Buyer’s Guide: Ceiling Fans
Keep cool with the ideal ceiling fan for your space, style, and budget—and you might even lower your energy bill!
When summer temps soar and AC costs skyrocket, ceiling fans offer an affordable way to stay comfortable. While they don’t lower the temperature in a room, they create breezes that circulate the air, making you feel up to four degrees cooler. So if you typically set your thermostat to 74 degrees Fahrenheit, adding a ceiling fan would allow you to adjust your thermostat up to 78 degrees Fahrenheit and, theoretically, feel just as comfortable. (That’s a habit that translates into energy savings in the summer!)
Today’s ceiling fans come in a wide array of designs and a host of features to fit all décors and budgets. Keep reading to learn how to choose the best ceiling fan for your room, and to find out why we selected the following five as ideal for particular areas:
- BEST FOR LIMITED SPACE: Hunter Watson Ceiling Fan with Light
- BEST FOR LARGE ROOMS: Casablanca Concentra Gallery Ceiling Fan with Light
- BEST FOR PORCH OR PATIO: Emerson Batalie Breeze Indoor/Outdoor Ceiling Fan
- BEST FOR CONTEMPORARY KITCHENS: Casa Metro Modern Ceiling
- BEST FOR BLADE RETRACTABILITY: Parrot Uncle Ceiling Fan with Light and Retractable Blades
Important Considerations for Choosing the Best Ceiling Fan
Ceiling fans are measured by blade span—the distance from the tip of one blade to the tip of the opposite blade. They start around 15 inches in diameter and run as large as 72 inches in diameter, with 52 inches being the most common size. When choosing a fan size, keep in mind the following:
- When installed, the bottom of a ceiling fan extends about eight inches down from the ceiling and features a three-inch “downrod” (which connects the ceiling plate to the motor base). Additional down rods of different lengths may come with the fan (or be purchased separately) to allow for height adjustments. The general rule is to install a ceiling fan so the bottom is no lower than seven feet above the floor to allow for adequate headroom beneath. Your ceiling should be at least eight feet for a ceiling fan.
- For the best circulation, choose a blade diameter that allows at least an 18-inch clearance between the spinning blades and adjacent walls or draperies. While this isn’t a concern in large rooms, it can be an important factor when installing a ceiling fan in a hallway, small laundry area, or bathroom.
Ideally, a ceiling fan will effectively circulate the air in a room without being so strong that it blows out candles. Measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM), a ceiling fan’s maximum airflow (operating on its highest speed) is listed on the box. Average airflow for a typical 52-inch ceiling fan is around 4,000 CFM, but you can buy ceiling fans with airflow ratings up to 10,000 CFM.
Greater airflow is usually better—you can always turn the fan speed down if it’s creating too much of a draft, but you can’t turn a fan with a low CFM up if it’s already on its highest setting.
Ceiling Fan/Light Combos
Ceiling fans come with or without light kits. If the room is otherwise amply lit—via can lighting, for example—you may not need additional overhead light. But if you’re replacing your only ceiling light with a fan, you’ll probably be best with a fan/light combo. Ceiling fans without light kits can usually be fitted with a light kit of the same brand (sold separately).
You can save on utility bills by buying a ceiling fan/light combo that meets the government’s Energy Star standards (look for the light blue label). Only fans with lights are taken into consideration, since fans by themselves use very little energy. By selecting an Energy Star fan/light combo over a non-rated counterpart, you could save up to 40 percent (about $15) on the fan’s annual operating costs.
A huge variety of ceiling fans are available. You’ll find blades made of woven wicker, aluminum, and plastic, whimsical fans that resemble airplane propellers and elegant fixtures of ornate polished brass with hardwood blades. For your best look, choose a fan in a style similar to that of the room where it will function. And if you don’t find ceiling fans at all attractive, you can find models with retractable blades that tuck neatly into the base when not in use.
Good ceiling fans come in a range of prices, starting around $100 for a basic model with pull chain operation and going up to $500 or more. Some inexpensive fans rotate in only one direction, but many in the mid-range and up feature a reversible motor that runs in both directions. Reverse blade direction during the winter to pull cool air upward and force warm air that gathers near the ceiling back down into the room. The priciest models offer the likes of dimmable lights, artisan glass, remote controls, and all-around higher quality materials.
Location (in Dry, Damp, or Wet Rooms)
Ceiling fans are rated for room conditions where they’ll be installed. Be sure to choose the appropriate rating if the fan will be exposed to high humidity or water splashes. Ratings are found in the product description on the box and online.
- Dry-Rated Fans: For installation in family rooms, bedrooms, dining rooms and other rooms not subject to high humidity.
- Damp-Rated: These ceiling fans will withstand high levels of humidity, such as is found in a steamy bathroom or laundry room, but they should not be installed where they can be splashed with water directly. They may also be used in all rooms suited to a dry-rated fan.
- Wet-rated: Looking to keep cool on your covered porch or patio? You’ll need a wet-rated fan. These fans feature sealed motor housing units that will withstand precipitation
The Best Ceiling Fans
BEST FOR LIMITED SPACE: Hunter Watson Ceiling Fan with Light ($99)
For bedrooms and kitchen nooks, the Hunter Watson Ceiling Fan earns an impressive 4.8-star rating from Amazon buyers for its quiet operation, good air circulation, and ease of installation. It comes with a brushed nickel base, a 34-inch blade span, and produces 3,515 CFM airflow. It has a reversible motor, and its two-sided blades boast a cherry finish on one side and a walnut finish on the other, so you can pick the best look for your room. The fan includes an opaque-white light kit, making it a good choice if you’re replacing an existing light. Choose from either a two- or three-inch down rod to get the exact height you want. The Hunter Watson has pull chains for operating the fan and the light.
Available from Amazon.
BEST FOR LARGE ROOMS: Casablanca Concentra Gallery Ceiling Fan with Light ($294)
Keep the whole gang cool in a living room or rec room with the Casablanca Concentra Gallery Ceiling Fan. It has a 54-inch blade span, features a powerful 6,129 CFM airflow, and comes with two pull chains for operation (a wall control can be ordered separately from Amazon). Both the base and blades are matte white, and the included light bowl is also white, so the fan will blend in against a white ceiling. The Casablanca comes with a two- and a three-inch down rod so you can pick what’s best for your ceiling height. Amazon buyers give this ceiling fan a full five stars for its classy looks, smooth operation, and easy assembly.
Available from Amazon.
BEST FOR PORCH OR PATIO: Emerson Batalie Breeze Indoor/Outdoor Ceiling Fan ($323)
Enjoy blissful breezes and deter flying insects with the Emerson Batalie Breeze Indoor/Outdoor Ceiling Fan. This wet-rated fan features a galvanized base and sealed motor housing, so it’s perfect for outdoor use on a covered porch or patio. It has a 52-inch blade span, a single 4.5-inch downrod, and two pull chains (a hand-held remote can be ordered separately on Amazon). The fan with wide-paddle fan blades in Venetian bronze produces 5,255 CFM airflow. Amazon buyers award the Emerson 4.7 stars for quality construction and its tropical appeal.
Available from Amazon.
BEST FOR CONTEMPORARY KITCHENS: Casa Metro Modern Ceiling Fan ($269)
Home cooks with stainless steel appliances will enjoy the Casa Metro Modern Ceiling Fan’s matching brushed nickel finish. Its simple lines and 44-inch blade span make it perfect over a kitchen island or eating bar. It comes with a remote for easy operation, features an integrated LED light, and offers 4,879 CFM airflow. For its sleek looks, easy assembly, and excellent air movement, Amazon buyers award the Casa Metro an enthusiastic 4.9 stars.
Available from Amazon.
BEST FOR BLADE RETRACTABILITY: Parrot Uncle Ceiling Fan with Retractable Blades ($298)
If you welcome the circulation a ceiling fan provides, but you don’t care for the sight of blades, the Parrot Uncle Ceiling Fan with Retractable Blades is for you. It produces 5,200 CFM airflow, features a trendy industrial wire-cage light kit, and its clear amber blades extend to a 46-inch blade span when in use. When not in use, the gracefully curved blades retract above the fan base. The trendy fan comes with a remote control and four- and 10-inch downrod, making it suitable for installation on eight- or nine-foot ceilings. Amazon buyers rave about the retractable blades and its great airflow, giving it 4.8 stars.
Available from Amazon.