Maybe you’ve recently started a home improvement project or noticed your ceiling fan is wobbling more than it usually does. With deadly ceiling fans being common in pop culture, it’s not uncommon to wonder if your innocent fan might be plotting your untimely demise.
Your ceiling fan can fall if installed in an electric junction box not rated for ceiling fans. Junction boxes solely for light fixtures should be switched out for a fan support brace to prevent falling. While wobbling can loosen lights or shades, there are no known cases of it causing a fan to fall.
This guide covers how to support your ceiling fan and correct standard causes of wobbling. However, it’s essential to understand your limits and call in a professional when you’re unsure.
Can Ceiling Fans Fall?
Ceiling fans can fall from the ceiling. This can happen when the fan is not mounted properly, the junction box wasn’t rated for the weight or the junction box wasn’t installed properly. It’s pretty rare for ceiling fans to just drop from the ceiling although it does happen. Letting your fan be installed by a professional will reduce the likelihood of it happening dramatically.
Wobbling fans are more likely to drop since then there is a force applied from side to side on the mounting point and junction box which might wiggle it loose. A balanced ceiling fan just applies a force of the weight of the fan straight down that doesn’t really change by turning it on.
Would a falling ceiling fan kill you?
Nothing is impossible but it’s extremely rare for a falling ceiling fan to actually kill someone. I have never heard of it and can’t find any reliable stories online either. There are stories where a falling ceiling fan will hurt someone but outright killing them doesn’t happen. I guess it could happen if it’s a very large and heavy fan that falls directly on the head.
Most ceiling fans are not heavy enough to really hurt significantly. There might be bruising but that’ll usually be the extent of the injury. Certainly not fun but not deadly.
The spinning blades of most normal fans don’t have enough force and aren’t sharp enough to slice anything and bruising is again the most likely outcome. Of course the really large metal fans are a different stories.
How To Prevent a Ceiling Fan From Falling
When installing a ceiling fan, you must make sure your fan is supported. That’s because ceiling fans can weigh up to 50 lb. (23kg), far more than a standard light fixture box can accommodate.
If you’re switching out a light fixture for a fan, you may notice your fan meets the current junction box’s weight requirement. In this case, verify that it’s rated for ceiling fan use. In approved boxes, there will be a label stating, “For Use With Ceiling Fans.”
The National Electric Code specifies this rule since ceiling fans generate more force than light fixtures. The added power can cause the fan to shake, loosening its hold and causing it to fall to the ground.
If you’ve checked this and your box meets the requirements, you can switch out your existing fixture for your new fan. On the other hand, if your fan requires a new box, there are two different ways to ensure your new junction box is secured.
1. Use a Ceiling Fan Brace
An expandable mounting brace is a metal bar that lodges itself between the joists in your ceiling. The brace utilizes metal spikes on either end to maintain this firm grip. These spikes support your fan, despite its weight and force.
These types of braces are ideal in situations where your attic is out of reach. Installation involves cutting a small hole in the ceiling to slide the bracket through. Once inside the ceiling, twisting the brace causes it to expand and lodge into place.
Suggested: How to find out if a light fixture can hold a ceiling fan
When using a mounting bracket, ensure that your electric box is compatible. Not all junction boxes can attach to a ceiling fan brace. Thankfully, there are multiple bracket/box combinations available for purchase. I recommend using a perfect all-in-one solution like the Westinghouse Saf-T Brace for Ceiling Fans from Amazon.com. This modern solution fits all ceiling fans and includes mounting hardware and guides.
2. Install a Block Between the Joists
This next option is used among handypersons but not recommended for the everyday DIY-er. In this instance, a wooden block, either cut from a 2×4 or 2×6, is used in place of a brace. The block method is best for new construction or extensive remodeling.
Mounting the block will require access to the joists that create your ceiling and plenty of room for your hands and tools. Because of this, you should plan to install the block support before having a finished ceiling. If you attempt this afterward, you’ll create a large hole that’ll require patching in the end.
When choosing this option, attach your wooden block with screws. Many experts prefer their stability over nails. For a detailed description, check out this article produced by Energy Star.
How To Correct a Wobbly Ceiling Fan
If your ceiling fan is wobbling, there’s no need for an alarm. While unsettling to witness, there are no known cases of wobbling causing a ceiling fan collapse. Instead, the culprit is most likely misaligned/loose connections or unbalanced fan blades. Both of which are fixable.
However, if you’ve had your fan for a while, start by making sure your fan blades are clean. Dust build-up can affect your fan’s performance and weigh down the blades. Below are tips on correcting a wobbly ceiling fan:
1. Check for Misaligned or Loose Connections
The first step in determining a wobble is in the wiring. If the connections are loose or misaligned, the fan’s motor won’t function as intended, potentially causing wobbling.
Before inspecting the wiring, as with any electronic, cut power to the fan. This is as simple as flipping the designated circuit breaker in your breaker box. Many experts recommend cutting power to the whole house for an extra layer of precaution. In doing so, flip every circuit breaker, including the main one.
Leave a note at the breaker box alerting others of the electrical work to protect yourself further. This should prevent anyone from sending power back through the house and electrocuting you. With the power shut off, you can safely inspect the wires. Take your screwdriver and unscrew the housing cover on your ceiling fan. The housing cover is located at the top of your fan, right where it meets the ceiling.
You should also ensure the ceiling fan’s wires connect to the electrical connections listed in the manufacturer’s instructions. After ensuring that they’re correct, make sure the electrical caps or electrical tape is snug around the exposed wires.
Afterward, replace the wires and housing cover.
2. Use a Yardstick To Correct Unbalanced Fan Blades
If your fan wobbles even after cleaning and verifying its connections, it’s most likely an issue of unbalanced fan blades.
As you manually turn the fan, verify that every blade is equidistant from the ceiling. Make a note of any blade that is out of place. Once you’ve recorded any irregularities, you can try bending the misshapen blade back into shape.
If the blades are all the proper distance and wobbling is still present, it’s time to consult your manufacturer’s instructions. The instructions will walk you through applying the balancing kit that originally came with your fan.
Ceiling fan accidents are rare and easy to avoid. The easiest way to keep your family safe is to ensure that your fan is properly installed. In replacing your fan, always verify that the junction box is for ceiling fan use and provide adequate support for the ceiling fan’s weight.
When it comes to wobbling, remember that wobbling does not mean that your fan will fall. Instead, check that the blades are clean and balanced and that all wire connections are secure.
- Energy Star: Ceiling Fan Installation and Usage Tips
- Cornell Law School: 24 CFR § 3285.702 – Miscellaneous lights and fixtures.
- Energy Star: Choosing and Installing a Ceiling Fan
- International Association of Certified Home Inspectors: Ceiling Fan Inspection
- Home Depot: Ceiling Fan Troubleshooting
- Lowes: How to Install or Replace a Ceiling Fan
- Dummies: How to Install a Ceiling Fan