Wiring ceiling fans and lights may seem like a daunting task, but it really isn't. Pro Tool Reviews provides you with a visual guide and step-by-step instructions to help you make the best connections for your specific ceiling fan installation. This project is rated as difficulty 5 on a scale of 1-10, but it could be more complicated if ancillary items were included (such as wiring through walls, etc.).
The main thing to consider when wiring ceiling fans and lights is to determine how you want to control that fan. For some, this will be any combination of no switch (use the included drag chain to power the fan and/or light) and having separate switches for the light and fan.
Having the right tools will help the project run smoothly. It also ensures that you don't get caught trying to use, for example, a razor with a knife to shave wires. A pair of real wire strippers will do the job more accurately and about 10 times faster.
Author's Note: Code and Security Tips
Be sure to follow the local codes in your area when wiring ceiling fans and lights. Internal electrical work may require a permit. When working with power on, remember to turn off the power, test the wiring with a meter (or voltmeter) to make sure the power is off, secure the panel box so that someone won't accidentally turn it back on while you're working, and consult a professional to make sure you're properly Do things and comply with the norms of your state and local regulations. Read all instructions and safety information that came with your ceiling fan.
We'll cover each type of switching method and discuss what each means for wiring and controlling ceiling fans/lights. The four methods are:
- Electric ceiling fans and/or lights without any switches (no switches)
- Switch light and use the fan zipper (single switch)
- Use the same switch to switch lights and fans (single switch)
- Toggle lights and fans from separate switches (two switches)
- Switch lights and fans from the same switch with power on the switch (single switch)
1. Electric ceiling fans and/or lights without any switches (no switches)
We recommend this method when you simply cannot run the switch in the room. It does require that you be able to power the fans directly from a nearby location. This is certainly an acceptable method of wiring, and all fans have pull switches to control the fan and light kit. The wiring for this type of electrical connection is as follows:
As you can see, this simple connection powers the fan and (optional) light kit. The ground and neutral wires are simply connected together as you'd expect. The power supply to the fan motor is usually black, and most modern fans also have a separate blue wire that powers the light. Connecting this wire is important even if you don't plan to use the light kit, because it gives the homeowner the opportunity to add one at a later date without removing the fan from above and rewiring it.
2. Switch light and fan using zipper (single switch)
This method and the one below are the most commonly used. All they need is a light switch. Many older homes never thought to install a second switch. The main reason this happens is that there are no electric ceiling fans in the home. As a result, many homeowners must use a single switch to control the light and/or both sides of the ceiling fan. The wiring for such electrical connections is as follows:
As you can see we switch the hot wire to the light kit by plugging in the switch. Many people use a simple 12/2 (Romex) with a ground wire to make this loop. If you do this, wrap black electrical tape around the exposed white wires. This indicates (to you or anyone else working on the circuit in the future) that it is indeed the "hot" wire and not neutral.
Although we show a small strip of electrical tape, we recommend actually wrapping it around all exposed white wires. Note that we chose to connect the fan motor directly to the power supply. This allows us to use the fan's pull cord to open and close it. This also allows the fan to work regardless of the position of the wall switch. Connect neutral and ground and you're all set.
3. Switch light and fan from the same switch (single switch)
This is a slight adaptation of the method above. It switches power to the fan and light kit through a wall switch. This allows you to turn the fan on and off using the wall switch (along with the light). You don't have to walk over and pull the chain to stop the fan motor. This wiring method is entirely up to you. Some people prefer method #2, while others (myself included) generally choose this method. Here's what this electrical connection looks like:
Note that power is supplied via a switch. Both the fan motor and the light kit get their power from the switch. As expected, the neutral and ground wires are simply connected together and all is well.
4. Toggle lights and fans from separate switches (two switches)
This is the most versatile method of wiring a ceiling fan with a light kit. It allows individual control of fans and lights in the room. There are also a number of very handy switches that combine this dual control functionality into one neat little component. Some even let you dim the lights – definitely a nice touch! There are endless options when it comes to combination dimmers/switches that can be used with fans or fans/lights.
Of course, you can always simply connect two single pole switches and you're all set. In this case, the wires look like this:
It looks more complicated, but don't worry. The basic idea is that your power line feeds power to both switches. Each switch then powers either the fan (black wire) or the light kit (blue wire). All that's left at this point is to connect all the ground and neutral wires (respectively) together. Remember again that we're assuming a 12/2 ground for the wires going to and from the switch, so be sure to clearly mark them as the "hot" wires by wrapping black electrical tape around the white ends.
While codes make certain provisions, there are often different ways to accomplish wiring connections. For example, the method above uses a standard 12/2 line display. If you choose 12/3 wire, you can do the same two-switch connection with much less work:
What you're doing here is using a single hot (black) wire to power both switches. You can do this by jumping longer wires to both switches. A jumper means you strip the insulation off a small piece of wire. Make it big enough to wrap around the hot terminal. Then, wrap the exposed wire around the hot terminal of the first switch. Finally, strip the end and connect it to the second switch. The hot loop is the red and white wires that you designate as hot with black tape (both ends).
You can also jump the ground wire. This jumper method is great because it doesn't require wire nuts. It also makes for a simpler wiring scheme (and gives you more room to work in the box!)
Here's a similar approach using 12/3 wire with wire nuts instead of a jumper:
5. Switch lights and fans from the same switch, power is on the switch (single switch)
This is the same as case #3 above. However, we want to outline the wiring differences when the power is actually at the switch instead of the ceiling. We find this method works about fifty percent of the time in older homes. This is especially the case when the wires originate in the crawl space. Also, there is a simplicity to this approach.
It also provides two useful advantages. First, the wires are consistent. You didn't relabel the neutral wire. Second, this method of wiring makes it easy to replace ceiling fans. Cutting power at the switch removes all power to the ceiling box. Note that we still recommend deactivating the circuit breaker and checking the wires with a voltmeter, but it's still worth noting.
Always check the power before starting work — even if you've tripped the circuit breaker. We've seen multiple instances of multiple power supplies being routed to a particular ceiling box. When we got inside, we were very surprised! It's also important to note that while some power comes in through the switch (rather than from above), the basic approach described here doesn't change. What really makes a difference is that you can safely deactivate the ceiling fan box simply by turning off the switch. This comes in handy when replacing a ceiling fan with a similar model. However, we still recommend turning off the circuit breaker in case someone walks into you and tries to turn on the lights!
When stripping wires, we prefer to use a stripping tool rather than a blade. There are a variety of tools on the market, from simple $2 stripping tools to more advanced strippers with 10/2, 12/2, and 14/2 cable cutouts.
Do not use the supplied wire nuts
Never use the "wire nuts" that come with your ceiling fan. They almost never have metal inner windings and are usually undersized. This makes them difficult, if not insecure, to use. Instead, be sure to pick up small-piece multipacks at your local home improvement or hardware store. While usually not necessary, we recommend that you tape down any wire nuts after making these connections. Wire nuts are generally very reliable, but it doesn't hurt to add an extra layer of protection to keep them from loosening forever. It's just a good habit to develop and takes little time or money to implement.
That's it, folks!
Hope this guide helps you install your ceiling fan and make all the necessary electrical connections to get it up and running smoothly. A ceiling fan can brighten up almost any room. This is one of the easiest projects to complete and really make a difference in your home. It also makes you look and feel like a real handyman.