BUYER’S GUIDE: CEILING FANS
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The ceiling fan is one of those household essentials in which form and function can be perfectly married. The latest styles range from graceful good looks to fabulous statement-makers, and they’re useful year-round to help keep you cooler in summer and warmer in winter. Here’s what you need to know.
When it comes to ceiling fans, size is actually everything. “A small fan in a large room will have to work twice as hard to cool you off, while a large fan in a small room may create an uncomfortable amount of airflow,” says Beacon Lighting’s Denise Hammond. For a small to medium-sized room up to 4m x 5m, select a fan with 122cm blades, suggests Denise, while blades of 132cm-plus will suit a room size of up to 6m x 6m. In a large, open-plan space, you may need two or more models.
It’s less the number of blades than the shape of the aerofoil that truly determines the effectiveness of the fan, explains Sarah Johnston of Big Ass Fans. “Our aerofoil design includes an upswept blade angle, that has been designed to provide greater air flow and therefore more effective coverage of a room in comparison to traditional ceiling fans,” she says.
“Blades need to be at least 2.1m from the floor,” says builder Patrick Toner of All Things Building (allthingsbuilding.com.au), so if you have low or standard 2.4m ceilings you’ll need to look for a low-profile model that can be fitted flush to the ceiling. “Most fans come with a ball canopy fixing method, which means fans can be mounted on sloping, vaulted or flat ceilings,” explains Denise. For high or raked ceilings, an extension rod might be necessary to actually bring the fan down to an efficient height.
In a small room with one fan, centering it is logical for both aesthetics and efficiency. However in a large bedroom, it might make better sense to position it over the bed for relief on hot nights. In an expansive, open-plan room, consider using fans to ‘zone’ spaces, such as placing one over your sitting area and one above the dining table. Be aware that fans need to be fitted securely to joists or blocking, and should be positioned away from downlights to prevent flickering. “There’s no hard and fast rule for this distance,” says Patrick. “It depends on how far the fan is from the ceiling and the angle of light from your downlights. Ask your builder and electrician for advice.”
Fans don’t cool the air, they just move it around the room. “The faster the air moves over your skin, the more it works to evaporate perspiration, which is the mechanism your body uses to cool itself,” explains Denise Hammond. A ceiling fan demands just a fraction of the power needs of an air conditioner, and using both together can reap serious energy-saving benefits. “The two work well in tandem by dropping the initial temperature of a room, and then circulating that colder air,” says Denise.
Conversely, there are similar benefits in cold months, when reverse-function ceiling fans can be switched over to run clockwise, pushing down the available heat to warm the room better – a bonus for high-ceilinged rooms and even outdoors. “Used in conjunction with high outdoor heaters, this function makes your outdoor room a perfect entertaining spot all year round,” says Patrick.
Beyond simply cooling or helping to heat your outdoor room, using a ceiling fan in an outside area has an extra perk. “Fans aid in keeping flies off your food when entertaining as they don’t like the moving air,” says interior designer Sarah Nolen of Birdblack Design. A fan to be used alfresco must be suitable for outdoors.
Time was, the ceiling fan came in white and – er, white. Not so now, says Sarah Nolen. “Manufacturers are thinking about the shape and colours and how they can work in harmony with multiple styles,” she says. For style cues, look to the design of your home, as well as the effect you want. “For a Hamptons effect, I will select a fan that has large curved fins to balance the surrounding look,” adds Sarah. “If you have a high ceiling, a bolder style of fan will draw attention, which in turn will draw your eye up, accentuating the ceiling height. In smaller rooms I prefer a streamlined effect, so that it ‘disappears’.”
Fan blades are typically made of metal, plastic, timber or plywood, with the choice of materials influencing the price. Some fans have built-in lights, which solves the dilemma presented by making your fan, rather than a pendant light, the centre point of the room. Typically, the light can be operated independently so the fan can remain off even when the light is on.