Ceiling Fan Buyer’s Guide
The following is a guide to better understand and explain all of the relevant information for you to consider when choosing the right ceiling fan for you. In recent years, the humble ceiling fan has grown in its sophistication to become an integral part of the styling and comfort in our homes. Within each home comes different requirements for your ceiling fan, DC motor or AC motor? Diameter of the ceiling fan for the space? Do you need it to be a light source? We hope this guide is helpful for you to make the right choice for you, your home and ultimately your comfort for many years to come.
Key considerations for choosing your ceiling fan
Although to most people, a ceiling fan is a ceiling fan, but when it comes time for you to make your choice, the type and purpose of your ceiling fan can be worlds apart. A ceiling fan is not a one size fits all solution, certain ceiling fans can be a good or bad choice depending on its application. Some fans are designed to move huge amounts of air at a high RPM whereas others are designed to be quiet in operation to provide breeze but not heard. Today, energy efficiency is a huge consideration to most household appliances, ceiling fans included. To narrow your ceiling fan search criteria down, fans can be broadly defined by:
- Indoor fans, outdoor fans and coastal fans
- AC or DC motors
- Light or no light
The following is an overview of each of these ceiling fan criteria, please follow the links within these pages to learn more and find out which is the right fan for you.
Choosing a ceiling fan based on location
Depending on the area you’re installing your ceiling fan, there are different features and qualities of your new ceiling fan to consider.
Indoor ceiling fans
Ceiling fans for indoors account for the vast majority of locations for the use of ceiling fans. Generally speaking, indoor ceiling fans are located in living areas and bedroom areas of the household to provide comfort while active i.e. Living areas, and comfort while resting i.e. bedrooms. Each of these have their requirements. Fans in living areas tend to be larger in their diameter to match the size of the space. More consideration is given to the aesthetic appeal of the fan to match you taste in décor, and a larger amount of airflow is required to circulate the air adequately in a larger area.
Conversely, when considering what ceiling fan to use in a bedroom, quieter operation in lieu of large airflow is generally desired as a bedroom is a smaller space than living areas, a slower spinning quieter fan that still delivers the required airflow will give you better rest and comfort while you sleep. Think about the room your putting the fan in and what is important, greater airflow and size where noise is not really a factor? Or quiet, gentle airflow for a good nights rest in comfort. Often this is the trade off.
Today, there is greater choice in ceiling fans than ever, matching the diverse and changing sizes of our homes. To help guide you in which size fan you need for your rooms please read our Ceiling fan size guide here. It may be better to have 2 smaller fans in better situated locations than a larger fan in 1 location.
Another critical aspect to consider for interior fans are ceiling heights and positioning of the ceiling fan. Weather it be a standard 2.4m ceiling or a soaring architectural masterpiece, the ceiling fan will need to be in the right position in the space for it to have full effect. Most Ceiling fans are built and provided out of the box to suit a standard 2.4m ceiling height. However, ceiling fans are more efficient at moving air if there is more air to draw upon from above. So where ceiling heights exceed 3m it would be advisable to add a Down Rod to your fan to lower it to a height to a) bring the fan closer to you for greater effect and b) give the fan greater amounts of air to draw upon and circulate. To find out our suggestions on what length of rod is required for your fan and ceiling height, please see our Fan down rod length chart here.
Outdoor ceiling fans
The above considerations remain true for fans located outdoors as they are indoors in terms of room size and height considerations. The differing factors to consider when selecting a ceiling fan to be used in outdoor locations are the likeliness of outdoor elements affecting the fan and increased need for air movement over noise levels.
In years gone by, the traditional use for ceiling fans in outdoor locations was to ward off flies and mosquito’s from ruining your outdoor enjoyment. Now days with home design blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor living, it is important to provide comfort in an outdoor or patio area while maintaining the design aesthetic.
An outdoor location for a fan can be loosely defined as an area external to the house but still with full coverage and not exposed directly to the elements i.e. rain. A Ceiling fan is considered to be suitable for outdoor use as it is capable of withstanding increased heat and humidity which can be detrimental to many types of materials used in fans. For example, cheaper types of fans can use MDF board for blades. If this is the case, when exposed to increased humidity conditions, the MDF material will most certainly absorb the moisture, swell up and break apart. Metals and good quality plastics are better choices for outdoor locations.
Coastal ceiling fans
The next extreme for ceiling fan installation locations is a coastal location. This would need a ceiling fan to be suitable for use in an environment close to a coastline and/or exposed to corrosive elements. Today there are many fans available to choose from that cater for this kind of location. Materials like aluminium, good quality plastics and 316 marine grade stainless steel are good choices to make when considering installing a fan in a coastal location. This by no means is an excuse not to clean you fan regularly as coastal outdoor locations can degrade most materials if left unchecked.
If your fan is going to be located in an area where rain or water is going to be present, it is a good idea to select a fan that is not going to be adversely affected by these conditions. Water and electrical appliances generally do not go well together. Ceiling fans built to stand up to elements like water are classified into a Ingress Protection rating or “IP” rating. This is an indicator expressed as a 2 digit number as to the protection the product has against elements. To learn more on this please see our IP rating explained page.
Deciding on AC or DC motor ceiling fans
Emerging as another major consideration when selecting the right ceiling fan for you is the choice of motor to run the ceiling fan. Obviously, the motor in the ceiling fan is the most important component to the ceiling fan working. Until recently, there has only been 1 major type of motor to operate your fan, this is the Brushless AC motor. AC meaning Alternating Current. This type of motor has been around since basically the beginning of ceiling fans. However, over the past few years a new motor technology has emerged and has been implemented by ceiling fan manufacturers, this is Direct Current motor technology, or DC motors. With the global trend towards energy efficiency and power prices rising, DC motors are a more energy efficient motor in terms of running cost. Both types of motors have their pros and cons, which we will explain. Keep in mind though that ceiling fans in general are inherently a very energy efficient cooling solution for your home when compared to other forms of cooling i.e. air conditioning.
AC motor ceiling fans
A ceiling fan using an AC motor connects directly to the household power supply and draws current similar to most household appliances. It is an induction motor that is constantly drawing electricity to create the magnetic field that turns the fan around. Generally speaking, an average ceiling fan on high speed would consume about the same amount of energy as a 60W light globe.
- AC motors have been around for a long time are relatively simple so have a low rate of failure. If an AC motor does fail, it is usually another component, not the motor itself.
- Because AC motors have been available for a long time, the manufacturing processes have been refined and are a lower cost motor to produce.
- Can be operated by a wall switch or a remote control. Remote controls have more functionality nowadays – see our guide to controls
- Whilst still an efficient motor, they are less energy efficient than DC motors.
- Can run hot, which can limit some design and lighting aspects.
- Rely on capacitors to regulate speeds. If capacitors fail, it effects the motor performance.
DC motor ceiling fans
A ceiling fan using a DC motor connects directly to the household electrical supply as well, however it does this via a DC motor controller. An additional electrical device that regulates the power supplied to the coils of the motor and uses pulse modulation to keep the motor turning. Essentially what this means is that it is not constantly driving the motor to spin, it does it with pulses of energy at intervals, this is how it consumes less energy than an AC style motor.
- Energy efficient
- Generally smaller in size
- Runs cooler
- Greater power for size
- Quieter operation
- DC motor controller can provide increased functions of fan. More speeds, timers, etc.
- Reversing function from handset
- Cost is typically higher
- Must have a remote control to operate
- Controllers and receiver technology can be more susceptible to electrical surges and spikes
In summary, AC fans are a cost effective and time tested motor that can provides ample power at low cost for your cooling needs. Because of their simplicity they are generally offered in the low to middle price range. They most often come with a 3 speed wall switch and a remote control can be supplied as an accessory to add convenience and some smarts like timers and light dimming etc. Due to the larger size of AC motors and the heat generated, this can impact design aspects of fans using AC motors, so in broad terms high end designer fans and lighting options are limited by AC motors. DC motors on the other hand do allow for greater scope in design due to the smaller size for power ratio and cooler operating temperature. Keeping in mind that DC motors make what is already an energy efficient product even more efficient, the need for a DC motor controller allows the manufacturer to build in to the controller additional smarts as standard e.g. more speeds, timers
Ceiling fans with lights
If you are still needing some convincing that ceiling fans are a great inclusion into your household, then consider the fact that ceiling fans now come with a large range of energy efficient lighting options as well. In recent times, there have been huge developments in energy efficiency towards lighting and LED lighting in particular and this is making its way into lights in ceiling fans. In terms of lighting design, ceiling fans lights are not going to give you a designer lighting aesthetic for your spaces, there is a vast array of specialist lighting options to do that job. Ceiling fan lights however, can provide you with a functional light source, generally well located in a room for the light to have great effect.
In many instances in established homes, to retrofit a fan in to your home means placing it where an existing light is, as this is where the preexisting wiring resides. In this case making your fan double as your light source adds function and comfort. As with ceiling fans today, there is a great variation in lighting available in fans. Please read on to understand what the major considerations are with fan lights. A more detailed explanation can be found in our guide to fan lights page.
Lighting in fan’s terminology
In order to make an informed decision on what fan and light is best for you, it would be wise to know what the factors to consider are. Below are some common terms used in lighting and what they mean.
LED is short for Light Emitting Diode (LED). An LED light is a semiconductor chip that turns electricity into light. They are a very energy efficient lighting option using up to 85% less energy than incandescent lighting.
This is a term used to describe the energy consumption of the light source, while commonly misconstrued as an accurate guide to the lights brightness, it is simply the consumption of energy. Some inefficient lights can produce less light using greater watts than a more efficient light giving greater light output for fewer watts consumed.
Lumens are a measure of the amount of light emitted by a light source, often expressed as lumen per watt.
The Colour Rendering Index or CRE is a measurement of the lights ability to translate an objects colour. The more accurate you require the colours in your room need to be the higher the CRE required.
The colour temperature of a light refers to the colour of the light generated by the light source. Generally there are 3 common colours available 3000k is a warm white colour, 4000K is a natural light colour and 5000k is a cool white colour.
Will you need additional light sources in your space?
If the light on the fan is not going to be bright enough, or you do not want it to be the only source of light, then it is important to think about where the other lights are going to be positioned relative to the fan. As a ceiling fans blade diameter can be anywhere from 100cm up to 180cm, it is important to consider if the blades of the fan are going to interrupt the light output of other lights in the room. This is most common with the use of down lights throughout a room. If the blade of a fan passes too close to the beam angle of a down light, it can cause a strobing effect, which is not pleasant.
If the fan is going to act as the primary light source for a room then it is important to consider the brightness of the light, is it going to be adequate for the space. As a basic guideline please consult our ceiling fan lighting chart for size vs. light guidance here. Other considerations, do you want your light to dim? What colour temperature do you like for your light to fill the room. What kind of control do you want to have for your light? Simply an on/off switch on the wall or do you want to take matters into your hands literally?
By including a remote control into your fan and light, you gain the convenience of not having to get out of bed or off the couch to control the light, but also dim the light or put it on a timer to turn off at a certain time. To learn more about how to control your fans light and also the fan, read our guide to fan controls here