It doesn’t matter how design-minded you are — when the temperature approaches triple digits, you want to beat the heat. But ceiling fans are a contentious topic. Blacklisted by designers for being noisy, tacky and outdated, they’re often the first thing to go in a home renovation and a cause for debate in divided households in which one party wants circulation and one wants style.
Don’t sweat it. Ceiling fans are smarter, sleeker and quieter than ever. If you’re in the market for one and starting from scratch, here are some handy guidelines to picking the best one.
First, you’ll have to determine whether you need a flush-mount fan or one that uses a down rod. Flush-mount fans are best for low ceilings because they can be secured right to the ceiling, while down rods are designed for higher ceilings. The American Lighting Association recommends ceiling fans be hung between seven and nine feet from the floor to ensure safety and optimal airflow. Measuring down rods can be tricky, so check online buying guides for length recommendations.
Then, you’ll have to decide what size fan you need. Fan blades generally range from 29 to 54 inches, with most measuring 52 inches. There are a few rules — for example, if the room’s longest wall is less than 12 feet, the fan shouldn’t be more than 36 inches wide — but if you are unsure, check the retailer’s website for sizing recommendations. Most ceiling fans have between three and five blades.
Amanda Carol, an interior designer in San Francisco, says designers will probably ditch their anti-ceiling-fan stance once the industry offers more attractive, high-tech options.
“It’s not the principle of fans that’s bothersome — it’s that they aren’t well designed,” she said. “Until recently, they’ve been these wimpy, wobbly eyesores.”
Carol moved to the Bay Area from Houston last year, and although fans aren’t a big issue in Northern California, they’re an “absolute necessity” in Texas, she said. “They were a part of every single project.”
Those who don’t want to invest in new fans can try making smaller cosmetic upgrades to their existing fan, such as switching out heavy, dark blades with white ones that blend into the ceiling or removing the light kit as a temporary fix.
“I think the light kit is what makes them so ugly,” Carol said. “And most of the time, the overhead light isn’t pretty; it’s this harsh ‘Where were you on the night of’ light. Your best bet is recessed lighting throughout the room and a simple fan with no light kit.”
Picking the right style of ceiling fan can be tough, but brands and retailers have made it easy to shop based on your taste and space. Hunter’s website (hunterfan.com) lets you shop by look (casual, traditional, global and so on) and then narrow down the options by noting your hardware and flooring.
There are rustic fans with shades that look like Mason jars (Hunter’s Crown Canyon fan, $179, homedepot.com), vintage-inspired fans with mid-century modern flair (Hunter’s Cranbrook fan, $229, hunterfan.com), industrial fans built for indoor/outdoor use (Home Decorators Collection’s Kensgrove fan, $299, homedepot.com) and even smart fans that connect to your WiFi (Hunter’s Symphony fan, $299, amazon.com).
Those who like extra oomph from their fans should consider Haiku Home (haikuhome.com), a brand that makes heavy-duty fans in high-end finishes. Working out of an $8.5 million air-movement research facility in Lexington, Ky. — reportedly the only of its kind — the company re-creates environments such as coffee shops and gyms to test its products. It makes only one fan, sold at four price points (starting at $550), but it’s earned scores of awards for its design, stability, weight (13 pounds) and energy-saving technology. The star feature: its occupancy sensor that stops the fan from running when the room is empty.
“We’re design-first,” says chief operating officer Jon Bostock, who came to Haiku from General Electric, “but there’s payoff in your energy bill, too. We don’t ignore that.”
What about installation? Bostock says half of Haiku’s customers install their own fans, and Lisa Park, director of fan merchandising at Home Depot in Atlanta, estimates that the vast majority of Home Depot’s crafty customers do it themselves, too. But she acknowledges that it’s a “huge pain point. . . . The whole industry is looking at this.”
If you’d rather skip the mess of wires and ladders, hire an electrician or handyman. Most will do the job for between $150 and $300.