Ceiling Fans: Know the Spin Before You Install

Installing a ceiling fan is fairly simple, especially if there is an existing light fixture. Once you’ve figured out where to put the fan, make sure you’ve got the right electrical requirements. 

The right height and position for a ceiling fan

For greatest efficiency, place your fan:

  • In the middle of your room.
  • 8 to 9 feet above the floor (and, for safety, no less than 7 feet above the floor).
  • So that the ends of the blades are no closer than 18 inches from walls.

The lowdown on downrods

A standard downrod (the shaft that connects the motor to the blades) for an 8-foot ceiling is 3 to 5 inches long. You’ll need a 6-inch downrod for 9-foot-high ceilings; 60 inches for an 18-foot-high ceiling. Consult a showroom or manufacturer’s website on the correct downrod length for your ceiling height.

The lowdown on low ceilings

For ceilings lower than 8 feet, use a flush-mount fan designed with special vents to cool the motor. These fans have a depth of only 6 to 9 inches. However, they generally don’t include a light fixture because of their short depth.

Electricity and support for your ceiling fan

For a virgin ceiling, an electrician will have to bring electricity to that spot, install an electrical box, and a wall switch. Depending on the extent of this work and whether the electrician has to punch holes in your walls and ceiling to thread the wire, you might have some patching and painting to do. Expect to pay a licensed electrician for 2 to 4 hours of work at $50 to $100 per hour.

For safety, your ceiling fan must be supported by a special bracket that’s firmly anchored to the joists. These brackets typically are sold separately from your fan for $35 to $50.

Staying in control

Many models feature a traditional pull-chain to control the power and speed, or are operated by a wall switch with a variable speed control. Switches range from simple knob types ($12) to dual fan-light dimmer switches ($25 to $38). Other models include remote control “clickers” that operate the fan from any point in the room.

Most fans are reversible, allowing the blades to push air directly down beneath the fan, or upwards to create a circulation pattern that flows down along walls. Conventional wisdom says the fan should push air directly down in summer for maximum wind chill effect, and that the pattern should be reversed in winter.

However, research from Consumer Reports suggests that reversing fan rotation according to the seasons is unnecessary.

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