Home & Garden

Hey, big spinner: Ceiling fans continue to be popular for cooling

Recommended ceiling fans: From top, Panama by Casablanca ($299), Bullet by Casablanca ($419), Delano by Minka-Aire ($429). Illustrates FANS (category l), by Jura Koncius (c) 2011, The Washington Post. Moved Wednesday, June 29, 2011. (MUST CREDIT: Handouts.)
Recommended ceiling fans: From top, Panama by Casablanca ($299), Bullet by Casablanca ($419), Delano by Minka-Aire ($429). Illustrates FANS (category l), by Jura Koncius (c) 2011, The Washington Post. Moved Wednesday, June 29, 2011. (MUST CREDIT: Handouts.) THE WASHINGTON POST

Blame the 1970s energy crisis for igniting America's crush on the ceiling fan. Fans gained popularity because they were less expensive than running air conditioning. Today, they are staples of the American home, whirring away in millions of bedrooms, family rooms and porches.

Fan styles match any décor, or you may choose a model more functional than decorative. Virginia designer Barbara Franceski goes for minimalist alternatives, such as those from Modernfan.com.

An essential thing to remember: A fan does not cool a room; it cools the person (or pet) under it. It doesn't make sense to leave fans running unless someone is in the room to benefit from the breeze.

What's new?

■ Locations. Fans are being installed in laundry rooms, master bathrooms and closets.

■ Coordinating designs. Manufacturers are creating design "families" of ceiling fans, sconces and bath fixtures to unify rooms.

■ Energy savings. Recent models have more efficient motors; larger ones are now Energy Star rated.

Operating tips

■ Install safely. Place fans at least seven feet above the floor. Ceiling-hugger styles are advisable for lower ceilings.

■ Use in cold weather. During the winter, reverse the motor and operate in a clockwise direction to recirculate the warm air trapped near the ceiling.

■ Buy two. For a room that is more than 400 square feet, sometimes getting two smaller fans is more efficient than one large one, says Joe Rey-Barreau, spokesman for the American Lighting Association.

Low, middle, high

Doug Miller, a buyer at Annapolis Lighting in Maryland, recommends these fans:

■ Panama by Casablanca, $299. 50- or 42-inch blade span. Choice of finishes for motor and blades. Six-speed control or pull chain. Remote control adaptable.

■ Bullet by Casablanca, $419. 54-inch blade span. Halogen down light. Four-speed wall control, with light dimmer included. Remote-control adaptable.

■ Delano by Minka-Aire, $429. 52-inch blade span. Integrated up lighting with halogen down light. Available in bronze, pewter or copper. Wall control included. Remote-control adaptable.

Shop smart

There are several things to consider when buying and installing a fan to ensure you get the maximum comfort from it. Testing the noise level before you buy also is a good idea.

1. Most fans have a blade span of 36 to 60 inches. The most common size sold is 52 inches. The American Lighting Association Web site, Americanlightingassoc.com, has a guide to selecting the right fan based on the size of your room.

2. Fans have three ratings. Indoor-rated fans are for inside rooms only. Damp- rated fans are for use outdoors but in covered spaces, or in bathrooms. Wet-rated fans may be placed outside, where they have direct exposure to water.

3. Hire professionals to install your fan. They will make sure all safety regulations, electrical connections and codes are met.

Did you know?

Key numbers from the American Lighting Association:

■ Eight: The number of degrees cooler you can feel when sitting under a ceiling fan.

■ Three: The most popular places to put ceiling fans: bedrooms, living/family rooms, porches.

■ $63. Average annual cost to operate a ceiling fan.

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