Ceiling Fan Buying Guide: Choose the Best Fan for Your Space

Published By: Shades Of Light

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Last Updated: May 27, 2020

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If stuffy rooms and uneven heating and cooling are the bane of your existence, making use of a stylish ceiling fan could be the answer to your home design woes! While these fixtures come in a wide range of styles and designs, ceiling fans are even more practical than they are aesthetically pleasing. For energy-conscious and comfort-inclined interior decorators, ceiling fans are a must-have.

For the uninitiated, finding the best ceiling fan for your home can feel like a daunting task. Once you’ve determined the right size fan for your space, you’ll notice each fan comes complete with a range of technical information that can seem esoteric to even the savviest ceiling fixture connoisseur. With variations in motor type, blade number and pitch, airflow, speed, and control types, it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what kind of fan is best for you. Our fan buying guide is the perfect way to shed some light on your most pressing fan questions and help you find your perfect fan like a pro!

How to Find the Right Size Ceiling Fan

When searching for ceiling fans, the very first step is determining what size fan you need for your room. Requirements for two ceiling fan dimensions—height and diameter—will vary depending on the size and shape of your room, and while the height of the fixture can frequently be adjusted to account for high or low ceilings, the diameter cannot be altered. For this reason, it’s important to choose a ceiling fan size that will fit in your room. Using a simple formula, and the following ceiling fan size guide, you can pinpoint whether your room requires a small ceiling fan, a large ceiling fan, or whether a more standard size ceiling fan is best.

Ceiling Fan Diameter Span & Square Footage Formula

The diameter of your ceiling fan is a measurement of the span of the blades, and this is the measurement most frequently associated with the fixture.
Ceiling fan span diameter or sweep
If a ceiling fan on Shadesoflight.com has a number in inches in the name, that number is the fan’s diameter. Which ceiling fan diameter (also called the fan’s sweep) is best for your room size is determined by the room’s square footage. To find this number, measure the length and width of your room, and then multiply those two numbers together as follows:
• Room length x Room width = Square footage
Once you’ve found your room size, you can select an appropriate fan diameter span from the table below!

Room Size in Square Feet ≤ 75 SQ FT 76-149 SQ FT 150-249 SQ FT 250-400 SQ FT
Ceiling Fan Diameter 29” or 30” fan blade span 42” fan blade span 52” fan blade span 54” to 60” fan blade span

Rooms greater than 400 square feet will require two or more fans for the best experience. For smaller or irregularly-shaped rooms, be sure your fan is positioned at least twelve to eighteen inches from the nearest wall. Optimal fan placement is usually in the center of the room to ensure the best airflow.


Ceiling Fan Downrod Length Chart

After ceiling fan diameter, the height of the fixture is the next most important measurement you will encounter.

Ceiling Fan downrod length

Ceiling fan downrods, sometimes called ceiling fan extension rods, will allow you to hang your ceiling fan at the optimal height. Most fans include multiple downrods so you can customize the fixture to suit your needs. When searching for a fan, be sure you know how many and what size downrods come with the fixture; on Shadesoflight.com, this info will be clearly listed in the technical product details displayed beneath the product description.

To avoid trapping air or creating a hazardous environment for your taller friends and family, ceiling fans should never be hung lower than seven feet from the floor, with the ideal height falling between eight and nine feet from the floor. For standard or high ceilings, refer to the table below to find the best ceiling fan downrod length for your space.

Ceiling Height Recommended Downrod Length
9' ceiling 6" downrod
10' ceiling 12" downrod
12' ceiling 24" downrod
14' ceiling 36" downrod
16' ceiling 48" downrod
18' ceiling 60" downrod
20' ceiling 72" downrod
If you have sloped or vaulted ceilings, you should also be sure your ceiling fan is equipped to handle that challenge. Look for fans marked ‘sloped ceiling compatible’ to be sure your fan can be safely installed where you need it.
Sloped ceiling compatible ceiling fan


For lower ceilings, low profile ceiling fans are usually the best option. Find a flush mount ceiling fan, sometimes called a hugger ceiling fan to best serve this kind of room. These fixtures are designed to be mounted close to the ceiling to keep your rooms cool in the summer, warm in the winter, and free of spinning hazards.
Low profile indoor/outdoor ceiling fan



What to Look for In Ceiling Fan Blades

When shopping for your ceiling fan, the blades are usually one of the most important features you should consider. Ceiling fan blades come in a huge range of shapes and styles. Some designs are intended to make a grand style statement, while others may be designed for greater efficiency. With a few considerations in mind, you should have no problem finding a ceiling fan that meets both your style and efficiency preferences.

Ceiling Fan Styles & Fan Blade Shapes

Ceiling fan styles today are vast and varied and some of the most striking variance is apparent in the blades themselves. Some modern ceiling fans feature blades bent at unusual angles, have only two blades (or even one!), and streamlined bodies in sleek finishes. Rustic ceiling fans and farmhouse style ceiling fans might showcase weathered finishes or quaint shapes. Industrial ceiling fans tend to have a more rugged or minimalist look and might have more than five blades or a protective cage around the fixture.

Whatever your style, you’ll soon notice the wide range of blade types and shapes available to you. How effective these blades are at moving air in your room actually relies on several factors, including how the blades interact with the fan motor. For example, a fan with three blades will tend to be lighter, placing less strain on the motor and allowing the blades to spin faster. A fan with five blades may move more air, but the heavier drag on the motor may consume more energy. It’s easy to get bogged down in questions and concerns about the ability of certain blade configurations to move air efficiently. To help bring a little clarity to the situation, you should refer to your fan’s airflow rating (more on that below!) as that will tell you exactly how much air the fan can move.

Because of all the various design factors to take into account, no single fan blade configuration can be considered the most efficient. That’s good news because it means you can chose your favorite fan blade shape and still find a fixture that suits your efficiency needs! The following styles feature some of our favorite blade shapes and make a big impact in any room.

Windmill fan: This rustic look is a perfect centerpiece for a breezy living room with a farmhouse or lodge theme. This fixture has lots of blades to mimic the classic windmill shape, and they usually have a higher pitch for increased airflow. Indoor fixtures will frequently have wooden blades, while outdoor versions usually have metal blades (which sometimes have a faux-wood finish).
Rustic windmill ceiling fan blade style


Cage fan: Heavily modern and industrial, these fixtures enclose the body and blades of the fan in a cage. As such, these fixtures tend to be smaller. If you love this look but have a larger room, multiples hung through the room can create a very chic atmosphere.
Industrial cage ceiling fan blade style


Propeller fan: Another modern staple, this style of fan mimics the look of plane propellers. The most popular configuration features three blades, but some edgy looks only have two. The blades tend to be narrow and rounded, lending these fixtures a flowy aesthetic that is pleasing for contemporary nautical rooms and softer modern looks.
Propeller ceiling fan blade style


Aviator blade fan: This style of fan is similar to the propeller fan, but is more angular and more likely to have over three blades. The blades tend to be rectangular as opposed to the rounded flow of propeller fans, but with similar pitch, body shape, and finishes.
Aviator ceiling fan blade style


Turbine blade fan: Like the windmill fan, turbine blade fans create drama with lots of blades arranged at a steep pitch. This style of fixture is heavily industrial and can most often be found in sleek metallic finishes.
Turbine ceiling fan blade style


Twisted blade fan: If efficiency is your primary concern, twisted blade fans may be what you’re looking for. These fixtures produce higher airflow with twisted blades at a steep pitch. There is a note of playful fun in these fixtures, and they are usually most at home in modern and contemporary rooms.
Twisted blade ceiling fan style


Leaf blade fan: If you want your fan to leave a dramatic impression, leaf blade fans come in lots of styles from traditional to nautical and tropical to boho. These fixtures usually have five wide, flat blades designed to resemble leaves. Because this style of blade can be a bit heavier than others and usually has a lower pitch, these fixtures are good for creating a gentle breeze with more subtle airflow.

How Many Blades Should a Ceiling Fan Have?

Since the efficiency of a fan is a measure of many different factors taken together, the optimal number of ceiling fan blades is largely an aesthetic preference. While in general, more blades move more air, the type of motor and how powerful it is, and the pitch, shape, and weight of the blades play a big enough factor that a three blade ceiling fan can create higher airflow than a fan with more blades. There are even some highly efficient fixtures with only one blade! Conversely, some windmill fan styles can feature ten or more blades and still cool and heat your room quite effectively.


Ceiling Fan Efficiency Considerations

Some ceiling fans are certainly more efficient than others, and the best of these fans will receive an ENERGY STAR rating. Ceiling fans with an ENERGY STAR rating represent the most energy efficient fixtures on the market, and these energy saver fans are a must have for environmentally conscious consumers. These fans must meet a series of rigorous testing criteria concerning energy consumption; ENERGY STAR rated ceiling fans with light kits are generally 60% more efficient than non-ENERGY STAR rated fans. This means these fans not only save energy, they save money since ceiling fan efficiency can directly influence that monthly utility bill! To get the most out of your ceiling fan, look for fans marked with the coveted ENERGY STAR rating.

Energy star rated indoor outdoor ceiling fan



Airflow Measurement: CFM & CFM/W

Earlier, we mentioned your fan’s airflow rating and how that number can help you understand just how powerful your fan actually is. This rating is referred to as the fan’s CFM airflow, and refers to the Cubic Feet per Minute of air moved by the fan. A fan’s CFM airflow is calculated when the fan is moving at its maximum speed, and higher numbers represent more air movement. This number can vary greatly between fans; for example, a random sampling of some popular Shades of Light ceiling fans have CFM airflow ratings ranging from roughly 2000 to over 6000. If the fan you like has a particularly high CFM airflow rating, be sure to also check the available speeds of the motor, which will give you the option to adjust the fan to your perfect airflow level. Higher airflows tend to be useful in outdoor settings such as porches or patios where they can help keep bugs like mosquitoes away, but may be a nuisance at max speeds indoors depending on your preferences.

The second number you should look out for is your fan’s CFM/W, or Cubic Feet per Minute per Watt. This number is an exact measurement of the fan’s efficiency; the higher the number, the more efficient the fixture is. This number is not necessarily directly correlated with airflow across all fixtures—a fan with a CFM airflow of 2050 and one with a CFM airflow of 6500 can both have the same CFM/W rating. A fan should have a CFM/W of 75 or more to be considered an efficient fixture.
Efficient CFM airflow ceiling fan

60” Xavier Ceiling Fan
CFM Airflow10,744
CFM/W Airflow:747.6


Steeper Blade Pitch for More Effective Air Movement

Blade pitch, or the angle at which the blades are tilted, is another good indicator of the airflow created by a certain fan. Steeper blade pitches will result in higher airflow while more level blade pitches will create a gentle, stiller experience. A fan blade pitch of 12 degrees or higher will usually result in the most efficient experience, with blade pitches below 10 degrees generally creating a more decorative fixture. The CFM airflow and CFM/W rating of your fan will take this measurement into consideration, so be sure to refer to both numbers if you aren’t sure if the blade pitch of a certain fan suits your needs.
Efficient 14 degree blade pitch ceiling fan



Reversible Motors for Changing Fan Direction in Winter & Summer

To get the most out of your ceiling fan, look for a reversible motor fan. Ceiling fan direction will vary depending on the season. Summer fan direction means the blades spin in a forward motion, with the higher edge of the blade as the leading edge. This positioning allows your fan to push cool air down into the room and pull warm air up. Conversely, winter fan direction means the blades spin in reverse. Since warm air rises, this configuration will draw that warmer air down into the room, thus keeping your space more comfortable in the cold winter months.

The type of motor in your fan is one of the most reliable metrics of fan efficiency. A fan with long blades at a steep pitch may create a lot of airflow, but if the motor is too small, the fixture might not be as efficient as a fan with fewer, shorter blades. The size of the motor generally reflects its overall strength. There are three main motor sizes: small (153mm), medium (172mm), and large (188mm). As the motor increases in strength, it is able to push a blade with a greater pitch or angle. There are also two types of motors— AC motors and DC motors. DC motors are typically smaller, lighter, and more compact. They consume less energy than an AC motor so look for a DC motor whenever possible.

Indoor/outdoor fan with reversible motor




Popular Fan Features & Controls

Fans with Lights

If your room already has sufficient lighting, you may choose to go with a fan that doesn’t have a light kit. If, however, you want your fixture to pull double duty, ceiling fans with lights are a wonderful way to optimize your space.
Ceiling fan with LED lights


Light kits can also add an extra layer of style to your fan in addition to bringing in a new layer of light. Modern ceiling fans with lights will frequently have slim, minimalist lamps. Farmhouse ceiling fans with lights may showcase a more traditional silhouette with each bulb enclosed in individual shades. Industrial fans with lights are likely to make use of classic warehouse shades. Whatever your style, bringing in a new light source with your fan is a great way to maximize your fan experience.

While ceiling fan light kits do come in configurations for every available lamp type, LED ceiling fan lights are the most efficient and the most likely to carry an ENERGY STAR rating. If your fan doesn’t come with integrated LEDs, you can add your own LED bulbs to further reduce energy consumption.

Multiple Fan Speeds

6-speed rustic ceiling fan

Pierce 52” Ceiling Fan
Speeds: 6-speed


Another measure of the versatility and customization inherent in ceiling fans is a measure of the various fan speeds each fixture comes with. Most fans can be set to multiple speeds depending on the situation, with three being the average and five being ideal for a more customizable experience. Usually, fans will offer multiple speeds in the ‘forward’ position used for cooling your room, and one reverse speed for use in cooler months when warmth is your main concern.

How the fan speed control functions is primarily dependent on the fan’s main control options—a pull string that cycles through each speed is typical while more high-tech fans may have remotes or wall controls to adjust speed. Fan speed is listed clearly in the technical details beneath the product description on Shadesoflight.com. This information is listed in alphabetical order for easy reference!

Fan Controls

While the classic pull chain is still a staple for controlling any available light and the speed of a ceiling fan, for an even more convenient experience, many ceiling fans with remotes are available. There are multiple configurations for fan controllers such as this. Wall-mounted and handheld remotes are common and which is best for you is largely dependent on preference. For example, handheld remotes can be used anywhere in the room, but wall-mounted controls can’t be misplaced. If your favorite fan is only supplied with a pull chain, you may also have the option of purchasing a matching remote separately. A remote control fan is certainly an easy way to bring a bit of convenient luxury to your life and allows you to adjust your fan without having to stand under it and cycle through each speed with the pull chain!

Remote controlled globe cage ceiling fan



Quiet Fans with a Low Noise Level

If you are replacing a wobbly, outdated fan, or searching for a new fixture for quieter areas like bedrooms, there are a few features you can look for to ensure you find a low noise fan. To find a quiet fan, you should first check your room dimensions. If your room doesn’t have particularly high ceilings, chose a fixture with a hugger mount option. Mounting the fixture flush to the ceiling lessens the chance for the noisy wobble that occurs with some downrod-hung fixtures. If your ceilings aren’t suitable for a hugger mount option, be sure you are using a downrod of the proper length; using a downrod that is too long for the space can create additional noise.

Next, check the motor of your potential fixture. DC motors aren’t just more energy efficient— they’re quieter too! Ensuring you select a fixture with this type of motor makes the possibility of finding a silent fan higher than with other motor types.

In the event that your new fixture seems noisier than it should, there are also a number of mechanical factors that can contribute to your fixture’s decibel level. Incorrect installation, unbalanced blades, faulty dimmers, and lack of adequate voltage can all create an unpleasant buzz when you operate your fan. If you suspect an electrical issue is raising the noise level of your fan, consult with an electrician to help correct the problem.


Considerations for Outdoor Fans

To make the most of your porch or patio, an outdoor ceiling fan is an ideal investment. Outdoor fans do more than just cool you down. Fans with high airflows and high speeds can help keep pesky bugs away and outdoor ceiling fans with lights can make your porch or patio a comfortable lounge area once the sun goes down or brighten the area on cloudy days. Before you start shopping for your outdoor fan, consider what functions are most important to you. If insect pests aren’t a concern, you may choose a fan with a lower airflow rating; if your outdoor area already has lights installed, a fan with a light kit might not be needed.
Outdoor ceiling fan with LED light



Wet Rated & Damp Rated Fans

When searching for your outdoor fan, consider exactly where your fan will be placed. Not all outdoor fans are suited for all outdoor environments. Damp rated ceiling fans are intended for covered areas that encounter moisture but will never be in the direct path of rain, snow, or ice (this type of fan is also ideal for a bathroom). If your area is more exposed to the elements, you will need a wet rated ceiling fan which can withstand direct contact with wet weather without becoming damaged. These fans are usually constructed differently than dry rated, indoor ceiling fans. While indoor fans can often feature wood blades, outdoor ceiling fan blades are usually made of metal or another sturdier material to prevent warping and moisture damage.

Wet rated indoor/outdoor ceiling fan



• If you live near the water, you’ll also want to be sure that you chose a ceiling fan suitable for coastal environments, which are harsher and harder on fixtures than other environments.

• Remember that while any outdoor fixture can be hung indoors, indoor fixtures should never be hung outside; doing so can cause damage to homes and to the fixture itself.


Installing New Fans

When you are ready to address ceiling fan installation, it’s important to consult a licensed electrician who will know how to install a ceiling fan safely and accurately. Because ceiling fans are heavier than the average light fixture, special considerations should be made concerning ceiling fan wiring to ensure the location is strong enough to support the fan and the wiring doesn’t pose a hazard. Ceiling fan assembly is usually minimal and requires only attaching the blades to the motor but hanging the fan can be more complicated; safety is crucial. Your new fan will come boxed with all the necessary parts and instructions so your electrician can install your new fixture with ease.

How to Balance a Ceiling Fan & Fix Wobbling Blades

Nobody likes a wobbling fan, but unfortunately if it has been some time since your fixture was installed, it’s possible for the fan to fall out of balance, resulting in a noisy nuisance. Blade balance is important for keeping your fixture operating at its best. To potentially fix a wobbling fan, first turn off the fixture; once it has come to a complete stop, check the fixture for any significant dust build-up or loosened attachments. Gently clean away dust and debris and tighten any loose blades, brackets, or mounting hardware. If any adjustments are made, turn the fan back on to see if the problem has resolved.

If your fan still seems unbalanced, you can use the fan balancing kit usually included with the fixture to rebalance the fan. To balance your ceiling fan, attach your balancing clip to the center of one of the blades along the lowest edge. Turn your fan back on to see if the balance has improved. If not, move the clip to the next blade, and so on, until you locate the unbalanced blade. Once you have pinpointed the problem blade, move the clip up and down the blade, testing fan function after each movement, until you find the positioning that best corrects the unbalanced wobble. Attach an included weight centered and on top of the blade in this position and remove the clip. If you’re still not satisfied with the balance of the fixture, you can use this technique as needed to adjust other blades.

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