Electrical - Outside over

S > I was given 2 ceiling fans that are wired together with 16 gauge lamp
S > under my canvas awning from the 1 1/4 inch galvanized frame. I have S > the cross members in place with holes drilled for the fan brackets. S > Structurally, I think I'm OK.
Fans can get quite a bit of "shake" in them when they become off-balance.
S > My concern and question has to do with the electrical wiring part of S > this, which I realize is shakey. I'd like to know how shakey, and S > what alternatives I have.
They make outdoor fans - I'd suggest buying one of these and using the indoor fans indoors -- wired correctly, of course.
I would also suggest the circuit outdoor fan is wired in to be GFCI protected because of the way in which it is mechanically supported.
S > The 2 fans have been in use at my relative's house, wired as described S > above, for a few years. I realize that hard-wiring with heavier gauge S > would be the best option but I would like to hook them up as they were S > (i.e., 16 gauge with plug in). To probably make it worse, I would S > like to plug it into an outdoor extension cord that I have in the S > awning framing for a string of rope lights. My relative thinks S > there's no problem with this (It worked OK in his house for years) but S > I'm fearing that I'm exceeding amp limits. I have a 15 amp service. S > I live in the Northeast so I would only have the fans up for about 4 S > or 5 months in the summer.
Just because the fans have worked right at your relative's place is not a good reason to continue using the bad wiring. The extension cord may or may not be acceptable: you stated it is rated for outdoor use but did not state the capacity. Personally for a semi-permanent setup such as you are describing I'd install another outdoor-rated outlet so the lights and fan do not need the extension cord. Also be aware the cords can be a trip-hazard. Any way to run along the canvas frame? (And yes, I would run the electrical in conduit.)
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