In my household, the summer months are always spent maintaining a precarious balance between keeping the house cool and keeping the cooling bill low. I’m willing to consider just about any option to make it work, too. But recently I spent some time in a home with ceiling fans in almost every room – a feature I’ve never had anywhere I’ve lived personally. They seem to me like an excellent solution, but they aren’t without their drawbacks. If you’re looking to stay a little cooler this summer, here are a few of the pros and cons of adding a ceiling fan to one or more rooms in your home.
Pro: Ceiling Fans Can Lower The Ambient Temperature By 4-5 Degrees
The biggest advantage of ceiling fans is that they lower the temperature of the room they’re in by about four or five degrees, regardless of any other circumstances. That means a room with no AC gets cooler, a room with an open window gets cooler, a large room gets cooler, a small room gets cooler, and a room with the AC on gets cooler – all for the same energy cost, which amounts to only a few cents a day.
Pro: Ceiling Fans Can Keep You Warm As Well As Cool
Ceiling fans work by pushing air downwards, creating a breeze that helps cool your skin through evaporation. But in the winter time, the blades on a ceiling fan can be reversed, or the direction of the rotation changed, so that the fan pulls air upwards instead. Because warm air rises, the fan pulls cool air upward, forcing the warm air down and distributing heat more evenly throughout the room, making it feel warmer.
Pro: Ceiling Fans Can Lower Your Heating And Cooling Bills
The combination of ceiling fans making a room feel cooler and distributing heat better mean that thermostats can be kept at a higher temperature in the summer and a lower one in the winter. Plus, because well circulated air maintains a more constant temperature, it means your thermostat won’t have to cycle on and off as frequently, and your furnace and AC won’t have to work as hard.
Pro: Ceiling Fans Can Be Used Outdoors
Finally, one of the greatest advantages of ceiling fans is that they can cool indoors as well as out. In fact, they’re one of the only ways to help lower the temperature in an outdoor or semi-outdoor space, like a porch, patio, deck, sunroom, or outdoor kitchen. In the same way they work indoors, outdoor ceiling fans circulate air to cool the skin, and come with the added bonus that the moving air can help drive away insects.
Pro: Ceiling Fans Act As A Source Of Ambient Light
Most ceiling fans come either with a built in light, or a light kit that can be used to install a light to the center of the fan. Because they’re usually placed in the center of the room where you’d install a flush-mount light anyway, this means they can double for use as a rooms built-in ambient lighting. An added bonus of this is that a ceiling fan can actually add to the value of your home, because it offers added functionality in the same footprint as a basic lighting fixture.
Con: Ceiling Fans Don’t Produce Much Light
Unfortunately, while most ceiling fans are part lighting fixture, the light that comes with them (or that can be installed into them) isn’t always terribly bright, usually slightly less so than a standard flush mount fixture. So while they can be used to provide basic ambient light, they may not provide sufficient task lighting, and will likely need to be supplemented by additional fixtures.
Con: Ceiling Fans Can Be Noisy
A small, perfectly balanced, clean, modern ceiling fan in pristine condition should be whisper quiet. But the reality is that with almost any ceiling fan, over time the weight shifts, the blades move slightly, and screws can loosen, meaning that without skilled care, they’re probably going to go from a quiet whirr to a slightly more pronounced motor sound that could keep light sleepers awake or be slightly distracting in a quiet room.
Con: Ceiling Fans Are Difficult To Clean
Anything that’s well out of reach is a pain to keep clean, but ceiling fan blades are especially so, often requiring a special tool (or a special level of finesse) to keep the tops and bottoms of the blades clean. Special wands on long poles (including some vacuum attachments) can make the job easier, but ones on a very high ceiling may even require a ladder, and more frequent care than a basic lighting fixture. Plus, while ceiling fans are among the most efficient options for cooling rooms with cathedral ceilings, when they’re that high up cleaning (and bulb replacement!) can be a real hassle.
Con: Ceiling Fans Aren’t Always The Best Looking Lighting Fixture
The simple fact is, if you install a ceiling fan for functionality, you can’t install another lighting fixture for decoration. Ceiling fans can be made to be decorative – with blades made with different materials or patterns, and bodies and glass light shades to match various types of decor – but likely won’t be as attractive or stylish as a more conventional chandelier.
Con: Ceiling Fans Can Be Dangerous (For Tall People In Low-Ceilinged Rooms)
Finally, it’s very important to take the height of your ceilings and the heights of your family members (and maybe frequently visiting friends) into consideration. In a low-ceilinged room, anyone over six foot or so might be in danger of hitting their heads. With the fan off, that’s not so bad, but with the blades going at full speed, it could hit hard enough to draw blood. With high ceilings (or short people) this isn’t a problem, but since the motor, blades, and lighting fixture combined can make a ceiling fan taller (and consequently lower hanging) than you might expect, it’s definitely something to take into consideration.
So what’s your final verdict: are ceiling fans a great way to save money and keep cool, or just an irritating eyesore that isn’t worth the trouble?