Last Updated on October 9, 2022 by Barry Gray
Many of us have felt the unnerving sensation of lying in bed and looking up at a wobbly ceiling fan. There is always a part of us that fears it might fall and hurt us, but this is often overridden by the heat if we turn it off and by our trust in the installer. But can a ceiling fan fall? Is there a reason to fear a falling ceiling fan, and if so, how can we avoid it?
Ceiling fans can fall if they aren’t installed properly. Very few serious injuries result from ceiling fans, but they happen. To stop a ceiling fan from falling, ensure that the blades are correctly balanced and that the fan is mounted securely. There are warning signs to watch out for.
Fears about injuries caused by falling ceiling fans emerged in South Korea in the 1970s, when an energy crisis forced the government to spread false rumors to get people to stop using excessive electricity. These rumors were wrong, but there is a real risk behind it, however slim it may be. Let’s see why ceiling fans fall and how we can avoid it happening to us.
Why Do Ceiling Fans Fall?
The simple reason for ceiling fans falling is improper installation. If the electrician or installer did a quick or inefficient job, there wouldn’t be sufficient support in the ceiling to keep the fan up. This often happens when a standard light fitting is removed from the ceiling and replaced with a fan without additional support. Light fittings don’t require as much support since fans are much heavier.
Of course, there is the added possibility that the constant momentum and motion of the fan loosens the mountings over time. That’s why no single mount should ever be trusted to bear the load on its own. This process should take years, though, and more often than not the fan will have to be replaced long before it eventually loosens enough to fall, but there is always that chance.
What Could Happen If A Ceiling Fan Falls?
Mythbusters effectively proved that a falling ceiling fan couldn’t decapitate an adult, and even severe damage to the skull or neck will take something closer to an industrial fan. That does not eliminate the possibility of being seriously hurt or even killed by a falling ceiling fan, though. It has happened, and estimates are less than seven ceiling fan-related deaths annually in the US.
Most often, it’s not the spinning blades that cause severe injury or death, but rather the other components. Depending on the materials it’s made of, a ceiling fan can be a heavy object, with many metallic and glass protruding parts that can be very harmful when moving at high speed or falling from a high ceiling.
Most likely, though, the injury will be a slight concussion or some bruising and bleeding. Most people don’t even see a doctor after such an incident. Older ceiling fans are heavier and more solid, but modern models are made of lighter materials and cause mostly light injuries in adults and older children.
Pets, babies, and younger children are more at risk, though. With lighter bones and thinner skulls, a ceiling fan that falls on them could cause grave harm. It’s best to ensure that your ceiling fans won’t fall, just to be safe.
How To Avoid A Falling Ceiling Fan
There are precise guidelines for proper ceiling fan installation. If these guidelines are not followed to the letter, the consequences could be disastrous.
Fan Height And Clearance
One of the most commonly-forgotten issues that cause a ceiling fan to fall is when people or objects hit the fan. Putting a ceiling fan in a low-ceilinged room is generally not a good idea since the fan must be installed much higher than the length of the average human. Generally speaking, a height of eight to ten feet is recommended.
Of course, this could still be a problem if the fan is hit by people moving furniture or cleaning the ceiling. You should always be extra careful when working around a ceiling fan.
The other problem is wall clearance, though this is a much less common issue. Most people seem to realize that fan blades that are constantly hitting a wall or a door will not last long. But still, keep this in mind. You should always mount the fan as close as possible to the center of the room, away from all walls, doorways, and tall furniture.
Proper Physical Mounting
Ceiling fans attach to the ceiling using some kind of bracket that screws into place. These screws must be tightened properly, and you should ensure that the screws are close-fitting. Loose screws can cause a wobbling ceiling fan, so watch out for that and tighten the screws immediately since a wobbling fan will loosen the screws even more and increase the risk of the fan falling.
It’s also crucial to ensure that the mounting screws fasten the fan to something solid. Just attaching it to the typical drywall ceiling is not good enough. If you have a ceiling made of drywall, connect your ceiling fan to one of the wooden joists that run above it. The fan will be much sturdier that way. Also, check that these joists are not too old or rotting to support the weight of the fan.
This is another often-overlooked aspect of ceiling fan installation. There are concrete regulatory guidelines for adequately connecting a ceiling fan’s wiring. If the wiring is fed through the bracket properly and the connection is made securely, the actual wiring should also act as a safeguard in case the physical mounting comes loose, and the fan starts to fall.
This is obviously not supposed to be the only measure, but having this safeguard in place will at least act as an early warning of a falling ceiling fan.
Fasten All Attachments Properly
Sometimes the real problem is not the falling fan. Most ceiling fans come with some attachments, like light fittings or lampshades. People often overlook the fact that these have to be adequately fastened as well since many of them are made of glass or other materials that could cause injury. You should do regular checks to ensure that they are all fastened and mounted securely.
Do Regular Ceiling Fan Maintenance
Experts generally consider it a good idea to perform an inspection and maintenance on your ceiling fans, and they recommend that you do this once every six months. During the maintenance session, you should ensure that all screws are still tight, the wiring is still working correctly, and the fan doesn’t require a good cleaning and oiling.
If your ceiling fan starts showing signs of problems, like wobbling or loud noises, you should immediately inspect and perform maintenance as needed. If you can’t correctly identify or fix the problem, get a licensed electrician to do so. It’s always best to be safe.
Ceiling fans don’t fall often, and the consequences aren’t nearly as dire as many believe them to be. Statistics are so low as not to be worth mentioning. But it does happen, and injuries can occur. It’s better to be safe in a hot room than to be cool but injured. Don’t take chances. Install your ceiling fan properly, and do what you can to ensure it stays that way.