The Ins and Outs of Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans range from 24 in. to 60 in. in dia. Fan manufacturers usually correlate fan size with room area. Some label their product’s cubic-footper-minute capacity (cfm) on the carton, making it easy to run air-volume calculations. Generally, high-quality 36-in. ceiling fans move between 2500 cfm and 4000 cfm; 48-in. fans move 4000 cfm to 8000 cfm. A quick calculation of room volume tells you what size fan you need.
The volume of the room is not always the most important consideration, however. Often (especially for cooling purposes), one should downsize a ceiling fan to fit the area of a room that’s typically occupied. The occupants of a 600-sq. ft. family room, for example, might be better served by a smaller fan if the furniture arrangement is contained within a 200-sq. ft. space (drawing left). Because the ceiling fan will still affect air outside the occupied space, you shouldn’t use the manufacturer’s room-area numbers when sizing a fan to cool just an occupied space. As a rule of thumb, you should divide the square footage of the occupied space by four to determine the diameter (in inches) of the proper ceiling fan. Thus the 200 sq. ft. of occupied space in the above example would be adequately served by a 52-in. ceiling fan.
The right ceiling fan will help cool down sizzling July afternoons and add a nice touch to any room. Ceiling fans are a happy meeting of the economical and the esthetic. They’re one of the few household appliances that can save you money — as much as 15 percent off your energy bills — and look good enough to enhance the decor of nearly any room.
Over the years, the choice of fan styles has broadened beyond the traditional Tiffany model with its dark wood blades and elaborate glass shade. You can now find designs that complement your clean-lined kitchen or contemporary living room as well as traditional bedroom or dining room.
There’s also a fan to meet any budget. The typical retail display includes models that range from less than $100 for a bare-bones unit to well over $1,000 for an ornate design with cutting-edge controls and light fixtures. Here’s a primer on finding the fan that’s right for your home.
Choosing a Fan
When shopping for a fan, you’ll need to know what size and style are right for your room and if any of the optional features, such as light fixtures or remote controls, make sense for that environment. Fans are sized by the length of their paddles, which should be matched to room size. The paddle span on residential fans ranges from 29 to 54 inches. Select paddle size based on the room you want to cool; see “Size It Right.”
What to Look For: Blades and Motor
If choosing a fan with wood blades, make sure they are sealed to prevent warpage. Fans rated for use in damp locations, such as a porch or bathroom, usually have plastic paddles. Because they’re produced as factory-matched sets, you can’t swap out blades from different fans; it throws them out of balance. But many manufacturers offer a variety of blade styles for a given fan, allowing you to customize the look. Many blades are also reversible, featuring different finishes on either side of the paddle.
Take note of the pitch of the blades because that, along with the blade span, determines how well the fan cools. The steeper the blade pitch, the more effectively the fan will move air around. Look for angles between 11 and 16 degrees; this information is called out in the manufacturer’s catalog or on the packaging. Smaller fans that are designed for tight quarters such as bathrooms, where circulating the air and exhausting it help to prevent mold and mildew from forming in the closed, often steamy space have blades canted up to 22 degrees. Fans that are to be used in damp or humid locations, like the bathroom or a covered porch, must be Underwriters Laboratories-certified for moist environments.
Motor. The motors in ceiling fans range between 1/60 and 1/3 hp. A higher-power motor helps meet the demands put on the fan by the resistance of the blades. In other words, the greater the span and pitch, the more powerful a motor is needed. Heavy-duty motors are more resistant to overheating, as well.
A motor with sealed bearings that never need to be oiled is among the items that denote quality in a fan. Another is a rubber flywheel, which helps keep the torque under control, stabilizing the fan while preventing noise from channeling up into the ceiling, where it is amplified. Inexpensive fans often lack these noise-dampening components.
What to Look For: Lights, Hardware, Warranty
Lights and more. Most fans are designed to accommodate optional light fixtures. These can range from simple incandescent bulbs to halogen downlights or elaborately crafted, hand-cut crystal uplight shades. To attach a multiple-light fixture to the fan, you may have to choose a fitter, which connects to the bottom of the fan body. Uplights, which bounce light off the ceiling, provide more ambient illumination than do downlights.
One manufacturer makes a fan that comes with both lights and a small but powerful built-in heating unit. Thermostatically controlled, it’s intended to extend the seasons for comfortable porch and sunroom use.
Finishes. The best painted finishes are electrostatically applied powder coatings. Look for a multiple-coat lacquered finish on brass-plated fans.
Mounting hardware. Most fans come with a standard 6-inch downrod. Longer downrods, up to 72 inches, are available for tall ceilings. You’ll need a hugger mount that minimizes the distance between fan and ceiling for low-overhead spaces.
Look for fans with a swiveling ball-and-socket hanging system. It allows a fan to be hung from a flat or sloped ceiling, and helps keep the fan level when it’s in use.
Warranty. Compare the fine print on guarantees. Some cover the entire fan, others just the motor. Duration can range, too, from five years to lifetime coverage.
Controls. Standard controls for the fan motor and lights include a pull chain from the housing. Consider wiring the fan to a wall switch (which may already be in place if you’re replacing a ceiling light) for convenience and to minimize the wear-and-tear on the pull-chain switch and its housing. (These switches are often the first thing to wear out or come loose on fans.)
For the ultimate in convenience, look for a remote control. Either wall-mounted or a wireless handheld unit, the device should control the lights and the fan speed. Some have a night-time mode for use in bedrooms, in which the speed is automatically slowed over time. Others include a security setting that trips the lights using random patterns that simulate an occupied house.
Size it right
Although manufacturers’ packaging typically lists formulas that relate specific room size to the blade span of a fan, there are some general guidelines.
- Up to 50-sq.-ft.-room: 30-in. span
- 51- to 100-sq.-ft. room: 36-in. span
- 101- to 200-sq.-ft. room: 42-in. span
- 201- to 400-sq.-ft. room: 52-in. span
- More than 400-sq.-ft. room: 54-in. span
Remember, in long, narrow spaces or in very large rooms, you can install more than one fan.
If you are to really control “The Beast” you must have ceiling fans in your home or condo in the PI. The environment is just sooo humid and a fan will greatly increase your cumfort.
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