Ceiling Fans

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A Guide to Understanding Ceiling Fans

A nice breeze outside is often better than colder temperatures, which is why many people prefer fans to air conditioning in their homes. While limited to their surrounding spaces, ceiling fans can add a simple yet elegant touch to your room while also cooling you off. With various design and style options, as well as available lighting fixtures, ceiling fans are extremely versatile.

Types of Ceiling Fans

  • Stack-motor ceiling fans were originally built due to rising energy costs. Using a style of electric motor (the "stack" motor), these ceiling fans are energy efficient. However, because their central hub, or flywheel, is made of rubber, it can dry out and crack over time, rendering the fan unusable until the hub is replaced.
  • Direct-drive ceiling fans, also called spinner fans, employ a direct-drive motor with a stationary core, whose shell revolves around it. The fan blades attach to this shell. Direct-drive ceiling fans are typically the least expensive to produce, but they are also more prone to noisiness and breakdown.
  • Belt-driven ceiling fans were originally operated by a water-powered motor, but more modern models feature an electric motor, which uses a system of belts to turn the fan blades.
  • Punkah style ceiling fans are the oldest known style of ceiling fan. Dating back to the 8th century, punkah fans operate using slowly moving blades that are assembled in a line, imitating leaves and making pendular motions. Rather than creating airflow like rotating fans, punkahs create a gentle breeze.

While there are other fan models, such as cast-iron fans, skeletal motors, friction-drive fans and gear-driving ceiling fans, they are extremely uncommon, mostly due to ceased production or high production and/or maintenance costs.

Important Ceiling Fan Features

  • Downrod: The downrod, or the part of the ceiling fan attached directly to the ceiling, should be the right height for your ceiling type. Low ceilings need flush-mounted fans, while sloped ceilings require an adapter.
  • Light fixture: Many ceiling fans today come with lighting fixtures. Depending on your concern for energy efficiency, the type of light bulb you use can make a big difference. Compact fluorescent lights use much less energy than standard or halogen light bulbs do, and Energy Star ceiling fans with light fixtures will only work with fluorescent bulbs. However, for lighting over vanities or stoves, for example, you may want to opt for a higher watt bulb to ensure clear sight.
  • Blade: While textured blades can look interesting and add a special design aspect to your room, smooth blades are generally quieter on high speeds than are textured ones, and they can also save energy, depending on the weight.
  • Controls: While switches are common for ceiling fans, getting a model with a remote control or special wall-mounted controls can enhance convenience. Perhaps the biggest benefit is that the user will not have to pull a chain several times to get the speed that they want.

Ceiling Fan Cost

Basic one- or two-speed ceiling fans, which usually work off a pull chain or wall switch, often come with a standardized light fixture and can cost anywhere from $20 to $90. Any custom or period design ceiling fans can ring up $200 to $600 easily, and this includes specialty blade shapes and features such as remote controls, variable speeds and better light fixtures.

High-end ceiling fans, which can come in anything from antique brass or copper to wooden blades and other specialty materials, can cost up to $2,000. Unique light fixtures for these special material ceiling fans are often sold separately and can cost around $1,000 per light. For ceiling fan systems, which have two to six fans mounted in a row or on a rod, can go as high as $12,000, starting as low as $3,000. Punkah style ceiling fans are often in this price category.

Ceiling Fan To-Do List

  1. Check size and style. While these do not always determine a fan's quality, they do have a big effect on the buyer. While a very large ceiling fan may seem great in theory, it could become overwhelming in an otherwise small-item room. Also, elaborate fan styles can make a room appear over-cluttered when not paired with the right design complements. Just be sure you enjoy looking at your fan and will continue to do so for a long while.
  2. Note your warranty. Cheaper fans typically come with 10- to 15-year warranties, while high-end models can have up to 50-year warranties. These are often motivation to have a professional install your device, because in the case of owner error during installation, your fan could lose its eligibility for the warranty. This brings us to our next step.
  3. Know the installation requirements. The last thing you want is to damage your fan or ceiling by not understanding your fan's needs. Ceiling fans should always rest at least seven feet above the floor, and the blade tips should be no closer than two feet from the wall and any surrounding drapes. If you're unsure of what you're doing, always consult a professional, who can take responsibilities for any error that takes place during installation.
  4. Check your junction box. Many people don't know to verify that their junction box is heavy enough to sustain the weight and power of their ceiling fan. This can lead to serious ceiling damage and possible breaking of your fan. Always check your fan's instruction manual to see the requirements, and if you're unsure of whether your junction box fits this standard, then call a professional.
Last Updated: July 22, 2011
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About Emelie Battaglia Emelie Battagila is a contributing writer for Idealhomegarden.com

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