What Happens if You Don’t Ground a Ceiling Fan?

In order to prevent disastrous situations from occurring in terms of electrical issues, it is always important for electrical fixtures to be grounded in order to maintain an element of safety. There are, however, certain situations where grounding is not possible or even necessary.

If a ceiling fan is not grounded, and anything goes wrong in the circuitry such as a short, it is possible that anybody touching any part of the fixture can be electrocuted and, in turn, killed or severely injured. Grounding ensures that in the event of a short, the current does not cause external damage.

In certain contexts, ceiling fans may not have a ground wire, or there may not be a possibility to ground the fixture properly. There are several manners in which to navigate around this.

What Happens if You Don’t Ground a Ceiling Fan?

In the electrical circuit, if the ground is not connected to neutral, or the ground within the system is not sufficiently grounded to the earth itself, there will exist no path back to the power source. This is necessary to allow for “tripping” of current protection devices.

In the event that a device short circuits and it isn’t grounded, the entire fixture becomes electrified. This means that if any human is to touch the fixture, it has the potential to hurt or kill them. 

If the fixture is properly grounded, the current returns to the source, travels through the protective device and causes it to trip. This opens the circuit which in turn removes current from the device. This allows for the device to become safe for human intervention.

If, for example, there is a lightning strike, this would be diverted to the ground. However, if the fixture is not grounded, it could cause the fixture as well as everything surrounding it to “go up in flames”.

In most cases, it is often illegal to install a ceiling fan (or any electrical fixture) without grounding it properly. Without proper grounding, a homeowner has essentially invalidated their insurance policy, broken numerous building regulations, and committed a civil offense.

In the majority of situations, the ceiling fan will still operate fully without a ground wire. This is due to the fact that the ground wire is not part of the conducting path which supplies electricity to the fixture itself.

While the ground wire itself is not necessarily charged, without it an electrical shock may occur which will injure any human who comes into contact with the fixture. This ground wire would not have been built into the fixture by the engineers if it was not an essential component.

ceiling fan ground wire
Ceiling fan wires

How Can You Wire a Ceiling Fan When There Is No Ground Wire?

Firstly, it is essential to ensure that the electricity is turned off completely before attempting any electrical work.

While it is still highly recommended to make use of an electrician whenever possible, there are certain aspects of electrical installation which can be achieved safely in a DIY setting.

Today’s houses are mostly equipped with a grounding system that is integrated into the electrical system of the house. However, scores of older homes were built without an integrated ground.

Firstly, it is important to ensure that the junction box in the ceiling is rated specifically for a ceiling fan. Without this, the ceiling fan may not have sufficient support in order to stay attached.

In the case that there is no ground wire present in the home, a good solution (while costly) is to have the entire home rewired with wires such as ROMEX® wires which are manufactured with an integrated ground wire. In addition to this, a ground rod should be installed on the exterior of the house in question.

The second option (where rewiring the house is not feasible) would be to wire the ceiling fan without the ground. It is important to remember that the ground wire does not in fact carry electrical current except in special circumstances. 

This could occur, for example, when any metal parts of the ceiling fan become charged with electricity. The ground wire then carries the displaced electricity away in order to reduce the risk of electric shock. This is an important safety feature, however, it is possible to get away without it.

In some cases, the ground wire of the ceiling fan can simply be attached to a ground screw which is found attached to the fixture itself.

If the box is not grounded, however, it would be important to run a ground wire to the box itself.

How Do You Use a Ceiling Fan That Isn’t Grounded?

In the event that a ceiling fan is not grounded, there are certain safety precautions that must be taken in case of a short circuit. A short circuit could essentially cause the entire fixture to become charged with electricity, causing it to electrocute any human who comes into contact with it. This could in turn cause severe injury or even death.

If the ceiling fan is not grounded, it would be recommended to remove any parts of the fixture that can be reached by human hands under normal circumstances, including metal pull strings etc. These should be removed so that in the event of a short circuit, unsuspecting passersby will not be electrocuted by simply attempting to switch off the fan, for example.

Once metal pull strings are removed, it is possible to have a remote control system installed, allowing the fan to be controlled only by remote control. This will eliminate the possibility for people to come into direct contact with the fixture should it become accidentally charged with current due to a short circuit.

An additional precaution which could be taken is to remove the main switches from the wall, with the result that the electricity is always on, and the light and ceiling fan can both be controlled by making use of the remote control.


In conclusion, it is highly advised to ground any installation of a ceiling fan if one is to ensure the safety of all occupants of a given building.

Charles John

Experienced HVAC technician with 8 years of experience in the industry. Capable of handling all sorts of heating and cooling equipment as well as proficient in operational management, construction-related techniques such as preventative maintenance, electrical troubleshooting and AutoCAD

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