What are the Best Tips for Ceiling Fan Wiring?

CW Deziel

Ceiling fan wiring isn't much different from wiring a light fixture, and it becomes only slightly more complex when the fan comes with its own lights. The light kits and the ceiling fan motors are connected by a common neutral wire and ground wire, and each one has its own hot wire. Wire colors vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so one of the best tips is for one to check the fan installation instructions before beginning. Another tip is to use the same size cable that is used in the live circuit. With or without a light kit, a ceiling fan installation involves only basic wiring.

Check the fan installation instructions to be identify wires by color.
Check the fan installation instructions to be identify wires by color.

When there is no light kit, the usual procedure for ceiling fan wiring is for the installer to run a single length of three-strand household electrical cable, such as is used for lights and electrical outlets, between the fan and the switch. The black wire is hot and connects to the switch. When there is a light kit, four-strand cable is used instead, and the two hot wires can be connected to separate switches. The common neutral and ground wires are connected back to the panel via the neutral and ground wires in the cable, respectively.

Not all fan switches are interchangeable, nor are all fans able to support all switch types.
Not all fan switches are interchangeable, nor are all fans able to support all switch types.

A slight complication arises in ceiling fan wiring when the light kit or the fan are controlled by a pull chain. There still will be two hot wires, but only one goes to a switch, and the other must remain hot. This is usually accomplished by pig-tailing two short lengths of wire to the hot circuit wire feeding the switch and connecting one of them to the switch. The hot wire from the fan component without the pull chain goes to the free terminal on the switch, and the other hot wire gets connected to the other length of wire in the pigtail.

A third possible configuration in ceiling fan wiring is to connect the light kit and fan to the same switch so that they go on and off at the same time. This is done by connecting both hot wires to the same switch terminal. When using four-strand cable, this means either twisting the two hot wires together and hooking them around the terminal screw or back-feeding one of them into the hole behind the terminal and hooking the other around the screw.

When doing ceiling fan wiring, it is recommended for one to use the same size cable as the one in the live circuit. This is a requirement of most electrical codes. Changing wire size in the middle of a circuit can overheat the smaller wire and start a fire.

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Discussion Comments


When replacing an existing ceiling fan with a new one you will have to remove the old wiring box to make room for the new one. This sometimes involves cutting away part of the ceiling, the drywall or plaster. You may also have to remove or cut away nails holding the old fan in place.

This part of the job should be done with great care because you do not want to make a mistake and cut any of the wires needed to complete the wiring and installation of your new ceiling fan.


Dealing with electricity can be scary when you don't have a lot of experience, but most people with the ability to follow directions can get the job accomplished. All the fans I have put up came with two wires, a white one and a black one, and the electrical installation was basically just a matter of connecting the wires.

As this article says, there are different wiring systems with different fans, but I imagine following the directions included in the packaging is the main requirement to getting the fan up and running safely.


I agree with the article that installing a ceiling fan is relatively easy, and much like installing a light fixture. At least this has been the case for me when I have taken down old ceiling fans and replaced them with new ceiling fans.

One time, I decided to install a new ceiling fan in a room for the first time. In other words, no other ceiling fan had been in the room previously. The problem I ran into was that there was no existing electrical box, so I needed to add a new electrical outlet. This job was more than I felt comfortable with, so I got a friend who knew more about electricity and wiring to help me out.

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