Pulling a flimsy ceiling fan chain off the unit while adjusting the settings is one of life’s little inconveniences that immediately induce panic. You are left standing below relentlessly spinning blades with no idea how to proceed. While it could be tempting just to let it rotate forever or move to a new house (am I the only overly-dramatic one here?), this is not necessary.
Below I will tell you how to stop the fan and provide you with some options to fix it and prevent this problem from reoccurring.
When the ceiling fan chain breaks, the fan can be turned off at the wall (if there’s a wall switch) or at the breaker. A short stump can be pulled with needle-nosed pliers or extended with a fan chain extension kit.
Does The Fan Have a Wall Switch?
Many ceiling fans are attached to a wall switch. The wall switch allows you to control power from the breaker to the fan.
The fan does not have to be turned off with the chain before switching it off at the wall. You can just flip the switch, and the fan will stop rotating. When you turn the wall switch back on, the fan will resume whatever “chain settings” were last used. This allows you to preset your preferred speed and lighting and then control it without the chains.
It also makes it extremely useful when your fan chains snap off. You just walk over to the wall, press the switch, and voila. Sorted.
Of course, the downside to this is that you also lose your lighting.
Turn Off the Breaker
Turning off the main electrical circuit breaker is something every member of your household should know how to do in case of an emergency. Labeling the switches is also crucial to effective care of your house’s electrical system.
The breaker box, which contains a series of switches, can either instantly shut off the power supply to the entire property, or you can choose to disconnect specific rooms or circuits.
When the chain breaks and you need to stop your fan, it is not usually necessary to flip the main circuit breaker for the house as it will immediately cut off the electrical supply to all areas of the house. Branch circuit breakers are the smaller flip switches located below the main switch.
Locate the breaker that supplies power to your runaway ceiling fan, and flip the switch (like I said—labels).
The drawback of this method is that it likely won’t just cut power to your ceiling fan. Ceiling fans pull very little power so they are seldom on a dedicated circuit. Whatever else is linked to that circuit breaker will also immediately power down.
In this case, I would consider leaving the fan running until I can fix the chain, depending on what is more inconvenient: unwanted airflow or power loss to another appliance.
Use Pliers to Pull Chain Stub
If you can see a small chain section sticking out of the fan canopy, you’re in luck! Switching your fan off is as simple as using your needle-nose or long-nose pliers (amazon link) to firmly grasp the protruding portion and click it the correct number of times to set it in the off-position.
Can you do this if the power to the fan is still running? I leave the final decision up to you, but my reasoning is that we touch the chain all the time while the fan is running; that’s what it’s there for.
However, I will add two points of caution if the chain is very short. Do not touch the pliers on the motor housing. If there is something amiss with the grounding, then you can get hurt. Be careful of the rotating blades while your head and hands are up there.
If there is only a tiny bit sticking out of the fan casing, also be very careful not to yank the end and then let it go so the tiny piece recoil into the dome before you’ve clicked it enough times.
Extend Remaining Chain Length
The great thing about ceiling fan chains is that they are easy to link more pieces onto. The tricky part is to locate the stub of the broken chain. If you can’t see it outside the unit, you may need to twist off or unscrew the fan collar (turn the power off at the breaker before doing this!). With some luck, a few links of the chain will be visible, and if not, you may need to replace the fan switch mechanism (amazon link).
If there is a visible piece of chain, then a ceiling fan pull extension kit (amazon link) lets you quickly reattach any length of chain to the stub. Tiny chain connectors are included in the kits, so clipping the new chain on is a simple matter of pressing the last small metal ball on your fan’s chain into the tiny clip.
Extension kits are available in a range of metallic colors so that you can match up with the existing chain. If the ceiling fan chain has snapped on the exterior of the fan mechanism and you have a flair for something more creative, you can make a plan using things you might have around the house. Like dog tag-like chain necklaces.
There are three things to remember if you don’t have an extra fan chain extender handy or you would like to decorate your fan chain:
- It must be attached securely to the stub of the remaining fan chain.
- It must be made of durable material. A ceiling fan chain must be able to withstand a lot of tugging. Beaded heavy gauge fishing line, jewelry wire, or twine can work, but double up if possible, so it is strong.
- It must be weighted. It may look whimsical to use some lucky feathers dangling on the end of your pull chain, but fans create air movement, and there must be no chance that the chain could blow up and interfere with the blade action.
Never try to use any material other than a ceiling fan chain inside the actual clicker mechanism box. Creative extensions should only be considered if they do not interfere with the internal speed change mechanism.
Consider a Wall Switch or a Remote Control
Once you have switched off your fan, depending on how fiddly or inconvenient the fix was, you may be very motivated to make a plan for any possible reoccurrences.
Three excellent solutions to future ceiling fan chain mishaps are:
- Convert the system to remote control – Any ceiling fan can be converted to work with a remote control. Universal conversion kits (amazon link) include the remote and a receiver that is attached inside the fan canopy.
- Install a wall switch – You can see from the article above how this is the best way to handle broken fan chains. They are also great when your remote batteries die or you lose the remote altogether.
- Convert to a smart control system – If you have a high-tech household where everything is run from your phone, you can add your ceiling fan. This method uses Wifi and another device as the remote control. Installation usually includes connecting a receiver to the wiring inside the fan’s canopy.
If your ceiling fan won’t turn off and it’s not a broken pull chain, then you can check out this article on reasons and solutions for a ceiling fan that won’t turn off.