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Install your ceiling fan safely and for efficiency  Smart Choices Archive

Install your ceiling fan safely and for efficiency

A ceiling fan can help you save energy in winter and summer.


Written by Dwight Kramer.

There are few fixtures that can impact the look and livability of a room with such elegance as a ceiling fan. The popularity of ceiling fans continues to grow as more and more homeowners discover dramatic, year-round energy savings.

How fans help
Ceiling fans do not reduce the temperature in a room, as some believe, but actually create a “wind-chill” effect by evaporating moisture on our skin. On a hot and humid summer day, this effect can make the room feel at least seven degrees cooler so that you can avoid running the air conditioning even when the actual room temperature is in the mid-eighties.

In the winter months the room can actually be made warmer by rotating the ceiling fan blades clockwise and forcing warm air from the ceiling down into the living area. This warmer air allows you to adjust your thermostat so that the heating system runs less, saving money on heating costs. The result: You feel more comfortable while you save on utility bills.

Choose a fan
ENERGY STAR® qualified ceiling fans move at least 20 percent more air than a typical ceiling fan per watt of power consumed. Also, ENERGY STAR qualified ceiling fans use about 60–70 percent less electricity for lighting than equivalent incandescent models.

Install the fan
For the do-it-yourselfer, installing a ceiling fan is not as difficult as it used to be thanks to new, stronger, and more versatile mounting systems designed to take the hassle out of installation. Once the proper ceiling box has been installed, you’ll find that just about any ceiling fan can go up quickly and easily on any ceiling. Replacing an existing light fixture with a fan is a simple, one-day task since the wiring is already in place. Installing a ceiling fan in a room without a current lighting fixture does include some challenges and may require the work of an electrical professional.

Installing a new ceiling fan in your home involves these steps:

  • Select the ceiling fan. Ceiling fans come in many sizes, styles, and colors. Choose the blade diameter that best suits the room visually, making sure the unit complies with the recommended distance from the floor and adjacent walls. Most manufacturers recommend installing at least 7 feet above the floor, and some suggest a safe distance from the sidewalls. Check with the lighting salesperson before purchasing a unit if you have any questions about a specific location in your home.
  • Select the proper ceiling box. Only “fan-rated boxes” should be used to support paddle fans. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for installation. Screws must be as tight as possible because loose attachments may cause the fan to wobble and cause excess noise or vibration. These boxes come in many varieties and styles so you may have to remove the existing lighting fixture to determine which type will best fit your installation.
  • Turn off the power. Before starting any work, shut off the circuit breaker that feeds the switch and light fixture. If there’s a working bulb in the fixture, turn it on. Then you’ll know you have the right breaker when the bulb goes out.
  • Mount the selected ceiling box. Remove the existing lighting fixture and associated hardware. Install the new electrical box you have selected for this installation following the included instructions. The correct box mounted solidly to the structure may save some frustrations later.
  • Install the ceiling fan. Assemble and hang the ceiling fan according to the manufacturer’s instructions included with the fan. The blades usually have two designs to choose from and there may be options in the distance the ceiling fan will hang from the ceiling.
  • Restore power. Turn the power back on and make sure the ceiling fan is operating correctly.

Special circumstances
Most ceiling fans are designed for heated, enclosed spaces. If you’re installing a fan in a screen room, gazebo, or other damp area, the building code requires you to use a “damp-rated” fan. These fans have corrosion-resistant stainless steel or plastic parts that can stand up to high humidity and condensation.

If you are installing a fan in a particularly wet environment like a greenhouse or an enclosed pool area, you should choose a “wet-rated” fan.

No matter where your new ceiling fan is located, you are ready to enjoy its fresh air feeling and lower utility bills.

Contact information
Dwight Kramer
Iowa Electrical Inspector Supervisor
Department of Public Safety


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