How to Replace a Light Fixture with a Ceiling Fan

A ceiling fan can save your household a bundle on heating and cooling costs, while keeping everyone comfortable, too. Plus, many modern ceiling fans are incredibly stylish and come with cool features.

If you already have a light fixture (or another fan) installed in your ceiling, then replacing it with the shiny new ceiling fan of your choice shouldn’t be too hard. The wiring is already in place, and while you’ll have to make sure you have a fan-rated electrical box in your ceiling to support the weight of the fan, you have some options for how to achieve that. Follow these steps to upgrade your light fixture to a ceiling fan. It’s so easy, you’ll want to put fans in every room.

Remove the Fixture and Install a Fan-Rated Electrical Box

Whenever you do any kind of electrical work in your home, make extra, extra sure that you turn off the current to the room where you’ll be working. It’s literally a matter of life and death. Shut off the power to the room at the breaker box, and at the wall switch in the room for good measure. It’s not a bad idea to break out a voltage tester once you have wires exposed, just to verify that the current is indeed dead.

With the power off, you can remove the old light fixture or ceiling fan. If you’re taking down an old fan, you’ll probably need someone to help you safely remove it from the ceiling, because fans are heavy. But you should be able to handle a light fixture on your own, unless it’s a large or elaborate one. Remove the screws that hold the fixture in place, then lower it from the ceiling, exposing the wires. You should be able to remove the plastic wire caps and disconnect the wires by twisting them apart.

If you’re replacing a light fixture with a ceiling fan, you’re going to need to install a fan-rated electrical box in your ceiling. Fans exert a lot of force, so the electrical box that held your light fixture up won’t work for a fan. Ideally, you should screw the fan-rated box directly into a joist. If your light fixture wasn’t located over a joist, though, you can do one of three things.

You can access the ceiling from above, through the attic, and fasten a two-by-four between the joists, so it runs above the hole in your ceiling. If you don’t have access through the attic, you can get an expanding metal brace and insert it through the hole from below — once expanded, it will bite into the joists on either side and create a sturdy foundation for your electrical box. Finally, you can choose to move the fan — this is a good choice if your light fixture wasn’t far from the nearest joist. You’ll have to cut a second hold in your ceiling, and use a ceiling medallion to cover up the old hole.

Hang the Mounting Bracket

With the fan-rated electrical box in place, you can hang the mounting bracket by fastening it to the electrical box with 1.5-inch no. 10 screws. Feed the wires from the ceiling down through the bracket. Wrap the ground wire (the green or bare one) around the grounding screw in the electrical box and let the end hand down — you will also connect it to the ground wire in the fan motor assembly.

Assemble and Install the Fan Motor

Assemble and Install the Fan Motor

Assemble the fan motor on the floor and thread the wires through the canopy and downrod. Thread the downrod  into the motor housing and lock the locking screw. Modern ceiling fans come with everything you need to install them on a flat ceiling of average height, but you might need a longer downrod if you have an unusually high or steeply pitched ceiling.

You should be able to hang the fan motor from the mounting bracket while you connect the wiring. Connect the wiring by twisting the bare ends of the wires together and securing them with wire caps. Connect black to black, white to white, and ground (green or bare) to ground (green or bare). Once the wiring is hooked up, you can lift the motor assembly into position and secure it to the mounting bracket. Lift the canopy up to the ceiling and secure it using the two screws provided.

Attach the Blades and Hook up the Light Fixture

With your fan motor wired up and securely fastened to the mounting bracket, you can attach the blades and install the light fixture. Screw a blade bracket onto each blade before attaching the blades to the fan motor. Finally, wire up the light fixture if your new fan has one. On most modern fans, the light fixture will just plug in. If you need to wire it up, though, you do it the same way you wired up the motor assembly — black to black, white to white, green or bare to green or bare. Put the finishing touch on by adding the glass shades and light bulbs. Finally, it’s time to turn the breaker back on and try out your new fan!