How to Install a Ceiling Fan With a Handheld or Wall Remote

Close-up of a ceiling fan

James Ferrie / EyeEm / Getty Images 

Many new ceiling fans come equipped with remote control, especially higher-priced ceiling fans. The receiver part of the remote is nestled inside the fan body itself, while the control mounts either on the wall or into the wall as a switch. If you've been thinking about replacing your existing ceiling fans, it is relatively easy to do this project yourself. If you can change an electrical receptacle, you can install a ceiling fan. Here are more details for this DIY home improvement project.

Before You Buy a Ceiling Fan

Ceiling fans can improve home energy efficiency and provide a decorative upgrade. However, don't run out to buy the first cute ceiling fan you see. Stop to consider these specifications:

Ceiling Height

Ceiling heights below 9 feet might require a fan that hugs the ceiling, known as a flush mount. Find out the distance between the ceiling and the bottom of the fan, referred to as the hanging depth. Allow at least 7 feet from the bottom of the fan to the floor to avoid getting hit when walking under spinning blades.

Blade Sweep

Experts say the number of blades isn't as important as the size of the motor and the length of the blades. Larger motors cost more than smaller motors. Blades that measure 52 inches work better in rooms that are greater than 15 feet in length, whereas 44-inch blades are made for smaller rooms. If you are replacing a smaller fan with a larger fan, make sure the blades will not hit another object in the room, such as a door. Allow a minimum of 18 inches from the tip of the blade to the wall.

Lighting Options

If you choose a light fixture requiring a fluorescent lamp, it is unlikely to be compatible with a dimmer switch, and you may need to replace your light switch beforehand. Consider whether you want the light to flood the room or to illuminate the ceiling.

Fan Diameter

In most instances, your fan body will sit flush with the ceiling. If the diameter of your existing fan housing is smaller than your new fan, no problem. But if your new fan housing is smaller than the original, you will need to paint or otherwise fix the ceiling after installation.

Ceiling Fan Installation Instructions

Be safe. Wear rubber-soled shoes and use rubber-tipped tools. Follow these steps to install your ceiling fan:

Identify Parts

Identify and lay the enclosed parts out, including the hardware like the housing and the blades. This is the best way to ensure you have everything you will need before work begins.

Attach Housing Body

After the plate is installed, look for a hook or a hanging mechanism that will support the weight of the fan while attaching the wires together. This is essential if you do not have someone with an extra pair of hands to assist. Nestle the receiver inside the body and follow manufacturer instructions for attaching the body or collar to the plate. Secure with set screws.

Install Lamp

Attach the lamp or bulb to the fixture. Before you proceed, turn on the power. Press the remote to check that the light works and the body where the blades will attach spins. If it does not work, it's likely a connection from the receiver to the junction box is loose. Before proceeding, shut off the power. Check and fix.

Position Blades

Most fan blades are marked up or down. Make sure your fan blade faces the right direction and slip it into the slot. If screws are provided, use them.

Attach Shade

Most fans that come with light kits also include a shade or a cap. Attach it as your final step, and you're finished.

Remote Installation Instructions

While you have a variety of options to choose from, the two most common are either a wall-mounted control switch or hand-held remote control.

Some wall-mounted switch controls cost extra, but you will always know where to find the remote control—it's in the wall.

Ceiling Fans With a Wall Switch Remote 

If your option includes a wall-mounted control, turn off the electricity and remove the existing wall switch. Note how the wires are attached and reattach them to the remote switch the same way. If you see a white wire, test it to determine if it is hot. White wires that are hot should be marked black, but not everybody marks them.

Cap with wire nuts and test. If you are uncertain how the wires attach, consult an electrician.

Ceiling Fans With a Handheld Remote 

Look for the remote receiver. This is a small rectangular box with DIP switches (a series of tiny buttons all set in one direction) and three to four wires. Insert the battery into the receiver. The wires will likely be white (neutral), black (hot), blue (light), and copper or green for grounding. This unit rests inside the fan body. After you turn off the electricity, you will connect the wires from the receiver to the wires coming out of the ceiling, securing each color combo with wire nuts.

If you are installing more than one remote-controlled ceiling fan, set the DIP switches on both the receiver and the control of one fan to an identical alternate sequence (such as "all up" rather than "all down"). Otherwise, when you turn off the ceiling fan in one room, it will turn off the fan in the adjoining room.

Finally, prepare the junction box. Check the label to make sure your junction box can support the weight of a new fan before you install the plate for the new fan. Many fans weigh about 50 pounds and that is the maximum many junction boxes can support. You can use the same screws to attach the new plate or use the screws that came with your fan. Do not attempt to touch the wires without turning off the electricity to the house.