Installing A Ceiling Fan Where A Light Fixture Exists

As ceiling fans have increased in popularity in recent years in hotels and bars, more homeowners are becoming interested in putting them in their own homes. However, rather than creating a purpose-built fixture, they are using the central light fixture in a room and adapting it to the needs of a new fan.

In this article, you will learn how to install a new fan and light using a preexisting light fixture. 

The main benefit of this is you needn’t buy new cables or completely remodel your room to install one. Although to some less seasoned DIY professionals this might seem like a daunting task, we assure you it is anything but if you follow the right steps. 

Ceiling fan installation

What people should bear in mind however when installing a new fan, is that it isn’t possible to just attach the new fan to the old fixture. This is a crucial thing to remember, as the box won’t be stable enough to deal with the weightier ceiling fan or be equipped to handle the vibrations a fan produces when in use. 

Pancake junction boxInstead, you must install a purpose-made box or preferably employ the use of a ‘pancake box‘, which can be screwed directly into the joist in the ceiling.

The pancake box is the example we use for this walkthrough, however there are other suitable boxes for the task, if in doubt make sure you contact the manufacturer to make sure it is suitable for a ceiling fan. 

How to tell if an existing junction box will support a ceiling fan

Before we dive into the step by step guide as to how to actually replace your ceiling light with a new ceiling fan, it is important to establish if the existing outlet box you have in mind will support a fan.

This is a very important consideration, as an inappropriate fixture could lead to personal injury or significant damage to your house.

Weight requirements for support

All fans over 16kg in weight must be supported with an appropriate outlet box which is expressly designed for the support of a ceiling fan. This is a requirement listed as part of the National Electric Code.

You will see if the system is strong enough to support ceiling fans, as there will be an indication by the manufacturer on the outside box of the system.

If the box that you have targeted for installation is not listed as suitable for ceiling fan installations, then a new box must be retrofitted and attached securely to the building structure.

Changing a light fixture for a fan

As we have mentioned, in most cases you won't just screw the new fan into the old light box.

If the previous light box was a lightweight plastic fixture, it will have to be replaced with a stronger structure such as the one on our guide.

Required tools

Here's a list of what tools you may require when installing a ceiling fan where a light fixture already exists:

  • Drywall saw
  • Nail set
  • Hammer
  • Drill
  • Wire Stripper
  • Screwdriver
  • Caulk gun
  • New pancake box adaptor set
  • Pencil
  • Safety glasses

How to replace an existing light fixture with a ceiling fan - Step by step guide

Follow this simple guide to replacing your existing light with a new fan. This shouldn't take more than a modest day's work, however if you are uncomfortable doing this yourself, we recommend calling a handyman in.

Step 1- Read the instructions

Every new fan will come with a guide that tells you how to install it. Installation varies from fan to fan so make sure you familiarize yourself with the fan that you have chosen and its requirements. 

Step 2 – Safety

Start by shutting off the power to the room that you want to install the fan in. 
Remove any of the old light bulbs in the old fixture. Unscrew and remove the old fixture from the ceiling. 
Disconnect the wiring and place the old fixture out of the way.

Step 3 – Remove the existing bracket 

Unscrew any old brackets which are associated with the old fixture. 

Step 4- Cut out a hole in the ceiling to fit the new fan box

Trace the shape of your outlet box (the pancake box or other well-adapted fixture box) with a pencil onto the ceiling. 

Use the saw to cut out the shape in the plaster in the ceiling for your specific box. A drywall saw is perfect for drywall but a powered saw will work also. 

Once the hole has been cut, make sure that the box will fit inside the hole. 

Step 5 – Create support for the box

Depending on the type of box that you buy makes a change to the support that the box has. 
The most common fans of this type use expandable thread support which wedges against the joist from side to side.

Insert the threaded support bar and centre it between the joist and the hole. 
Once centred, twist the bar to wedge it against the joist.

Step 6 – Insert bracket and fan box

Put the bracket and the fan box into the hole and tighten the screws. 

Step 7 – Wire up the new fan

Blue wire on a ceiling fanThread the fan’s wiring through the down rod, then thread the down rod onto the fan.  

Insert the metal pin into the down rod and secure it with the provided clip.

Tighten down the set screws around the base of the down rod and secure it. 

Slide on the new yoke cover and canopy on the down rod. 

Then slide the hanging ball and insert the stop pin and raise the hanging ball to align with the stop pin. Then tighten the set screw. 

Step 8 – Attach the fan to the box

At the ceiling make sure that the green grounding wire on the mounting bracket is grounded to the outlet box. Then attach the mounting bracket to the outlet box with the provided screws and tighten it down. 

Lift the fan assembly over the bracket and slot in the hanging ball into the hanging bracket tab. 

Step 9 – Connect wires

Trim and strip the end of the wires from the fan assembly.

Connect the green wire from the fan to the grounded wire on the mounting bracket. Twist the blue and black wires from the fan together, then attach them to the black ‘hot’ lead from the ceiling and twist on a wire nut. Connect the white neutral wire from the fan to the white neutral wire in the ceiling and twist on a wire nut.

Tuck the wires inside the mounting bracket and box then slide the canopy over the bracket. Screw the canopy to the bracket.

Step 10- Assemble the fan

Assemble the fan blades to the blade arms and tighten down the screws. Align the blade arm with the motor screw holes and attach the fan blade to the motor assembly with the provided screws. 

Keep all screws loose until all of the blades have been attached. Once they are all attached tighten the screws. 

Step 11- Assemble the light

On the light kit assembly connect the internal white wires as well as the blue wire and black wires.  Connect the female plug from the light kit housing to the male plug from the motor housing 

Twist on the light housing to the fan assembly and tighten screws.

Step 12- Finish up  

Connect the glass shades to the light kit and insert the bulbs.

Restore power from the panel then test lights and fan. 

Enjoy

Enjoy your new ceiling fan. If any of these instructions seem unclear or if you are not confident with any part of the task, make sure to hire an electrician to carry out the work.