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How to Choose a Ceiling Fan

Ceiling fans come in a nearly endless array of sizes, blade counts and finishes, so choosing the ri…
Minimalist Max Ceiling Fans in an open living room.
Minimalist Max Ceiling Fan by Monte Carlo Fans

Ceiling fans come in a nearly endless array of sizes, blade counts and finishes, so choosing the right ceiling fan for your space comes down to proportions, cooling efficiency and design elements. Below, we’ve compiled some expert advice that will guide you through choosing a ceiling fan fit for your needs. 

This guide will go over the many considerations of shopping for modern ceiling fans like ceiling height and mounting options for sloped ceilings, the size of the fan needed for the dimensions of your room, airflow and CFM requirements, the difference in length and number of blades, ceiling fan finishes and materials, and more. 

Butterfly Ceiling Fan by Monte Carlo Fans.
Butterfly Ceiling Fan by Monte Carlo Fans

What Size Ceiling Fan Do I Need? 

The first thing to consider when deciding on a ceiling fan size is the size of the room in which it will go. The square footage of a room dictates how big the ceiling fan will need to be because a fan that is too small or big for a space will not circulate the air properly. 

Ceiling fans are measured by the full size of their blade span (also called blade sweep), which is the diameter of the circle that you see when the fan blades are in motion. Fan blade span reaches from the tip of one fan blade to the tip of the blade directly across. 

Once you’ve measured the dimensions of the room, here is a guide on what size ceiling fan should go in that room. 

Ceiling Fan Size Guide: 

Fan Size Room Size Room Type 
29″ or less less than 50 sq. ft. Hallway, Laundry Room, Walk-In Closet 
36″ up to 75 sq. ft. Breakfast Nook, Large Bathroom 
42″ up to 100 sq. ft. Bedroom, Office, Kitchen 
52″ up to 225 sq. ft. Master Bedroom, Dining Room, Patio Area 
56″ up to 400 sq. ft. Large Living Room, Great Room 

In larger spaces, depending on the shape of the room, another option can be to go with two smaller fans. 

When determining the size of a ceiling fan, a minimum of 18″ to 24″ of clearance on all sides of the fan is ideal. 

How low should my ceiling fan hang? 

To meet building codes, the bottom of the fan should be at least seven feet off the floor; eight to nine feet will allow for optimal circulation. For higher ceilings, you can use fans with downrods to achieve the right height. The more space between the ceiling and the blades, the better for air flow and circulation. Ideally, aim for at least 12 inches. 

  • Low Ceilings: For rooms with ceilings eight feet or shorter, flushmount “hugger” fans are the ideal option. As their name suggests, these fans “hug” the ceiling to create a low profile. In order to achieve their short height, these flush mount fans do not incorporate downrods in their design. 
  • Average and High Ceilings: To hang a fan at the appropriate height in a room with a ceiling nine feet high or higher, a ceiling fan that uses a downrod is the right fit. A downrod ranges from 3 to 72 inches in length and is what suspends the fan from the canopy. This is ideal because more space between the fan blades and the ceiling will result in better air circulation. 

Fans will typically come with one or two downrods, in different standard lengths. However, if more length is needed to achieve the ideal hanging height, additional downrods in other sizes can be purchased. For a room with a 9-foot ceiling, select a fan with a 6” downrod. For ceilings that are taller than nine feet, add 6” to the downrod for every foot of height: 10-foot ceiling, 12″ downrod; 11-foot ceiling, 18″ downrod; and so on. 

IC/Air 2 Ceiling Fan in a sloped living room ceiling.
IC/Air 2 Ceiling Fan by Modern Fan Company

Can I install a ceiling fan if I have a sloped ceiling? 

Aside from hugger fans, most fan canopies (the part that attaches to the ceiling and covers the junction box) can accommodate some degree of slope-usually up to 30 degrees. An additional longer downrod may need to be purchased to ensure enough blade clearance. For steeper slopes–or in cases where sloped ceiling installation is explicitly not allowed–manufacturers offer sloped-ceiling adaptors, often called angle mounts. 

Do I need a special ceiling or junction box to mount my fan? 

Yes, ceiling fans need to be mounted to junction boxes marked “For Use With Ceiling Fans”; because fans can weight up to 50 pounds and are in motion, these help provide proper support. The boxes should be anchored to a ceiling joist, and installation by a licensed electrician is advisable. 

Should I buy a ceiling fan with a light kit? 

Destin Ceiling Fan.
Destin Ceiling Fan by Monte Carlo Fans 

Start by determining how much light is already in the room. Is it a relatively open space with lots of windows, or do your sliding glass doors allow in natural sunlight? How many lamps are already in place? Do they provide adequate lighting? These are important considerations to think of when deciding if your fan needs a light kit. 

If you wish to have more control over the amount of light in a room without worrying about turning on five individual lamps, a ceiling fan with a light or a light kit may be the best option. Ceiling fan light kits provide ample, even light that’s beneficial to all types of spaces. And many light kits are compatible with a wall dimmer or remote, so adjusting the light intensity is as easy as pressing a button. 

Consider pairing ENERGY STAR fans with ENERGY STAR light kits, too. They’re proven to be 50% more efficient than conventional fan/light units, saving you more than $170 in energy costs over the fan’s lifetime. The lighting is efficient and long lasting, too, so you won’t have to make bulb changes as frequently. 

Can I use a ceiling fan outdoors? 

Yes, as long as the outdoor ceiling fan is damp- or wet-location approved. Damp rated ceiling fans can handle the moisture that comes with outdoor air, but cannot have direct contact with water, rain, snow or other liquids that a life outdoors could bring. Damp-rated fans also use materials that prevent rust and corrosion from outdoor elements. Wet location listed fans can be used in locations more susceptible to water contact. These feature water- and weather-resistant motor housings and blades, and some are equipped with waterproof light kits to provide additional lighting outdoors. 

Should I choose an ENERGY STAR-Qualified ceiling fan? 

Rising utility costs and an ever-increasing challenge to eliminate waste means we must get technologically creative. Investing in a ceiling fan with an ENERGY STAR label is a practical option that allows you to minimize waste while maximizing a financial benefit. 

The EPA came up with the ENERGY STAR label for two reasons: (1) to recognize units that have passed a rigorous testing process to prove they’re highly efficient, and (2) to make it easier for consumers to identify and purchase energy-efficient, bill-saving products that won’t sacrifice performance or comfort. 

Plus, ENERGY STAR ceiling fan models must come with a minimum 30-year motor warranty, a one-year component(s) warranty and a two-year lighting kit warranty. At Lumens, look for the ENERGY STAR label on a fan’s product page to determine if it is ENERGY STAR qualified. 

Light and airy Blow Ceiling Fan.
Blow Ceiling Fan by Luceplan 

How does a ceiling fan work? 

In its most basic sense, a ceiling fan works by rotating pitched blades. The pitched blades create air flows that produce better air circulation, thus helping “cool” the body. The cooling sensation is, of course, only due to the movement of the fan. While it may enhance the effectiveness of your A/C or heating system by circulating that cooled or heated air, a ceiling fan on its own cannot actually change the temperature of a space. 

There are several different factors that play in a well-functioning fan. You now know how to size your ceiling fan to your room. The next few questions will teach you about the blade pitch, the different ways to control a fan, what airflow and CFM are and why DC Motor Fans are becoming more common. 

What is blade pitch? 

The angle of the blade makes a difference in how much air a fan can circulate throughout a room. The optimal blade pitch for a ceiling fan is 12-15 degrees. 

This degree of blade pitch will allow your ceiling fan to move a “just right” amount of air…not too much (you don’t need a wind tunnel) and not too little (you do need to feel a nice breeze). 

How do I control the fan? 

There are three ways to operate a fan: a pull chain, a handheld remote or a wall control. 

  • Pull Chain: The pull chain is located right on the fan and provides an easy way to adjust the speed and turn a fan on and off (and its light, if it has one). 
  • Remote: The most convenient of all fan controls, handheld remotes allow for the fan to be operated from anywhere in the room. 
  • Wall Switch: Wall controls are as convenient a way to operate ceiling fans as a light switch is for a lamp. If installed next to a doorway, the chance of forgetting to turn off the fan when leaving a room is greatly reduced. 

In some instances, you can have the best of both worlds with a remote control and wall switch combo, or a remote control that can be wall-mounted. 

Some smart ceiling fans are equipped with technology to work with Google Home, Amazon Alexa and mobile devices, allowing you to be free of remotes and other controls. 

Unfortunately, adding a remote to an already installed fan is not usually as simple as putting batteries in the remote control. The receiver for handheld remotes and some wall-mounted controls often needs to be installed inside the fan. This process may require that part of the fan be taken apart and then put back together after the receiver has been added. Most receivers can be added to the existing electrical wiring and will sit inside of the ceiling fan’s canopy. From there, you sync the remote to its receiver. 

For the remotes and wall controls available, see our selection of ceiling fan parts. Otherwise, check the product details of a fan you are interested in to verify if it already includes a remote control. 

Maverick Ceiling Fan in Walnut.
Maverick Ceiling Fan by Monte Carlo Fans 

What is CFM and ceiling fan airflow? 

Airflow quantifies the amount of air a ceiling fan delivers and is measured in CFM which stands for cubic feet per minute. CFM measurements are taken when a fan is on high speed, then that number is divided by the watts used. This means that the higher the CFM, the more efficient the fan, and the more air it moves. 75 cfm/w is the minimum to be considered efficient, according to Energy Star requirements. 

The Environmental Protection Agency requires that all ceiling fan manufacturers put the following graphic on all their boxes, brochures, catalogs and such, so that you will have an exact understanding of the power behind your fan: 

Energy Information
at High Speed

AirflowElectricity UseAirflow Efficiency
7,785 Cubic Feet Per Minute27 Watts (excludes lights)285 Cubic Feet per Minute per Watt

At a glance, this information helps you to gauge a ceiling fan’s airflow and efficiency. This makes it easy to compare two or more fans of similar size. But what CFM is best? 

On high speed: 

  • Good CFM ranges from 4,000 to 5,000 
  • Better ranges from 5,000 to 6,000 
  • Best is over 6,000 

What is a DC Motor ceiling fan, and what are its benefits? 

DC motors are a new addition to household ceiling fans that generate additional torque while consuming less than 70% of the power of a typical ceiling fan. They do this by transforming electric energy into mechanical energy as they rotate. 

DC motor fans have a slightly higher upfront cost than regular ceiling fans since they need a more expensive electronic speed controller. However, their benefits more than make up for it. These benefits include: 

  • Virtually silent operation 
  • Much smaller motors that result in smaller, lighter fans 
  • Efficient energy use that prolongs the fan’s life span 
  • Higher torque resulting in faster startup speeds 
  • The possibility for up to 6 different speeds 

In cases where lighting is included, DC fans typically use LEDs, which only add to the fan’s energy efficiency. 

What should I consider when picking ceiling fan blades? 

The number of ceiling blades is often an important point in deciding what type of ceiling fan to purchase, but this is becoming less of a question of function and more of personal choice with advancements in technology. 

It used to be the case that a five- or six-blade ceiling fan would translate into more efficiency as opposed to a three blade or four blade, but that’s no longer the case. Since the CFM is the measure for a fan’s airflow efficiency, the number of blades is more related to embellishing the style for your space. For example, a four or five blade ceiling fan provides a more conventional, balanced look, whereas a fan with two or three blades possesses a modern and sleek style. 

How do different blade finishes affect their function? 

Choosing the finish for your ceiling blades will largely be dependent on what room it’s going in and what your budget is. The four main blade materials and their unique advantages are: 

  1. MDF 
    With medium density fiberboard (MDF) blades, sawdust and other wood remnants are compressed together with a hardening material. Then, a laminate (a sticker) is put over it to protect it and give its finished look. This type of blade is the least expensive and so is generally used for inexpensive fans. It does not hold up well outside; if there’s any moisture, the blade will start to droop fairly quickly after being installed. But in dry indoor locations, these kind of blades work great. 
  1. Plastic 
    ABS plastic is used in a lot of fans, mainly because it is easy and inexpensive to manufacture. Plastic can be molded into almost any shape and can be finished to look like real wood. ABS blades also hold up well outside. (Note on reversible finishes: Blades that offer two different wood finishes are usually able to do so because of two different laminates being applied on either side. ABS blades can also be made with two different finishes. So, while reversible blades are most likely made out of MDF, it’s not a guarantee.) 
  1. Wood 
    Wood is best for indoor applications, but it will also work for outdoor damp locations. Sourcing and processing natural wood into fan blades takes more effort and cost than other materials, so generally, when a fan has “real wood” blades, it is a premium fan. Most wood blades are balsa wood–which is solid, but lightweight and aerodynamic–although other types can be used as well. Visually, real wood blades tend to have a carved look, with a thicker profile than standard flat blades. 
  1. Metal 
    Metal is best for large spaces where the fan is high above the floor. By code, they are supposed to be hung at 10′ or higher. Metal fan blades are also good for outdoor damp and wet applications, however, anywhere near the ocean and they rust (including ‘marine grade’ options). Metal is also a popular blade choice with smaller oscillating ceiling, wall and portable fans. For safety purposes, these are usually equipped with a protective cage 

If we haven’t answered all of your ceiling fan questions here, our team of design and product experts are standing by to assist you via live chat or at (877) 445-4486.  

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