Ceiling Fan Pros and Cons

General Article

Guess what? The title of this article is just out-and-out misleading. The only real “con” when it comes to a ceiling fan is what it takes to get one properly installed. Ceiling fans can be difficult to install for the inexperienced do-it-yourselfer. In some cases, you will need to run an electrical line to the area where the ceiling fan is to be installed. Unless you are adept at doing this sort of thing, hiring a licensed, bonded and qualified electrician will more than likely save you much grief in the long run.

There is also the minor “con” that involves the issue of periodic maintenance. Properly installed, a ceiling fan will provide years and years of pleasant cooling and cost-savings on your heating bill (assuming you have a fan that allows you to reverse the blade direction). Granted, you need to wipe down the blades once in a while but then, everyone has household cleaning chores to take care of from time to time.

On occasion, ceiling fans get out of balance and need minor adjustments. The most common culprits are loose screws that attach the blades to the motor housing, blades that are not at the same angle (pitch) as the rest of the blades and a blade or blades that weigh slightly more than the others.

Without going into great detail, make sure that all the screws are tight. If they aren’t tighten the ones that have come loose and run the fan. If the wobbling has stopped, your problem has been solved.

If not, use a yardstick or other straight piece of wood and place it (with the fan stopped) vertically at the outer edge of one of the blades. Rotate the blades by hand to make sure that each blade touches the stick. If one or more don’t, simply (and gently) bend the blade(s) so that their pitch matches the others and repeat the process until you are satisfied that each blade has the same pitch. Turn the fan on again and see if you’ve solved the problem.

If not, you’ve got a weight problem (I don’t necessarily mean you, personally). The weight problem is with one or more of the blades weighing slightly more than the others. This sometimes happens when the blades are made of natural, organic material such as wood. Manufacturers often include what are called “balancing weights” in the box with the ceiling fan. These can be used to compensate for any differentials in weight that may have resulted over time. These “balancing weights”, or clips as they are sometime called, can be attached to the top of the blade so that they are virtually out of sight. Start with one blade by attaching the clip close to where the blade is attached to the motor. Run the fan. If the problem persists, move the weight out towards the end of the blade. Try running the fan again. If the problem persists, keep moving the weight. If you are near the end of the blade and still have a problem move to the next blade. Continue this process until you find the one that has the weight problem.

While this is a somewhat time-consuming process, it will solve the problem when all else fails. By the way, if the manufacturer didn’t supply any clips you can usually purchase these clips at a home center or large hardware store. If you prefer, you can improvise by placing a coin or other small weight on the top of the blade and anchoring it with a small piece of electrical tape.

Just about everyone has air conditioning. Central air conditioning is a real expense but is just about necessary in areas that have to endure hot and steamy weather during the summer months. A wise move is to consider the ceiling fan as an alternative to air-conditioning, particularly during the evening hours. As evening approaches, either turn off the air conditioning completely or at least turn up the thermostat a few notches. Assuming your home is relatively airtight, the temperature should remain constant for at least an hour or so. Turn on the ceiling fans or if they’re already on, increase the speed of the rotation. The cooling effect produced will make it feel several degrees cooler and will provide a breezy alternative to the somewhat static air-conditioned air.

The cooling effect will more than compensate for the decrease in the air conditioning and should maintain adequate cooling throughout the evening hours. In the morning, when you feel the temperature rising to a mildly uncomfortable level, adjust the thermostat down a few notches to increase the use of the air conditioning unit while leaving the ceiling fans on.

The little bit of extra effort to make these adjustments in your cooling program will soon become a habit and will payoff in terms of savings in utility costs. Estimates of these savings vary and depend on a number of factors including the efficiency (and maintenance) of your air conditioning unit and both the quality and maintenance of your ceiling fans.

Buying high quality ceiling fans always pays off in the long run because of their operational efficiency and durability. On average, you can expect a reduction of at least $30 a year in your utility costs by using a good plan that incorporates the tandem use of air conditioning, the furnace and ceiling fans.

If you don’t already have your home outfitted with ceiling fans and have decided that it’s worth considering, it’s a good idea to do some due diligence research. There are a multitude of brands out there and a multitude of types, sizes and styles available for each brand. A few years ago the government established what is called the “Energy Star” program. This program has the backing of the EPA and designates specific lighting fixtures and ceiling fans as “Energy Star” qualified. You can count on getting a more energy efficient unit when you shop for one that has met the “Energy Star” requirements. Unfortunately, a large number of manufacturers offer only a few “Energy Star” rated models. The good news is that the list is growing. For more information about “Energy Star”, I suggest visiting energystar.gov

Besides shopping for quality, you also need to consider the size of the fan (usually called the blade width) in relation to the room that you plan to add a ceiling fan. There are at least seven fan widths currently available and fan size to room square footage charts are available on-line on many websites as well as at brick and mortar stores that sell ceiling fans.

Always look for a reversible ceiling fan. Nearly all the higher quality fans include this feature. The bargain priced, lower quality ceiling fans may not. The reversible feature is critical if you want to enjoy the benefits of your fan during both the summer and winter months. Here’s how it works. In the warmer months you will want to pull the warmer air upward towards the ceiling. Although warm air naturally rises, a ceiling fan, set for counter clockwise rotation, will provide an added boost. As the warmer air moves upward, the temperature in the room drops or is replaced by cooler air and the thermostat reflects the change, reducing the frequency with which your air conditioner cycles on.

When it starts to get colder outside, switch your ceiling fan so that it rotates clockwise. This pushes the warm air from the ceiling area downward and increases the temperature of the room. The thermostat registers the increase in temperature and consequently cycles your furnace less often.

A major benefit of using ceiling fans is the breeze they generate. Everyone loves a cool breeze on a warm summer evening and, likewise, a warm breeze on a cool day. You simply don’t enjoy these benefits from air conditioning or furnace-heated air.

In conclusion, there are very few cons with respect to installing ceiling fans in your home and a whole multitude of pros. Oh – did I remember to mention the fact that most realtors will tell you that ceiling fans increase the value of your home far more than your outlay of cash to purchase and install them?