A Timeless Article on Ceiling Fans

This is an older article (3 years old, to be exact) from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. We have reprinted it here (after asking permission several hundred times, but not getting anywhere), but it is such a great guide and still very relevant. The fact that we carry all of the fan lines they mention is just a bonus!

A Breath of Fresh Air; Take These Fan-tastic Features for a Whirl
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jun 11, 2006 by JOANNE KEMPINGER DEMSKI (permission requested)

These days, it's a breeze to find the perfect ceiling fan. They come with blades covered with cloth, hand carved into leaf shapes, made of saw grass and wicker even double-deckered to look like the wings of a bi-plane. Some have elegant, crystal-like or etched glass and lots of ornate detail. Others are simply styled, made of brushed nickel and aluminum. Some even have an industrial look to them. At this time of year, as temperatures rise and houses often get stuffy, many people are thinking about buying ceiling fans. Brian Sponsler, vice president and general manager of Emerson Ceiling Fans in St. Louis, calls ceiling fans the "hottest accessory in home fashion" that can be a "reflection of the homeowner's personality." (Emerson Origami Fan shown at left) His firm has been making ceiling fans since 1895, and has more than 150 models. "They are a statement of style, no longer just a functional element," he says. "At first, they were just round with paddles, and people put them on the ceiling and perhaps wanted them to fade away into the ceiling. But that's not the case anymore." Fans are so elegant and distinctive today, they could take the place of a chandelier, he says. Marsi Black, owner of Pegasus Design Group, calls the ceiling fan of today "a design element" and says you can mix and match the fan's blades and fixtures to create an original look. Black is an interior designer with offices in Chenequa and Milwaukee who decorates homes for Kings Way, Kettle Creek and other builders.

Height matters
When choosing a fan, Black says, look at the height of the ceiling. "That's a big consideration. Then figure out if you need a fan only or a fan with a light. What's the purpose of having the fan? What function does it serve?" Black says homes with high ceilings require fans with extension rods. "You want to get the fan down a little bit so that it functions well. It needs to have clearance to move air around. You don't want it to hug the ceiling. That would look odd." When it comes to size, just about any room can use a 54-inch fan. In rooms that are really large, more than one fan in the same style can be used, she adds. (The Fanimation Palisade Fan is shown at right) "That's a really elegant look. It really enhances the room and adds drama, but it's also functional." Whether you add a light to your ceiling fan depends on the other lighting in the room. Usually you only put lighting in the fan when it is the main source of light when you enter the room. Most of the time we feel that a fan should not have a light in it. It should function on its own as a useful ceiling sculpture," she says. If a light is needed, Black says popular styles are dome lights and so-called up-lighting that shines on the ceiling. Up-lighting can be a good choice because it gives "a soft look and is a nice way to light up a room when you walk in. It's also good if you want to show off a ceiling perhaps one that is textured or colored in some way, or when there is a ceiling medallion.

Variety of styles
Buyers should look at the general architecture of the house when picking a fan, she says. "If you have a more rustic or casual house, you want to try to choose a fan that reflects that. It might have a beautiful metal patina that gives it a little bit of surface interest." Black has three fans in her Historic Third Ward loft. "I have 12- foot ceilings and there are mechanicals up there so you can see how the fan would be useful. The one I have is by Fanimation (http://www.fanimation.com/) and has woven palm blades. My house is pretty contemporary." Hank Albert, owner of BBC Lighting & Supply, 2015 W. St. Paul Ave. , recommends using full-size fans for most rooms. "A 10-by-13 or 10-by-10-foot room can take a 52-inch fan. I have a small kitchen nook and it has a full-size fan in it. The room has an eating area, and it's a smaller space, but the bigger fan looks fine." (The Fanimation Volare Fan is shown at right) The only time a buyer should go to a smaller fan, he says, is when there are size restrictions in a room, such as cabinets that jut out in a small kitchen or a narrow hallway space. Then, a 24- inch fan works well. (Fan sizes are measured by the diameter of the blades.) Albert, who has been in business since 1979 and has more than 150 fans on display at his store, says the pitch of the blades is an important consideration when choosing a fan. The more pitch you have, the better the air circulation. A fan that has more pitch will also have a better motor because a weak motor couldn't handle the resistance. A good example is a 24-inch turbo fan. "It has a very huge blade pitch, which forces a lot of air," he says. Albert says lower-end fans might have an 11-degree pitch and the highest-end fans a 20-degree pitch. "A 20-degree pitch is exceptionally high," he says. A 13- to 15- degree pitch is usually sufficient. You'll get a big blast of air from a fan with a 15-degree pitch set on full speed," he says. "I never turn them on full speed if they have a 15-degree pitch." A higher-pitched fan can cool sufficiently even on a slower speed, which helps save money.

Styles and prices
Some of today's most popular fans, the Maui Bay and a line of Tommy Bahama fans, are made by Emerson. "They look like island fans," Albert says. "The styles are outstanding." (The Tommy Bahama Marine Fan is shown at right) As for prices, he estimates that ceiling fans can range from around $39.95 to $1,000. For those who would rather have a fan that is sleek in style, there are lots of options. Ron Rezek, founder of The Modern Fan Co. in Ashland , Ore. , formed his company in 1997 "to give the contemporary architect an alternative." He describes his fans as sleek metal sculptures and says they work in contemporary or traditional homes. Many have lights integrated into the design or can be added. Rezek likes the sleek look because he says most other fans are too complex in terms of parts. "Most ceiling fans on the market are copies of antiques or at least influenced by them. They have lots of brass and ornate glass. The ceiling fan was invented in the 1890s and everything was ornamented," he says. "A ceiling fan that is simple works OK in any environment. It disappears." Fans in his line range from $290 to around $500. His top seller is called the Ball fan. "It's almost a sphere. I think people like that one best because it's the most basic of the designs," he says. (The Casablanca Mission Fan is shown at right)

Indoors and out
Linda Bishop, owner of Elektra Lights & Fans Inc., 7222 W. North Ave. , Wauwatosa , says outdoor fans also are gaining in popularity. They have been around for about 20 years, she says, but until the last few years have been casual and generic looking. "Now some of the new fans are so nice looking that I use them a lot inside, too," she says. These fans can be used in gazebos, open porches and areas where water could hit them. "The motors are completely sealed so water and moisture aren't going to hurt the motor, and the blades are usually made out of elements that are water resistant." Bishop has been in the lighting business for about 30 years. She recently installed three outdoor fans over a very large indoor swimming pool, she says. "The tropical-style fans not only enhance the space but also to help circulate the air," she says. In addition to circulating moist or warm air and providing a comfortable breeze, outdoor fans are also great for keeping bugs at bay, Bishop adds. At Hampton Bay , an East Coast firm that has manufactured fans for 20 years, the new Aero Breeze Blade Technology Series was designed to save energy by increasing air flow 40% more than standard ceiling fans. According to information from the firm, this can save homeowners up to 40% on home energy costs in both summer and winter. In summer, fans draw the cooler air upward, thereby creating a soft, refreshing breeze. In winter, when the fan's direction is reversed, it also saves money because it forces warm air that is trapped near the ceiling downward.

Buying the best for you
Wondering what size ceiling fan to buy? Emerson Ceiling Fans provides this information:
-- 29-inch fans are for bathrooms, hallways or rooms up to 50 square feet.
-- 36-inch fans are good in breakfast nooks or rooms up to 75 square feet.
-- 42-inch fans are a good choice for small bedrooms and kitchens or rooms up to 100 square feet.
-- 50- or 52-inch fans work well in standard-size bedrooms, family rooms or rooms up to 400 square feet.
-- 54-inch fans or larger can go in great rooms or other areas that are more than 400 square feet.

Tips for drawing the most benefits from fans
Here are ceiling fan basics from Hank Albert, owner of BBC Lighting & Supply, 2015 W. St. Paul Ave.
-- In summer, run your fan counterclockwise to draw cooler air up. In winter, run it clockwise to push warm air down.
-- Fans range in size from 24 to more than 60 inches. Most have three speeds that go forward and in reverse.
-- Fans come with three to five blades, but the number of blades doesn't make a difference when it comes to efficient air flow.
-- Fans come with short down rods, unless you buy a fan that is meant to hug the ceiling. A short rod is better than no rod, as your fan will operate more efficiently because it can create airflow.
-- Rods are available at up to six feet, but it's generally best not to use more than a 4-foot down rod as your fan may wobble.
-- Many fans can be installed on sloped ceilings, but a special bracket is required.
-- Most fans can be used with lights and some come with their own.
-- For rooms with very high ceilings, the bottom of the fan can be 10 to 11 feet from the floor. If the room is very large, you can go up to 12 feet.
-- The lower your ceiling fan is, the more effective it will be at pushing air down. If there is no space above it, there is no air to pull down.
-- When building a home, inform builders in advance so the correct wiring can be done for fans.
-- Remote controls are available for some models.