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What are the code requirements for ceiling fan installation?

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Here’s our list of the code standards for residential ceiling fan installation:

 Fan must be grounded - The National Electrical Code does not address the grounding of ceiling fans directly. But it does state that electrical equipment (which obviously includes ceiling fans) in a grounded electrical system must be grounded. Also, "the non-current carrying conductive materials enclosing electrical conductors or equipment” must be bonded [NEC 250.4(A)(2,3)]. The fan manufacturer has already connected the metal shell and other exposed parts of the fan motor to the ground wire, so bonding occurs when the ground wire is connected to the home's electrical system ground. 

• Minimum three-feet from smoke alarm - A smoke alarm should not be installed within three-feet horizontally of the path of the tip of a ceiling (paddle) fan, according to the National Fire Protection Association [NFPA 72,]. A ceiling fan can disturb the natural upward air flow to a smoke alarm that is too close to it, which will take the smoke detector longer to recognize a fire. 

• Fan at pool requires additional clearance - The National Electrical Code [NEC 680.22(b)] states that outdoor ceiling fans installed above a pool or within 5-feet of the inside wall of the pool measured horizontally, must be at least 12-feet above the maximum water level of the pool. 

    An indoor pool is granted a little more leeway: if the branch circuit serving the ceiling fan is GFCI-protected, then the fan can be as low as 7-foot 6-inches above the maximum pool water level, and the fan must be rated for use on porches or patios.

• Fan too close to fire sprinkler requires additional sprinkler - A pendant-type sprinkler within three-feet of the center of a ceiling fan is considered obstructed, and requires installation of additional sprinkler. Sidewall sprinklers within five-feet of the center of a ceiling fan also require an additional sprinkler, per International Residential Code (IRC 2904.2.4.1,2). 

• Must be installed with an electrical outlet box rated for ceiling fan and weight - Also, a very heavy fan requires a structural mounting bracket, per National Electrical Code [NEC 314.27(C)].

• Must follow manufacturer’s installation instructions - All codes have a citation that requires following manufacturer’s installation instructions, and the most important one being that fan blades are a minimum of seven-feet above the floor for personal safety.

Must be rated for location where installed - Most ceiling fans are UL-listed to be installed in a dry, interior location. But fans installed in damp location, such as a bathroom or porch must be damp-rated, and fans that will be directly exposed to rain must be wet-rated. See our article What is the difference between damp-rated and wet-rated ceiling fans? for more details.

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Field Guide for Home Inspectors, a quick reference for finding the age of 154 brands of HVAC systems, water heaters, and electrical panels, plus 210 code standards for site-built and manufactured homes, and the life expectancy rating of 195 home components. Available at for $19.95.
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Here’s links to a few of our other articles about CEILING FANS:

• What is the average life expectancy of a ceiling fan?

Why are my ceiling fan blades drooping? 

How does a home inspector check the ceiling fans? 

Ceiling fan diagram - Hunter Fans 

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