Cool Off and Save Energy with Ceiling Fans

Lots of homeowners use ceiling fans, in a room here and there, or on a screened porch to move summer breezes. But ceiling fans are the jacks-of-many-trades, useful in nearly every space and in virtually every décor. And thanks to advances by manufacturers, they are also a necessary element for homeowners looking to cut utility bills. The American Lighting Association offers the following tips about how to use ceiling fans, integrate them into a decorating scheme, and size them specifically for your rooms.
 

The many uses of ceiling fans

The primary purpose of ceiling fans is air movement. “In summer, ceiling fans create a wind chill effect that makes the room feel six to eight degrees cooler than the actual ambient temperature,” says Joe Rey-Barreau, education consultant for the ALA and an associate professor at the University of Kentucky’s School of Interior Design. “In winter, the direction of the blade movement can be set to a counter-clockwise direction, which will help to move the hotter air at the ceiling toward the edges of the room and then downward.  This helps to distribute the heated air more efficiently.”
 
That is key to consumers’ interest in -- and need for -- ceiling fans. “That air movement can help reduce heating air conditioning bills in homes,” says Maria Scutaro, President of Feiss-Monte Carlo.
 
Manufacturers have also adapted ceiling fans to fit the smallest of spaces -- even in closets -- with a single blade and minimal motor that leaves the ceiling fan able to hug the ceiling. In addition, ceiling fans are a decorative element and focal point for the interior design -- a big change from the 1990s.
 
“There is an unlimited range of fan styles and designs … as well as fans that are part of a family of lighting fixtures,” says Rey-Barreau. That means the ceiling fans fit with a whole host of configurations -- bath vanity, wall sconce, chandelier, for example -- in both details and characteristics.  
 
Finally, as a light source, ceiling fans “can range from a night light to ambient light to a fully directed light source,” says Scutaro. “LED technology is bringing light and additional energy efficiency to fans.”

 

The energy efficiency of ceiling fans

Much like the Energy Star label gives homeowners guidance about appliances that will save on utilities, ceiling fans can also be rated Energy Star compliant. To do that, those ceiling fans must use efficient motors and advanced blade design to meet or exceed minimum requirements for airflow and airflow efficiency set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, says Rey-Barreau.
 
Energy Star ceiling fans also carry three reassuring warranties: a minimum 30-year on the motor, a 1-year on other components, and 2-year on lighting. “Lighting for Energy Star-qualified fans also uses efficient compact fluorescent sources that use two-thirds less energy and produce 70 percent less heat than incandescent bulbs,” says Rey-Barreau.

 

The three location ratings of ceiling fans

Ceiling fans used indoors in protected spaces differ from those used in semi-protected or exterior spaces. An “indoor use” rating means a fan can be used only indoors; those rated “damp use” can be used outdoors if in a covered spot, such as a porch. In addition damp-rated fans can be used indoors, but cannot be used outdoors if the fan will be exposed to direct contact with water. An “outdoor use” rating means the fan can be used in a location where it will be exposed directly to water, such as over a patio that is located underneath a deck.
 

A common mistake made with ceiling fans

It may be a cliché, but when it comes to ceiling fans, you get what you pay for. “The better quality fans do not cost much more than the most inexpensive fans,” says Rey-Barreau. “A consumer should purchase a fan that has a good motor, and that is energy efficient.  Buying a very inexpensive fan can be problematic in terms of performance.”
 
Be sure to purchase your fans from an ALA-member retailer. They carry high quality lighting and fan products, and have professionally trained staff available to help you select the best products for your home.
 

Ceiling fan sizing basics

In order for a ceiling fan to effectively heat and cool a space, it must be sized for the square footage of the room. Use the following measurements as guidelines:
 
Room size                             Fan size
< 50 square feet                   29”
75 square feet                      36”
100 square feet                    42”
225 square feet                    52”
300 square feet                    56”
>300 square feet                  one 60” fan or two 56” or 52” fans
 
With so many styles and types of ceiling fans available it can be difficult to make the best selection. Visit your local ALA-member retail showroom to see the newest products and to talk to an expert about which fans are most appropriate and energy efficient for your space. To find your closest ALA-member lighting showroom, visit www.americanlightingassoc.com.