How to Install an Outdoor Ceiling Fan on a Pergola

Josh Miller

Josh is a contributing writer to the site and former HVAC specialist.

Last Updated on June 4, 2021

Pergolas are lovely architectural marvels that can give you respite from the summer heat and the sun’s intense rays. If you live in a particularly hot locale, you may want extra cooling power for your outdoor areas.

To ensure your fan lasts a long time and provides ample air circulation, you should choose the right kind of fan for an outdoor area, organize the electrical elements carefully, and measure precisely before installation.

If the shade your pergola provides isn’t enough to keep you cool in the heat of the summer, follow these simple steps to install an outdoor ceiling fan for an extra breeze.

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Table of Contents

Find the Right Type of Ceiling Fan

You need to consider a couple of crucial elements before choosing an outdoor ceiling fan for your pergola. Ceiling fans have different ratings, and it’s vital to pick the right one. You also need to measure the height of the pergola’s ceiling and plan accordingly.

In the process of learning how to install an outdoor ceiling fan on a pergola, consider the climate your fan will be exposed to. Outdoor ceiling fans are classified as damp-rated or wet-rated. If your pergola is frequently subjected to direct moderate or heavy rainfall, you’ll require a wet-rated fan. However, if you live in a region with little rainfall year-round, a damp-rated fan may suffice. They can withstand condensation and light mist on the motor without concern.

It’s not just the rating system of the fan you need to worry about; you should also check any attached lighting elements. Often, outdoor fans have functional lights attached to them to make visibility at night clearer, and these lights need to be rated all-weather as well.

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Some of the main elements that stand out on a wet-rated fan compared to a damp-rated or indoor fan:

  • The blades are made of waterproof, ABS plastic that is highly durable and weatherproof.
  • The box or motor casing is watertight and sealed against the weather.
  • All metal components are galvanized steel and powder-coated paint.

In terms of size, you’ll want to consider the dimensions of your pergola before choosing an appropriate fan. For pergolas that are 79 ft2 or smaller, you should select a fan with 29” to 36”; for spaces 80 to 144 ft2  fan blades that are 36” to 42” will suffice.

You need a sturdier fan to support blades broad enough to stir the air and provide ample circulation for larger spaces. Spaces larger than 144 ft2 but not exceeding 225 ft2 call for fans with blades 44” long. For your largest areas, look for fans with blades between 50” to 54”.

Take Exact Measurements

Pergolas aren’t just to keep you cooler when you’re enjoying outdoor living areas; they’re also lovely to look at, which is why you want to maintain symmetry throughout all its elements.

To make sure your fan is in the exact center of the pergola’s ceiling, measure from each side, dividing the length and width precisely. If you’re using PVC piping to organize and protect the wiring, you can also measure your protective piping so that it won’t overhang your roof.

If your pergola has a high ceiling, you may want to lower the baseboard of your fan, so the air circulation will be closer to your seating area. A downrod is perfect for hanging your ceiling fan lower. If your pergola has a lower ceiling, look into fan models that hug your ceiling to maximize the sense of space.

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Organize the Electrical Components

As with any outside project that will be using electricity, make sure to protect all the vulnerable components. The wires run from your electrical source, through its PVC housing, to the mounting and housing unit of your fan.

Separate all the wiring, primarily blue and black wires, and cinch them with wire ties. Run them through the PVC housing and attach the protective housing to the underside of your pergola’s roof. Some pergolas are built with beams. In that case, you may need to build a base or add a wider board upon which to mount your fan.

In terms of the electrical component, you can run your wiring straight to your circuit box, run it to an electrical outlet, or you can hook it up to a switch. The latter is the most convenient option yet most challenging to accomplish.

Mount the Ceiling Fan Appropriately

To ensure your ceiling fan is mounted correctly, you should make sure the fan’s canopy is well-protected. You can most of the time get a board with a junction box built right into it, allowing the fan to mount securely to the pergola without any spaces for water to invade the wiring.

If you don’t have a built-in junction box, you should mount the canopy onto a board and attach the box behind. This keeps the mounted area flush and prevents leakage.

When asked how to install an outdoor ceiling fan on a pergola, most installation specialists recommend attaching the base and setting up the wiring before putting on the blades. However, if that part of the fan comes preconstructed, you can mount it all together before securing the whole fan with mounting brackets.

Secure With Mounting Brackets

Outdoor fans need to be made of sterner stuff than their indoor counterparts. Wind, rain, sleet, and snow can all wreak havoc on your outdoor fan, so along with screws, staples, or glue, you need to secure your outdoor pergola fan with mounting brackets.

You will need solid and rust-resistant bolts and lock washers as well as sturdy brackets. Brackets are usually metal but double-check they’re meant for outdoor use. If not, they may rust, which will weaken their integrity.

If you are merely replacing an existing fan in your pergola, make sure to swap out the brackets, too, because the screws may not line up correctly in the fan’s canopy. It’s possible that the mounting brackets used on the previous fan aren’t strong enough for the model replacing it. 

Start Your Install

A pergola is a charming addition to your property, but it can get stuffy underneath it in warmer months. A fan is a marvelous way to keep the breeze flowing in your outdoor seating areas. An indoor fan is no match for the elements, so you need an air circulation device that is rugged and weather-resistant.

To select the perfect outdoor ceiling fan for your pergola, ensure you take the structure’s precise measurements and hang the fan in the exact center of the ceiling. Doing so will create symmetry that is pleasing to the eye while promoting even circulation throughout the seating space and maximizing both the visual and practical benefits of the fan.

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