A fan of ceiling fans

Do ceiling fans deserve their own blog post? They do. I absolutely LOVE them – they have made a huge difference in the comfort level of our house and possibly our power bill. (I got new insulation at the same time, so hard to tell)

ceiling fan
Ceiling fan on remote, angled ceiling

So, let’s say you want a ceiling fan – and because lamps are tiresome, you also want it to have a light. Good plan! I would never assume you are doing this yourself, or give you advice that would make you shake your fist at me if something went wrong, but here are some of the hoops electricians go through for these amazing things.

The first thing is making sure the box in your ceiling can hold the fan. Unfortunately, the way to do this is to pull down the old fixture – there isn’t really a short cut there. So here is the thing about those boxes. For building a new house, the code for ceiling fans is that the light box has to hold 70lbs. I’m pretty annoyed by this because lights and fans are getting lighter and lighter – however there are some super fancy fans that weigh a lot, so I get it. Codes on new houses are based on what people might do. Generally, you just need to make sure your box holds your fan. Most boxes hold 30 lbs, most fans are less. (most of the ones I hang anyway. YMMV)

If you don’t already have a box, well that’s a different kettle of bulbs. Depending on attic access, there is an undetermined amount of sheetrock cutting you need to do so you can drill for the wires. It’s much easier if there is some attic access, but still a bit of work. 

In most scenarios, people already have a light in their ceiling and they want to replace it with a fan light. The problem with that is that you only have a wire for a light – you actually need an additional wire for the fan. What most folks do is have the switch turn on both the fan and the light and use the pull chains. I’ve done this in my house with really high fans, and I hate it. 

The second possibility is have an electrician pull another wire, change your box to a 2-gang, and have 2 switches.  This is a little pricey, and depending on attic access, can mean some sheetrock cutting. (it’s not that pricey, but more than the next option)

The third possibility is a fan remote. Though this has been around for a bit, it doesn’t seem to be common knowledge. The remote itself adds another $30-$150 to the cost of your fan. (the higher priced one would be for wifi so it works with your smart apps) However it will control both the fan and the light and you don’t have to get extra wires pulled. The thing about these is that they come in 2 parts – the remote you hang on the wall, and the other half you install in the canopy of the fan. It can be really interesting to fit it into the canopy – I do hope they start making those smaller. 

switch and fan remote
2-gang switch and fan remote

Now, I’m going to take a second to complain about fan remotes. First off, I would lose one in a heartbeat, so I always mount them to the wall. I mean, this is work around, but I really don’t need it to be a remote that some tipsy person can run off and hide. (I might mean me) They also make ‘remotes’ that replace your switch, so they are installed in your wall. I’m going to warn you about this, because you will not be happy if you get one. They hook up to your power, and also need batteries. This is an insane design – you have to turn off your power and take it out of the wall to change your batteries.  If they didn’t need batteries or didn’t hook up to your power, I’d recommend them absolutely, but both? No.

For the most part I absolutely recommend getting the remote and having it mounted on your wall next to the switch. The other great thing about them is that if you get the correct one, it’s also a dimmer and speed control. Amazing. That one is about $50. 

Hopefully this is interesting or helpful or both! If you are doing it yourself, you can see what you are up against, and if you are hiring an electrician you can be prepared for pitfalls and know what it is you want.