Install Ceiling and Attic Fans

Install Ceiling and Attic Fans

Level: Experienced

It can cost a lot to make your home comfortable when it's hot outside. We've been there. But you can save some money on your cooling bills by turning down your air conditioning and installing a few ceiling fans and an attic fan.

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  • Install a Ceiling Fan

    Ceiling fans use 5% of the energy required to run the air conditioner. In fact, a ceiling fan uses the same energy as a 100-watt light bulb. Using ceiling fans to circulate the cool air from your AC, you can lower your air conditioning. You'll not only save money, you'll also help the environment by reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

    • Step 1: Turn Off Power and Remove Light Fixture
      fiberglass step ladder

      Start by turning off the power to the existing light fixture at the circuit breaker or fuse. Verify that power is off using a neon circuit tester. Only then is it safe to remove the light fixture.

      Safety Alerts!

      Working with electricity can be dangerous. Even less current than it takes to light a 60-watt bulb can be lethal. Always follow these safety precautions.

      All wiring should conform to local electrical codes as well as to the current National Electrical Code (NEC). You can probably find a copy of the NEC at your local library.

      Never trust a light switch to render a fixture "dead." Sometimes the power enters at the fixture even when the switch is located in the circuit beyond it.

      Turn off the circuit you're working on by switching off a circuit breaker or by unscrewing a fuse (the house main switch should be off when handling fuses). Then padlock the panel if you can.

      Make sure the circuit is truly "dead" before touching any wires or terminals. Check with a high-voltage neon tester. Test from the black wires to a grounded metal box or other good ground, then to the white wires. Also test from the white wires to a ground. Since there may be more than one circuit inside an outlet box, see that all of its circuits are off before you take off a cover. Also, be sure your tester is functioning by first trying it in a live receptacle.

      Test your finished work with the power on using the neon tester. Check black to white and black to a ground. It should light. Test white to ground. It should not light.

      If you aren't knowledgeable about working around electricity, call a professional.

      A ladder will help you reach the light fixture. Using a cordless drill/screwdriver, remove the screws holding the fixture to the ceiling. Carefully lower the fixture, disconnecting the wires from the junction box.

    • Step 2: Assemble the Fan
      cordless power drill

      Follow the manufacturer's instructions closely to ensure proper assembly and operation. It's important to note that if the fan blades are less than a screwdriver's length away from the ceiling, you'll want to install the blades before hanging the fan.

      To attach the fan blades, set the motor unit down where it will be stable. The styrofoam packing for the motor housing usually makes an excellent stabilizer on your worktable. Most fan blades have a two-pronged attachment, using screws that come through holes in the blades and into the flanges. These screws need to be drawn up securely, but not so tightly that the threads are damaged or the laminated blade material is crushed. On many fans, the flanges or prongs also need to be mounted to the motor housing. If this is the case, mount them before the flanges are mounted to the blades themselves.

    • Step 3: Mounting the Fan to the Box

      First install the hanger bracket on the junction box with manufacturer-provided screws and lock washers. If no lock washers are supplied, you can purchase them at your local True Value store. Lock washers will help prevent fan vibration from loosening the screws over time.

      Note: Depending on your fan, the hanger bracket may accept either a half-ball hanger or a hook-type hanger.

      Next you'll have to wire the unit. Be sure to connect the black house wires to the black fan wires and the white house wires to the white fan wires. The fan should be electrically grounded to both the metal box. The grounding wires will be either green or bare copper. Attaching a green grounding pigtail (which grounds the fan to the metal box) to the box with a bonding screw will make your work easier. Use a twist-on wire connector to group the ground wires from the box, as well as the fan and the power supply together.

      Once the fan is wired, the ceiling cover is slipped up to its full height and tightened in place.

    • Step 4: Finish Up

      Return power to the fixture at either the circuit breaker or fuse box. Then turn on the fan to be sure it operates properly.

      Helpful Tip

      If the fan wobbles when it's on, the blades might be unbalanced. To correct this, try interchanging two adjacent blades. If that doesn't work, take all the blades off and weigh each one on a food or postal scale. If any blade weighs less than the others, tape a soft object like a pencil eraser or modeling clay to the top center of the blade and make its weight the same as the others. Fan balancing kits with detailed instructions are also available. Once the blades are balanced, reinstall them and the fan should run smoothly.

    Install an Attic Ventilator Fan

    attic vent

    When it's hot outside, warm air builds up in the attic. This air has to escape so that your house can cool efficiently. Proper ventilation in the attic releases this excessive heat build-up, saving you money on home cooling. For effective ventilation, you'll have to install a powered ventilator/fan in your attic vents.

    An attic fan turns on and shuts itself off automatically based on its built-in thermostat. When the fan's on, it pushes hot air out of the attic while pulling cooler air in through your home's inlet valves, usually set under the eaves.

    This project describes the basic steps to install an attic fan in a gable-end wall — the triangular end of an exterior wall above the eaves formed under a gable roof. Choose a model controlled with a built-in thermostat, and if moisture buildup has been a problem, with a humidistat.

    • Step 1: Find Electrical Source

      First, you'll need to figure out where the fan is going to get power. The simplest way is to take power from any available light fixture or outlet in your attic.

      Helpful Tips

      Always wear a long-sleeved shirt, pants, goggles and a dust mask to protect yourself from the insulation in your attic.

      Because the attic is the hottest room in your house, try not to tackle this project on an extremely hot day.

      Don't forget a work light and extension cord — you may not have much light up there.

      Be careful where you step! That's the ceiling of the room beneath you between the wood joists, so lay a board between the joists as a work floor so you don't accidentally step through.

    • Step 2: Cut Wall Opening

      Working from the top down, remove the siding below the roof peak with a zipper tool, a hand tool for separating and refastening interlocking edges of siding sections. Center and level the template for the louvered vent. Following the manufacturer's instructions, bore a starter hole through the wall sheathing and cut the opening with a portable jigsaw or reciprocating saw. If you have an adequately sized louvered vent, skip to Step 5.

    • Step 3: Frame the Opening

      Provide framing or a plywood mounting board as directed by the manufacturer. You may have to do some additional cutting to the existing framing from the inside.

    • Step 4: Install the Louver or Shutter

      Using the screws provided by the manufacturer, secure the exterior accessory shutter before reinstalling the siding. Siding manufacturers are usually good sources for how-to information on siding installation and repair. Depending on the type of siding you have, you may want to consult the manufacturer for the proper steps.

    • Step 5: Mount the Fan

      Following the manufacturer's instructions, mount the fan to the framing or mounting board with screws.

    • Step 6: Install the Controller

      Remove any knobs and the cover of the controller. This will allow you to secure the controller to the mounting plate or studs with screws, and follow the manufacturer's instructions for locating the unit. Do not use alternative controls (such as solid-state speed controls) that are not approved by the manufacturer.

    • Step 7: Make Wiring Connections

      All electrical work must be done in accordance with local codes. If you are not familiar with basic wiring procedures, you should hire a licensed electrician. Shut off the breaker or remove the fuse for the fan circuit; use a neon circuit tester to verify the power is turned off. Follow the manufacturer's wiring diagram to make the connection to your power supply.

      Thermostats and humidistats are adjustable. Follow the manufacturer's guidelines to make the necessary adjustments.

      Nice work. Now it's time to turn down your air conditioning and let your new ceiling fans and attic fan do their job. You'll soon start seeing the savings when cooling down your house in summer.

  • Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.

    Before you begin, use the shopping list below to uncheck the tools you already have to complete this project.

    Then, print or save your updated list and bring it to your local True Value hardware store, where an expert Hardwarian will give you the remaining tools and expert advice you need to complete this project.

    You can also shop online for these project items at and receive FREE shipping to a participating store.

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