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How Ceiling Fans Work

Whether you’re thinking of adding a light to an existing ceiling fan or you’d like to take a shot at repairing a fan that’s having difficulties, it helps to know how they are typically assembled and how they work. It’s good to be familiar with the names of the parts when you’re talking to ceiling fan professionals, too. The basic parts have been the same for decades, but the designs of the blades and the motors have seen vast improvement in the past fifteen years, and today’s ceiling fans are more efficient and effective than ever. Here’s a quick summary of a typical ceiling fan assembly.

how ceiling fans work

The Ceiling Mount

Many ceiling fans these days come with an adjustable mounting bracket that can be installed either straight or at an angle, on a cathedral ceiling. The adjustable mount normally consists of a ball hanger and a down rod that’s long enough so that the fan can clear the lower edge of a sloped ceiling. It’s important that the ceiling fan mount be attached to an electrical box that’s rated for ceiling fans and that can support the weight of the fixture. The ceiling mount is typically covered by a decorative canopy, and it may have a flexible yoke cover over the wires and the top of the motor attachment, too.

The Motor Housing

The motor housing usually has openings in the top to dissipate the heat associated with its mechanical function, although sometimes the openings are located under the motor, as shown in the diagram. When heat is vented upward and the fan direction is reversed, usually during the winter, the heat produced by the fan is circulated to the lower part of the room. When the fan is pushing air down, the heat is more likely to stay up at ceiling level, where it will not add to the summer heat. That’s why most modern fans have vents at the top rather than the bottom. However, if the vents are blocked by dust or debris, it can cause problems with the motor, which spins the blades.

The Blades and Brackets

The blades are usually attached to the fan with brackets below the motor housing. In some newer style fans, they are integrated with the motor housing and can’t be detached. In fan styles with brackets and detachable blades, removing and replacing blades is relatively easy. Some of our customers like to remove the fan blades to decorate them, for example with cartoon characters for a kid’s room. If a detachable blade is damaged, then it can easily be replaced.

The Light

Some ceiling fans have integrated lights and some don’t offer a method for attaching a light. However, today it’s most common for fans to come with optional lighting kits. In these fans, the electrical supply is extended under the motor, and there’s a removable plate that covers the mount for the optional light. Before you try to install a lighting kit, always make sure that it’s compatible with the specific ceiling fan you’ve purchased. If you know how to wire a regular light fixture, then you should have no trouble with a ceiling fan attachment.

So, there you have it: the basic ceiling fan assembly. You might be able to take care of some work on the fan yourself, but be sure to bring in an electrician if you’re not 100% confident.