I live in a house without air conditioning.  In the giddy first days of living mortgage free with a nest egg set aside just for home improvement I thought one of the first additions would be central air.  Oh yes!  We would be cool and comfortable!  But there was so much else to do!  Fans and open windows would have to suffice.

I have watched enough interior decoration programs on TV and I have read enough articles on decorating to understand that ceiling fans are a fashion faux-pas.  Obviously the people who write these articles and snub ceiling fans on television don’t live in the houses they are so eager to change!  I think the first things to consider when planning on how to decorate a house is how you plan to use your house and whether or not your changes will make your house more comfortable.

Here’s another thought about lighting.  Is the lighting fixture going to add to the design of the room or is it simply needed for light?  If you are more interested in light to see by and have decorating ideas that don’t include fancy light fixtures, then go very simple.  11-img_4601The ceiling fan I am hanging here is the one that will go into my would-be office.  I need light and moving air.  The ceiling is low and I really don’t want anything making the ceiling appear even lower than it actually is.  So I chose a small, simple white fan.

Be careful in selecting your fan.  Consider the size of the room.  Do you really want to put a helicopter on the ceiling?  My office is about 135 sq feet.  A 42-inch fan will provide good circulation in a room up to 175 sq feet.  For rooms like a family room or large dining room a 52-inch fan is a better choice.

02-img_4575My first step in hanging a ceiling fan was to learn what I was up against.  After shutting off power to the room I disconnected the old light fixture to see what kind of wiring was hiding in the ceiling.

Well, this is unfortunate!  What I have is a pair of unlabeled wires passing through a hole in the ceiling.  I have to put my ceiling fan connections inside an electrical box and I need to know which of these wires is the hot wire (is carrying current). You can see in the photo that one of the wires is connected to a black wire on the old light fixture.  This should be the hot wire, but I would like to know for sure.


This wonderful little tool is a voltage sensor.  It will detect electrical voltage without needing to touch an uninsulated wire.  If it detects voltage it beeps and a light on the sensor flashes.  It verified that the wire attached to the black wire on the fixture was the hot wire.  I labeled it with a piece of red electrical tape so that I wouldn’t be confused when I disconnected the fixture.  Problem solved!

Then there was the problem of the missing electrical box.  It’s important to contain any electrical splice inside a box.  This prevents possible damage to the connection and contains any sparks or heat that might be generated in the connection. I had two options to consider in deciding how to address this problem.  I could cut a hole around the wires protruding from the ceiling and insert an old-work box.  Then I could pull the wires into the box and safely contain the connections inside the ceiling.  My other option was to install a surface mounted box.

I c08-img_4584hose the surface mounted box.  Although an old work box is intended for remodeling I
wasn’t confident that the box would be stable enough to support the weight and potential movement of a ceiling fan.  The surface mounted box was screwed directly to a wooden rafter.  It isn’t going anywhere!

I attached the back plate of the box to the ceiling and discovered a design error…  Grr!!!  I think the design engineers who inflict their ideas on an unsuspecting public should be required to use their own products before releasing them into the world.  Before attaching the plate to the ceiling I was instructed to push two bolts through the plate and screw spacers onto the bolts.  (The bolts are there to attach a fixture to the box.)  After putting the bolts in place I needed to attach the plate to the ceiling with a pair of screws.  No problem until….

How does one screw a nut onto a bolt that spins when you tr06-img_4582y to tighten the nut?  Well, usually you would just hold the bolt in place by sticking a screwdriver into the end of the bolt.  But in this case, the end of the bolt was rendered inaccessible when the plate was attached to the ceiling!

I ended up redesigning the system.  It wasn’t hard but it took a trip to the hardware store and a consultation with my favorite hardware guru.  The original hardware used a lock nut to tighten up against the bolt.  The plastic “lock” on the nut prevents the bolt from wiggling loose.  But it takes force to screw this kind of nut onto the bolt and there was no way to hold the bolt still.  The solution was to throw the lock nuts away and replace them with a regular nut and a locking washer.  11-img_4587The washer slid easily onto the bolt and the nut screwed down far enough to give me a length of bolt to hold onto while tightening everything up. With the cover of the surface box in place and the ceiling fan bracket firmly attached to the two bolts it was time to hang the fan.

The design of the bracket allows you to hang the fan from one side of the bracket while you work on the electric connection.  There are two wires that need to be connected to the hot wire.  One supplies power to the fan motor and the other supplies power to the light.  The white wire is neutral and carries unused electrical current back to the house supply.  The wires are connected by twisting them inside wire nuts.  i add some extra insulation by then wrapping the wire nuts with a little electrical tape.

Finally, feed the connections through the bracket and up into the surface box.  Tighten the fan onto the bracket, screw on the fan cover and blades. You’re done!