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Ceiling Fan Facts and Fallacies

There's something about a lazily spinning ceiling fan. It suggests cool, sweaty glasses of mint ice tea and old movies.

If you're considering installing a ceiling fan for the atmosphere or just for cooling purposes, there's a few things you should know, according to Gene Austin of The Philadelphia Inquirer. First, room size requirements affect the type of fan you should buy. A standard fan extends 12 inches down from the ceiling. For room ceiling heights lower than eight feet, you need to buy a "flush" style instead that puts the blades closer, about eight inches, to the ceiling. For both safety and appearance, you'll need the extra headroom. And for comfort, Hunter Fan Company recommends eight to nine feet of space between floor and fan blades for maximum cooling efficiency.

In addition, you'll need to match the room size to fan size using these guidelines:

  • 400 sq. ft and up: 52 inch fan

  • up to 225 sq. ft.: 44 inch fan

  • up to 144 sq. ft.: 42 inch fan

  • up to 64 sq. ft.: 32 inch fan

Installation is relatively straightforward especially if you have a light fixture at the point where the fan is to be installed. Otherwise, get ready to snake wires through the wall or through a plastic or metal channel on the wall's surface to the connection point. If you're dealing with an existing connection, make sure that the electrical box is securely fastened to the ceiling joists. Chances are the existing electrical box wasn't attached securely enough to support the extra weight, so you will need to either: a) nail or screw a 2-by-4 between the joists and secure the box to it; or, b) buy and carefully install a metal fan brace sold by most fan manufacturers.

Here's the fallacy about ceiling fans, according to Consumer Reports: they don't improve energy efficiency in the wintertime, despite fan manufacturers' claims to the contrary. The idea is that a fan running in reverse draws warm air downward where it will do more good. But the fan's cooling effect counteracts any redistribution of warm air, says a June 1993 Consumer Reports study.