. If you have different colors of wiring in your ceiling, or fewer than three wires coming out of your ceiling, it’s time to call an electrician.

But if you have the right wiring on both sides, just connect it up, matching the colors together, so black connects to black and so on. Strip the ends of the wiring if necessary, so you have bare ends to twist together. Secure the wiring connections with wire nuts.

Secure the Fan Downrod and Canopy

Now that the wiring is connected, you can finish securing the downrod to the ceiling bracket. Most fans have a ball-and-socket connection here. Once the downrod is seated in place, you can pull the fan canopy up over the ceiling bracket and fasten it in place with the provided screws.

Install the Lights 

If your fan includes a light fixture, it’s time to install it now. Some fan light fixtures just plug into the fan motor, while others have to be wired up just like the fan motor was. Once you have the wiring connected, secure the light fixture to the fan motor housing, then add the light shades and bulbs.

Screw on the Fan Blades

The fan blades will come with corresponding blade irons that have to be attached to the fan blades and then to the motor housing. When you attach the fan blades, make sure they’re all the same distance from the floor.

Congratulations! Now you’ve swapped out your own home ceiling fan, and can enjoy years of cooling breezes from your new fan.


Jeff Campbell