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Pros And Cons Of Ceiling Fans

Pros of Ceiling FansCons of Ceiling Fans
Low energy useDon’t cool the room
Design featureLimit lighting options
Can be controlled by remoteNoisy
Most come with light fittingsWinter mode needs external heat to be effective
Out of the wayDangerous on low ceilings
Increase HVAC efficiency when used togetherRequire maintenance
Winter mode increases heating efficiency
Effective outside
Keep insects away

Ceiling fans are ultimately a great investment, whether a home has an HVAC system or not. Some benefits include low energy usage and style (compared to other fan types). Some drawbacks include the white noise created as the blades rotate and the limitations of cooling capabilities when on their own.

Pros of Ceiling Fans

Use Minimal Energy

Ceiling fans consume very little energy. A high-powered ceiling fan can have a rating of up to 175 W in comparison to an average AC, which is rated over 300 W. That’s almost double the amount of power used compared to a ceiling fan. Now, power usage converts directly into cost, so, as you can imagine, ceiling fans are actually quite cheap to run.

Being energy-efficient and cheap to run is no good if a ceiling fan does not actually provide a cooling benefit. Fortunately, ceiling fans, when sized and used correctly, are excellent at helping you to keep cool on those sweltering days, even if they are not quite as effective as ACs.

Moreover, they are also more effective than some other air circulation devices, such as table fans, which also draw more power.

Can Be Used as a Design Feature

Besides the practical functionality of the ceiling fans, they can add to the overall look and feel of a space. This is due to the attention given to style by the manufacturers who are aware that if you are going to be hanging something from your ceiling, you want it to look good.

Ceiling fans come in various shapes and sizes and can even have themed blades or decorative features. The days of only having a ceiling fan to circulate air are long gone.

A classic style like a Hunter original ceiling fan, with the distinctive cast iron and wood materials can lend a touch of austere elegance to a room, while a modern white fan (amazon link) would look lovely in a coastal home or child’s nursery.

Hunter Sea Wind Indoor / Outdoor Ceiling Fan with Pull Chain Control, 48", White

Something like a mini-split AC or a couple of desk fans may get the job done, but it just wouldn’t give the same feel as a gently whirling, overhead ceiling fan.

Remote-Control Compatible

One of the conveniences of modern life is that many appliances can be operated remotely, including the ceiling fan. Even if your ceiling fan didn’t come with a remote control option, they are easy to fit to any existing fan setup as long as the fan’s housing is big enough to accommodate the receiver.

Before buying a universal remote control, also consider a system that converts your system into a WiFi-controllable one (amazon link).

Being able to stay seated and control your ceiling fan, or even control it from anywhere, adds a new level of convenience to your system. Smaller floor, desk, or pedestal fans may be portable, but they cannot be controlled remotely.  

Many Come With Light Fittings as Well

Generally, your ceiling fan is fitted in the middle of the room so that it can circulate as much air as possible, which is also where you would need to have a light.

Happily, many ceiling fans models come with light fittings as well (the fan and lights are set on the same downrod), so you don’t have to sacrifice your light source to fit an overhead fan. Lights are always set below the blades, so there is no interruption of light as the blades whirr quietly overhead.

stylish bedroom with ceiling fan and lights

Having your overhead lights and the fan combination can make wiring a lot more convenient, and it is a great space saver. Furthermore, adding a ceiling fan to an existing light fitting is easily achievable (but make sure the junction box is fan-rated).

Out of the Way

Having a fan overhead and out of reach is the perfect space saver, and it can also be a lot safer for anyone with kids or a lot of papers that could get blown about with lower, portable fans.

Because the fan is overhead, it is possible to have much larger blades and a more powerful action than if it was within reach of people using the room. Ceiling fan blades should be mounted at least 8 to 9 ft from the floor so even your tallest guests won’t be in danger from the rotating edges.

The fact that ceiling fans are suspended in unoccupied spaces, means that even though they are bigger than, say, a pedestal fan, the area they take up is less valuable and we don’t feel it to be a loss or compromise to going about our daily lives.

The ceiling is also a convenient place to store them when they are not in use, and the lovely designs available these days mean that they remain a feature while not in use. I have a pedestal fan that sits very inconveniently in front of my keyboard all year around because I have no other place to store it—and it’s definitely not pretty to look at!

Lower HVAC Costs When Used Simultaneously

Using an AC system with a ceiling fan can create a cooling system that is more energy-efficient than the sum of it’s parts.

ACs lower the ambient air temperature to whatever you have the thermostat set. It does this by actively (involves the consumption of power) removing heat from the air. The lower the setting, the more energy required to achieve the set temperature.

Ceiling fans don’t lower the air temperature in any way. Their cooling mechanism relies on wind chill, which is the same effect that you feel when you stand outside on a hot day and experience a delightful breeze that seems to cool you down, despite the fact that the air temperature is unaffected.

If you add moving air and the wind chill effect to an AC-chilled room, the occupants of the room experience a much more intense cooling effect, which is not necessary. The upshot is that you are able to turn the thermostat up while still achieving an acceptable cooling effect.

Man lying on a sofa holding a remote for the air-conditioning unit in a white room with ceiling fan

The amount of energy saved by increasing the thermostat setting outweighs the amount of energy required to run the ceiling fan.

If you don’t have an AC, then the ceiling fans are still effective at cooling you (if they are set to rotate in the correct direction!) and they are still very energy-efficient. There are just limitations to how cold they can make you feel.

Winter Mode Can Increase Heating Efficiency

A handy feature of most ceiling fans is that they can be set to change rotational direction. While that doesn’t sound significant, the effect is that instead of pushing air down to create a column of moving air below the fan, the blades pull air up, displacing the air above the fan.

The air above the fan is generally warmer, so the idea is that cooler air below the fan is pulled up and forces the warm air to move into lower regions of the room, where it can warm people. In general, the effectiveness of this is quite limited, however, if you add an external source of heat, you change the game.

When the air in a room is heated by the HVAC system, a radiator, or a space heater, then the ceiling fan in its reverse mode can very effectively distribute this heat throughout the room and prevent it from concentrating at the ceiling where it does nobody any good.

Effective Outside

Sweltering afternoons and sultry summer evenings on the porch can feel much more comfortable if you are sitting where you can feel the breeze created by an overhead ceiling fan.

Creating a comfortable, cool space outside in hot weather can be difficult because the area is limitless, so an AC is not an option.

An overhead ceiling fan with large blades is the only effective way to create some air movement and stay cool on a covered porch area–unless you want to run cables and set up portable fans, which would be a chore and dangerous should you forget the cables outside or trip on them coming through the door.

Covered barbeque area with two black ceiling fans and a pool

Damp- and wet-rated ceiling fans are specifically created for outdoor use, enabling you to enjoy your outdoor space, even when the weather is muggy.

The reverse function or winter mode of a ceiling fan is not effective outside. Only the counterclockwise direction will be useful.

Airflow Helps Keep Insects Away

Flies can be a nuisance, especially when you are preparing food. No matter which way you swat, they are persistent. On summer nights, mosquitos can be pesky. A ceiling fan is an excellent eco-friendly way of keeping them away because they just cannot fly in the air currents created.

While running a ceiling fan in an empty room does not make sense, it is helpful to keep flies from settling on food while you can’t watch it.

Cons of Ceiling Fans

They Do Not Actually Cool the Room

A ceiling fan cannot cool a room, only the people in that room. The wind chill effect relies on air flowing over a person’s skin, so if you aren’t standing in the flow of air, you aren’t going to feel any cooler.

Limits to the Lighting

Since most ceiling fans are situated in the center of a room’s ceiling and lights are naturally placed below the rotating blades, you may be limited in the top lighting array provided on your fan. It is never recommended to place ceiling lights of any sort, even recessed downlights where the light will be “chopped up” by the action of the fan blades.

Ceiling fans are often controlled by the same switch as the lights. That makes it tricky to have features like a dimmer setting because it would mean rewiring the entire unit and adding an additional wire to the switch for the lights. Adding a standard dimmer switch to your ceiling fan mechanism would be dangerous, and it should never be attempted.

White room with ceiling fan lights switched on

Can Be Noisy

A well-balanced, well-maintained ceiling fan should run quietly, but it will never be totally silent. The familiar white noise as the motor spins the blades will always be present. Of course, ceiling fans don’t always run smoothly, and we have all seen (and heard) a wobbly ceiling fan as they are hard to miss and impossible to ignore.

For most people, the quiet hum of a ceiling fan fades into background sound and can help many people sleep more soundly. However, it can be annoying if you are particularly sensitive to sound or need perfect silence to work. The constant mechanical hum may also be distracting when you are enjoying the quiet evening stillness of the setting sun from the porch or watching a movie on television.

Winter Mode Is Not Effective on Its Own

Winter mode is a way of distributing warm air that has been generated by some other heating source, either a radiator or a space heater. However, on it’s own, it cannot actually help to warm the room by just displacing the heat that has gathered at the ceiling.

There are three overlapping reasons why:

  • The air against the ceiling is not very hot compared to the rest of the air in the room. It is going to be warmer as a result of electronic heat output or escaping body warmth. This means that you won’t feel very much warmer just because the ceiling air is redistributed.
  • Furthermore, the amount of warmer air in comparison to colder air is quite small, so by the time it has dispersed through the room, the overall increase in temperature is negligible.
  • Finally, the “bulk” infusion of warmer air into the general air is only going to happen when you first turn on the fan. Once the air is circulating, heat is not gathering at the ceiling in any meaningful way.

Dangerous on Low Ceilings

One of the most important considerations before installing a ceiling fan is the height of the ceiling.

Some rooms are simply unsuitable for these appliances as the ceiling are too low, putting the spinning fan blades within easy reach of hands and heads.

White simple bedroom with low ceiling

Basement ceilings, home gyms where you may be jumping, and mobile homes are often unsuitable locations for ceiling fans.

Require a Good Bit of Maintenance

Ceiling fans are often the forgotten machines in the home until something goes wrong and they start wobbling about like a wonky turnstile or making some new and concerning noise. These occurrences are always an indication that something needs attention, and your ceiling fan should get inspected regularly to prevent this situation from occurring.

While the average lifespan of a ceiling fan can be up to a decade, they do require occasional maintenance, and it is definitely always a good idea to keep the blades free of dust. Dust build-up on the top of fan blades is one of the leading causes of unbalanced blades.

Fortunately, you don’t need to climb a ladder each time you want to clean your fan blades, as special cleaning kits with extension poles (amazon link) are available.

1.5-to-5 ft Flexible Fan Duster for Ceiling Fan with Extension Pole (11+ Foot Reach) // Microfiber Ceiling Fan Blade Cleaner // Washable Fan Brush and Telescopic Pole // Best Flex-and-Stay Dusting Kit


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