Ceiling fans have been gaining in popularity for the past 20 years. What started as a cost effective alternative to air conditioning to cool your living room bedroom or kitchen has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. Ceiling fans are now offered in many styles and price ranges from the very basic to high end designer styles. They can cost from less than one hundred to several thousand dollars and are being made to suit any taste or preference.
The ceiling fan manufacturing industry has evolved to provide very high quality fans at reasonable costs and has built the consumer market for these products. This led to explosive growth in the sales of fans through the home improvement retailers like Home Depot, Lowes and others. The days of showroom sales for the mid to high level fans may be in for a change due the marketing efforts of these industry giants.
Marketing data suggests that approximately 70% of all ceiling fans are being installed by the homeowner within 2 years of occupying their home. They are replacing the existing lighting fixtures with higher grade fixtures and ceiling fans in the bedroom and kitchen area. The living room is also a popular choice for fixture replacement with ceiling fan and lighting kit combinations being installed in greater numbers.
The consumer is faced with so many choices in the market today that it can be a bewildering experience for today’s consumer. The average purchaser is going down to their favorite home improvement store to choose their new fan or lighting fixture or even making their choice on the internet. They come to a lighting specialty store or showroom only after being overwhelmed by the choices in the home improvement stores aisles which provide little if any service or assistance.
The choice of fans today is greater than at any time in past 5 to 10 years. Many of the major brands are also selling products in the home improvement market. Companies like Hunter are distributing several models in Home Depot this trend is expected to increase as they gain market share.
Numerous manufacturers have been paying attention to this trend in the consumer market and are providing fans that meet the needs of today’s consumer. The ease of assembly and use of pre-assembled components speed the installation of their products.
Westinghouse Lighting Corporation has a line of fans that captures all of these needs and they claim can be installed in 15 minutes on average. The weak link in all of these improvements is the ceiling box itself. This is the component that the fan is attached to and must bear the static and dynamic loads of the fans operation. It also houses the electrical wiring for the fan. This utilitarian component has been under going improvement for the past 10 years or more to make its’ installation quicker, cheaper and easier than the traditional metal box of yesterday.
The electrical contractor of today is using products that increase his productivity and maximize the potential profit of his labor. They have a large choice of nail-on products that already have the fasteners attached to the ceiling box and all they have to do is hold it in place and nail or screw it into a joist or truss for it to be secured. Many of these boxes are thermoplastics which are inexpensive and easy to manufacture. They also have the added advantage of not needing to be electrically grounded so this saves the additional labor that metal boxes require.
This fact is not lost on the ceiling box manufacturers that are producing ceiling, outlet and junction boxes that are quick to install and are made of plastics that require less and less labor to install properly. This has gotten to the point that there is now a lighting box that only needs to be pushed onto a wooden stud for it to be secured; no fasteners are needed at all!
The ceiling fan manufacturers however may not be keeping pace with the trend in ceiling box installation practices. They advise the consumer of their products to reinforce or replace the existing fixture with a fan-rated ceiling box which is prudent, though are the consumers heeding their installation directives?
The installation instructions for many of the fans available today show a metal type box that has screws going through the box and into blocking above the box. This is not what is installed in most of the newer construction homes which use the labor saving nail-on products. As a general rule builders and contractors do not provide blocking above the ceiling box with a nail-on product as the added material & labor is not cost effective.
The average nail-on plastic ceiling box is rated for only supporting a 35 pound static load. They are also not fan-rated. This requires that the ceiling box be replaced with a fan-rated box before the installation of a ceiling fan. Fan-rated boxes are capable of holding 70 pound loads and are rated for this application. This is easier said than done! The nail-on products do not lend themselves to be reinforced easily since labor savings have also been applied to the construction of homes themselves. In many circumstance the average home does not have an attic, only a narrow crawl space between the trusses is provided. This combined with blow-in insulation makes the location of the ceiling box difficult if not impossible when a fan is to be hung on an upper floor.
For installation of a ceiling fan between floors leaves little choice for this task since it cannot be accessed easily from above or below the ceiling since the upper floor is directly above the ceiling box. Cutting a hole in the floor or knocking out the ceiling is not prudent just to place blocking above a ceiling box. Medallions are available but the added expense, labor and time can be prohibitive, especially if the medallion is painted to match the ceiling. The brace type of products that are sold today are an alternative though they work better in theory than in practice as the old ceiling box needs to be removed before they can be installed. Home Depot has a web page devoted to this process which they claim can take ½ a day to complete.
A Better Way
Following the trends used in the construction methods of today’s homes has led to the development of a new and simple method to reinforce an existing ceiling box to that of a fan-rated box that is consumer friendly. Access is gained through the ceiling box itself with a small bracket being utilized in what is in most cases is wasted space within the ceiling box itself. Two fasteners are driven through the ceiling box and into the joist or truss with the bracket being firmly held in position. This bracket has been shown by independent testing by a leading product testing laboratory to allow the ceiling box to sustain very large dynamic loads.