Use a Ceiling Fan for Simple, Efficient Cooling

A ceiling fan provides energy-efficient cooling, and can supplement or even replace conventional air conditioning depending on a home's location.

| August/September 2009

  • Bedroom ceiling fan
    Ceiling fans can make a room feel 4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit cooler.
  • Ceiling fan
    For optimal air circulation, mount a ceiling fan at least 10 inches from the ceiling.

  • Bedroom ceiling fan
  • Ceiling fan

A ceiling fan doesn’t cool a home, it cools people. It does so without changing indoor temperature one degree! How? By moving air. The movement of air over the surface of your skin removes heat from a region physiologists call the boundary layer — a warm layer of air that surrounds us at all times. By stripping heat from the boundary layer, a ceiling fan makes us feel as if the air in the room is about 4 degrees Fahrenheit cooler. Ceiling fans are especially effective cooling fans early or late in the cooling season, when all you need is a slight temperature decrease.

If your home is energy-efficient, a few strategically placed fans may be all you need to stay comfortably cool in the summer. Even if you still need air conditioning, ceiling fans will save energy by allowing you to raise the thermostat setting. Be sure to choose an Energy Star ceiling fan.

Ceiling fans come in a wide range of styles, colors, and prices. They can come with or without ceiling fan lights. Some are operated by remote control, others by wall switches in combination with pull chains. Most ceiling fans come with a switch to change the speed. In addition, most have two settings so you can control the direction in which the blades turn — one setting for winter (that brings warm air down) and another for summer. In the summer, you should be able to feel “cool” air moving if you stand directly under the fan.

Shopping for a Ceiling Fan

Before shopping for a ceiling fan, measure the volume of the room (length x width x height), and select the right size fan for the room. When selecting a ceiling fan, bear in mind that larger rooms may require two or more ceiling fans.

Installing a Ceiling Fan

Ceiling fans can be mounted close to the ceiling for low ceilings, or on a down rod (a piece of pipe that positions the fan away from the ceiling) for cathedral ceilings. If the fan is too high, it may not have much effect.

Installing a ceiling fan can be relatively easy if you’re experienced in electrical work and if there is an available ceiling light fixture with electrical connections you can use for the fan. If you’re installing a ceiling fan in a room without an overhead light fixture, you’ve got a bigger project — one that may require the services of a professional installer.

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