Ceiling Fans: Tips + Advice
There are plenty of benefits to pendant fixtures. They serve many purposes in a space especially for task and general lighting. Pendants are also visually decorative and help provide a overall theme to a space.
Benefits of a Ceiling Fan
A ceiling fan provides five basic benefits: Summer Cooling, Winter Heating, Energy Savings, Ambient Illumination and Beauty.
Fans can be used in many rooms throughout the home. Among the most important applications are living and family rooms, kitchens and eat-in alcoves, bedrooms, bath areas, porches and verandas. Fans can also be used in dining areas.
- Summer Cooling - Ceiling fans create airflow, a breeze that cools people in the room - reducing or eliminating the need for air conditioning.
- Winter Heating - Ceiling fans recirculate the warm air at the top of the room, which raises the temperature nearer the floor, where people stand and sit.
- Energy Savings - By their cooling and warming effects, ceiling fans reduce the need for air conditioning and heating. This in turn reduces the annual cost of electricity, gas, or oil by as much as 30%, depending on the size of the room andthe climate.
- Ambient Illumination - Adding lighting elements to the fan provides ambient illumination. One electrical appliance accomplishes both goals, which saves on material and installation costs.
- Beauty - A ceiling fan provides an attractive visual focus to a room. It is one of the first features a guest notices when entering a room. The interplay of forms and materials in the housing, blades, and lighting can be very pleasing.
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Anatomy of a Fan
Unlike most lighting fixtures, ceiling fans contain moving parts - the motor and the blades it turns.
- Motor - The heart of every ceiling fan is its motor. An electric motor converts electrical energy into mechanical energy, or motion. Most fan motors can be reversed to change the airflow pattern. There are two basic motor types used in fans.The most common is called a pancake, after its flat shape. Pancake motors are described by size: diameter x height. Stacked motors, with a more elaborate construction, are used in some premium fans.
- Bearings - Bearings separate the moving part of the motor from the housing around it and reduce friction and wear. Bearings are precisely formed spheres of hard metal or composite that revolve in place as the motor spins. High quality bearingscontribute to quiet, vibration-free operation and long life. Today's bearings and motors are mostly self-lubricating. That is, they do not need to be lubricated periodically by the user.
- Blades - After the motor, blades are the most important factor in fan performance. The blades may be formed of wood, steel, or plastic. To avoid warping, wooden blades should be laminated from thin slices of wood (rather than constructed from a single solid piece( and sealed against moisture. Each set of blades should be properly balanced to a very tight tolerance so the fan turns evenly. Blade span or sweep, which describes the size of the fan, is measured as the overall diameter of the fan (not the length of a single blade). Blades come in various finishes and shapes and are pitched, rather than perfectly horizontal, in order to push the air.
- Down Rod - The down rod is the pipe that suspends the fan from the ceiling box. Most fans include a short down rod; other lengths and extenders are available so you can hang the fan at the desired height.
- Lighting Elements - Some fans incorporate an integrated lighting element, usually a diffusing bowl, a concealed uplight, or both. Most other fans accept a light kit.
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Lighting With Fans
Since most fans are located in the middle of the room, lighted fans mostly provide ambient illumination. Fans with integrated lighting should have separate controls for blade speed and lighting intensity.
- Light Kits - Accessories that attach to the bottom of the fan, providing a choice of lighting options. Light kit options typically include central diffusing or crystal shades, glass clusters, or spotlight clusters. A glass cluster consists of a fitter, or ring of sockets, that holds individual glass elements, one per socket. When using a fitter, you must also select the specific glass attachments that mount to it. Uplight kits that attach to the top of the fan are also available.
- Central Diffusing Light - Single central light that can provide general diffuse illumination. The bigger the diffuser, the softer the light. Look carefully at the number, type and wattage of the lamps; most fan lights do not provide as much light as a comparably sized decorative pendant.
- Glass Cluster - The cluster consists of a fitter with a ring of lamps (three or four is typical) and matching glass diffusers. Some styles combine a ring of lights with a center element or use curved arms like a chandelier. A glass cluster may provide more light than a central element because it uses more lamps. But it can be glary. As with a chandelier, you should be careful to avoid too much brightness. Add a dimming control (see the next section of this unit) or use 40W lamps, maximum. Clear glass elements may also cast shadows on the ceiling as the fan blades sweep over the lights.
- Spotlight Cluster - If the fan is located in the center of the room, which is common, spotlights can create glare. Most people will have to sit or walk in the beam from the spotlights, which is uncomfortable. Spotlights aimed straight down rovide a distinct pool of light, which is not uncomfortable.
- Uplights - Uplight from the top of a fan creates pleasantly soft illumination. Uplights can be used alone or together with center lights or fitters (in some fans). An add-on uplight is more comfortable than using higher wattage bulbs in a fitter.
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As with lighting, convenient controls enhance the user's satisfaction. Virtually all fans sold to residential users include a control, either a pull chain or a handheld remote. You can also control the fan from a built-in wall control. The pull chainwires into a switch cup on the bulb of the fan. Where the fans have a multi-speed motor, the pull chain operates a sequential switch (1-2-3). Fans with lights need two separate controls: one for the fan and one for the lights. A fan with an integrated light will generally include two pull chains. A light kit should include a separate pull chain.
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- Handheld Remotes - Handheld remotes are wireless controls. A receiver, located in the switch cup of the fan picks up the signal that controls the fan. In addition to speed and dimming control, a handheld control may offer several convenience features, such as "sleep' or security modes.
- Wall Controls - Wall controls may be sold with the fan as an accessory or as part of a line of lighting controls. Wall box controls enable you to turn the fan on and off and adjust its speed from the doorway or other convenient locations around the room. If you run separate wires for the fan and the lights, you can use separate controls for each. Otherwise, you need a special two-wire fan/light or "dual control." Two-wire dual controls use a special module (mounted in the fan) that directs the control signal either to the fan or the lights. Two-wire controls are useful for retrofitting existing lighting fixtures. (Note that the ceiling outlet box must be rated for a ceiling fan).
- "Quiet" Controls - Quiet controls operate the fan at discrete speeds (3-speed or 4-speed). They may be fan-only or fan-light configurations. Variable speed controls adjust the fan to any speed within the motor's RPM range. They are not as quiet as "quiet" controls.
- Multiple Fan Controls - Typical controls are rated for a maximum load of 1.5 amps, which covers a single residential fan. To control several fans (in a large family room, for example) use a control rated for more than one fan or for five or more amps.
Fan Sizing and Fan Height
As with lighting, convenient controls enhance the user's satisfaction. Virtually all fans sold to residential users include a control, either a pull chain or a handheld remote. You can also control the fan from a built-in wall control. The pull chain wires into a switch cup on the bulb of the fan. Where the fans has a multi-speed motor, the pull chain operates a sequential switch (1-2-3). Fans with lights need two separate controls: one for the fan and one for the lights. A fan with an integrated light will generally include two pull chains.
The size of the fan relates to the size of the room and the ability of the fan to cool and heat the space effectively. The following guide will provide effective air movement. Fan size is specified by the blade span.
Room Size - Fan Size
- Less than 50 square feet - 29" fan
- 75 square feet - 36" fan
- 100 square feet - 42" fan
- 225 square feet - 52" fan
- 400 square feet - 56" fan
- Greater than 400 square feet - 60” fan or consider using two 56” or two 52” fans
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Fan Height & Downrod Length
For the most effective cooling, the fan blades should be located between 7’-9’ above the floor. With very high ceilings, you should also consider how it looks suspended in the space. Keep the fan blade at least 18” away from walls.
Except with very low ceilings, avoid locating the fan too close to the ceiling. It will not distribute air as well. However, for safety, the blades should never be less than 7’ above the floor.
- Order a Fan - Some fans are packaged complete with lighting elements and blades. Others require that you order the blades separately (to provide a choice of size and finish). Lighting is generally handled as an option, using a kit. Some kits are themselves two items: the fitter and a set of glass. Unless the fan is suspended less than 6"-8" from the ceiling, you will also need to order a down rod of the appropriate length. Thus some fans are ordered with one catalog number. Others take as many as five numbers.
- Hum - Fan bales "whoosh" gently as they turn. The faster the fan runs, the more noticeable the sound. This is normal. A louder, or uneven, noise may mean that the fan is not balanced properly. Improper balance may be the result of poor installation, excessive wear on the bearings, or generally inferior quality. Some fans use gaskets to dampen the vibration of the motor so it is not transmitted into the room by the fan blades. Excessive noise may also mean that the gaskets are wearing out. A high-quality fan motor should not require regular maintenance. The fan blades should be cleaned, however, along with any lights.
- Electricity Consumption - Residential fans operate on 120 Volt circuits. Most draw less than 1 Amp of current, which is less than 120 watts of power for the motor. The lighting load depends on the lighting elements. Most fan/lighting controls are rated for 250-300 watts of incandescent load. Check the specifications.
- Outdoor Installation - Use a "Damp Location" fan for an enclosed exterior area, such as a verandah, where the fan is protected from direct contact with the elements. Use a "Wet Location" fan for an exposed area, such a gazebo. You will need to use blades that are suitable for outdoor applications.
- Warranty - Manufacturers typically warranty their fans according to the quality of the motor. The best motor warranties are for "life" others may extend 10 to 30 years. Other components generally have a one year warranty.
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