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How To Choose A Ceiling Fan

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Ceiling fans help you save energy year-round and can be used both indoors and out. From picking the proper fan size to installing it on a sloped ceiling, below is a Q+A we pulled together to help you find the one that’s perfect for your modern living space.

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Q: Where can ceiling fans be used?

A: Ceiling fans can be used anywhere in your home that you like to keep air moving. They can also be used outdoors for patios, pergolas, and breezeways. When creating an outdoor space, consider a damp or wet-location-approved Outdoor Ceiling Fan.

Q: When can I use my ceiling fan?

A: Fans are often associated with summer and warm-weather use, but they are just as beneficial during the winter and cooler months. In summer, the blades rotate in a counter-clockwise direction and create a cool breeze. In essence, it creates a wind-chill effect that allows you to lower air-conditioning costs and use up to 40% less energy. During the winter, set the fan to low and rotate blades in clockwise motion. This creates an updraft, forcing the warmer air down and away from the ceiling, thus lowering heating costs.

Q: What is the right fan size for my room?

A: Knowing your room’s square footage will help you determine the proper size. A fan that’s too small for a room might not offer enough air and one that’s too large could create excessive air movement. A fan’s diameter (blade span) is the most important consideration. For very large rooms with high ceilings, fans with 60- to 80-inch blade spans are available. Here are some helpful guidelines when choosing your fan:

Room Size Fan Size
Up to 75 sq. ft. 36″ or smaller
75 to 144 sq. ft. 36″ – 42″
144 to 225 sq. ft. 44″ – 50″
225 to 400 sq. ft. 50″ – 54″

In addition to choosing the proper fan size, make sure to have 18″ to 24″ of clearance on all sides of the fan.

Q: How do I determine the hanging height of the fan?

A: The bottom of the fan should be at least 7 feet off the floor, and 8 to 9 feet will allow for optimal circulation. “Hugger” fans like the Embrace Ceiling Fan are made especially for lower-ceiling heights because they are installed flush with the ceiling. For higher ceilings, you can use fans with downrods, such as the Ball Ceiling Fan, to achieve the right height. Downrods range from 3 to 72 inches in length. The more space between the ceiling and the blades the better than air flow and circulation, so aim for at least 12 inches.

Q: Can I install a ceiling fan if I have a sloped ceiling?

A: Aside from hugger fans, most fan canopies (the part that attaches to the ceiling and covers the junction box) can accommodate some degree of slope-usually up to 30 degrees. A longer downrod may needed to ensure enough blade clearance. For steeper slopes, manufacturers offer sloped-ceiling adaptors, often called angle mounts.

Q: Do I need a special ceiling or junction box to mount my fan?

A: Yes, ceiling fans need to be mounted to junction boxes marked “For Use With Ceiling Fans”; because fans can weight up to 50 pounds and are in motion, these help provide proper support. The boxes should be anchored to a ceiling joist, and installation by a licensed electrician is advisable.

Q: Can the fan also light my room?

A: Most fans come with light kits and provide overhead ambient illumination, which may need to be supplemented with other fixtures. Ceiling fans can also be ordered without lights if preferred.

Q: How do I control the fan?

A: When considering control options, imagine whether you would prefer a wall switch, a remote, or even a pull chain. Most fans include a wall and or handheld control. Depending on the type of fan, these may control fan speed, multiple fans, or fan and light control.

Q: Can I use a ceiling fan outdoors?

A: Yes, as long as it is a damp- or wet-location-approved fan. Damp-location fans can be used under covered porches and patios where they will not come into direct contact with the elements. The finishes and blades will weather over time. Wet-location-listed fans such as the Concept I Wet 52 Inch Fan can be used in locations more susceptible to water contact. These feature water- and weather-resistant motor housings and blades, and some are equipped with waterproof light kits to provide additional lighting outdoors.

Q: What is CFM and how is it used?

A: CFM stands for cubic feet per minute and it measures a fan’s airflow efficiency. CFM measurements are taken when a fan is on high speed, then that number is divided by the watts used. The higher the number the more efficient the fan. 75 cfm/w is the minimum to be considered efficient, according to Energy Star requirements.

Q: What is a DC Motor Fan and what are the benefits?

A: DC Motors are new energy-saving, yet more powerful fan motors. They generate additional torque while consuming less than 70% of the power of a typical ceiling fan. Other benefits include a virtually silent operation and much smaller motors that result in smaller, lighter fans.

Like the above slide show? Click here for more fans from Modern Fan Company.

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Kelly Tirman

Kelly Tirman runs our Social Community efforts at YLiving, YLighting and YBath. After spending 10+ years living in a modern San Francisco loft she moved her family to a bungalow in the burbs. She now enjoys dreaming up home renovation and design projects in order turn her family's post-war cottage into the modern home of their dreams.