Ceiling fans cool you, not the room, and they don’t remove humidity. But they’re generally inexpensive to buy and run, whether you use them alone or with air conditioning. And with a little help, you can install one yourself. When shopping for a ceiling fan, you’ll find models that conjure images from old movies and versions that are more modern. In the past we found that although pricier fans had fancier finishes, they didn’t necessarily provide better performance. What’s more, most fans performed similarly in our air-movement tests.
How to choose a ceiling fan
A 52-inch-diameter fan is ideal for rooms that are 225 to 400 square feet. Pick a 42- to 44-inch fan for 144 to 225 square feet. If your room size is on the border, choose a larger fan and run it on a slower speed. In our past tests, ceiling fans with the most airflow were the noisiest, although it was wind noise and fluttering, not a whirring motor. And fans with blades that have ridges, bumps, or other surface texture were often noisier on high than those with smooth blades.
Motor. Most ceiling fan motors have sealed and lubricated ball bearings. The lubrication provides smooth operation and contributes to the longevity of the motor, which requires little or no maintenance. Higher-priced models usually offer higher-quality motors, which provide quieter operation and can stand up to longer periods of operation.
Motor housing. The housing is the decorative body of the fan that encloses the fan motor. Fans that use heavier material, such as die-cast metals, tend to vibrate less, provide more stability, and make a good surface for high-quality finishes.
Blade. The pitch of the blade is measured in degrees. Higher blade pitches move more air per revolution, but a higher pitch is not always better because it affects noise and motor power requirements. Blades should be sealed from moisture to prevent warping, bubbling, and peeling. High-quality blades are weighed and balanced prior to shipment and come in factory-matched sets with specific mounting systems. For that reason, blades from one fan cannot be switched with blades in other fans. Doing so can create a safety hazard.
Controls. Most residential ceiling fans (and all Energy Star qualified fans) feature the ability to reverse the motor and airflow direction, allowing you to operate the fan year-round. They’re usually sold with a remote control.