How To: Balance a Ceiling Fan
When your overhead spinner starts acting up, follow these moves to restore the quiet—and the cool.
Even in the age of central air, ceiling fans still have their lofty place. The welcome breeze they provide evaporates sweat and contributes to the cooling effect every home calls for in summer. So if yours seems out of whack—wobbling weirdly, making a racket—fret not. The fix is in!
MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
– Damp rags or paper towels
– Ruler or yardstick
– Blade balancing kit
– Pennies (optional)
– Painter’s or masking tape (optional)
– Superglue (optional)
Banish dust, perhaps the most common cause of a wonky ceiling fan. You’ve got an excuse—it’s easy to forget to look up when cleaning—but neglect can cause big-time buildup. Dust settles unevenly on the blades, making some heavier than others and throwing the entire enterprise off-balance. It’s likely that you’ll need more than a swipe of a feather duster at this point, especially if dust has hardened. So, with the fan off and the blades completely still, climb the ladder and take a damp rag, towel, or pillowcase to both sides of each blade. Then dry with a fresh rag and give the fan a spin to see if the problem’s been solved.
Still got the shakes? The next most likely culprit is a loose screw at the base, where the blades meet the flywheel. Climb back on the ladder and give each screw a clockwise turn with your screwdriver. If you tighten any loose ones, you may have done the trick. Get down from the ladder and flip the switch to see. If so, remember to check the screws every few months to avoid a recurring issue. If not, proceed to the next step.
If blades continue to misbehave, it’s up the ladder again to check their alignment. Using a ruler or yardstick, measure precisely from the ceiling to the blade at the same three points on each: close to the flywheel at the center of the fan, about halfway down the length of the blade, and at the tip. If any of the numbers don’t match up, gently bend the blade holder manually up or down to straighten. Just take care not to apply too much pressure—you don’t want to break a blade or holder.
A stubbornly wobbly fan may have a blade that’s simply lighter or heavier than the others, creating an uneven pull. To test it out, examine your fan on each of its settings to see which speed makes it shake most (usually the highest). Once you’ve determined the problem setting, switch off the fan and when it’s still, either follow the directions on a balancing kit, or try the penny method in the next step.
Using painters’ or masking tape, firmly attach a penny to the top of a blade, close to the center, and then check the fan’s functioning. You may have to do some troubleshooting to determine which blade needs the extra weight and exactly where it should go, so be patient, starting from the center of each blade and working your way out a few inches at a time. Once you’ve found a placement that relieves the issue, replace the tape with a few drops of superglue. Allow glue to dry completely before giving the fan a final spin to make sure the penny is performing. If wobbling persists but it’s not as pronounced, one or two additional, perfectly placed pennies should do the job. Keep it up through trial and error until you’ve found the right locations, and then glue the pennies on permanently.
Still confronting a fan frustration? Blades may have gotten warped due to humidity or age. Before you scrap the whole apparatus, purchase a set of replacement blades, which you can find for under $10 each. Then sit back and enjoy the downwind!