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How to compare ceiling fans

As of January 1, 2009, all ceiling fan manufacturers are required to test their ceiling fans for performance and publish the results to the public. With this new legislation, you can now determine which ceiling fans are best for your needs...that is, if you know how to interpret the data. Hansen Wholesale is the first website to compile this information and display it in a graph format that allows you to easily compare the performance of each ceiling fan as you browse our site! In each graph you will see how much air each fan moves in CFMs (Cubic Feet per Minute of Airflow), how much electricity they use in Watts and how efficient they are in terms of CFMs per Watt. We have also added our own Quality Rating to help you decide which fans are best.

Look for these Comparison Graphs as you browse our site!

Very Good

Ceiling Fan Comparison Graph
Graph represents " blade span
How to read our graphs


Ceiling Fan Comparison Graph
Graph represents " blade span
How to read our graphs

Not So Good

Ceiling Fan Comparison Graph
Graph represents " blade span
How to read our graphs

Important Note: "AVG" marks where the average fan is rated so you can easily determine if a fan is above or below average for any of the 4 ratings. Look for fans with "Above Average" Quality, CFM and Efficiency ratings and "Below Average" Watts (LESS watts is better).

How to interpret our Ceiling Fan Comparison Graphs

Each graph contains 4 criteria for comparing ceiling fans. They are:

  • Quality
  • CFM Airflow
  • Wind Speed
  • EPA Efficiency
  • Watts of Electricity Used

Which cieling fans are the best? The best fans are those with the highest Quality, CFM, and Efficiency ratings...but with the lowest Watts!

Averages: Notice that in each graph there is an "Ave" with black arrows on either side. This is a demarcation of where the average ceiling fan would be for each of the 4 criteria. Better fans will be above this mark. However, some of the best fans may in fact be far above average for Quality and CFM, but may be below average for Efficiency and Wattage. This is because some of the higher quality fans that move lots of air tend to have larger more powerful motors that use a bit more electricity. Not to worry...these are still great choices.

Here is a brief explanation of each of the criteria

Quality: This is a rating of from 1 to 5 where 5 represents the best quality fans on the market. This rating is determined exclusively by our own ceiling fan experts on staff and is based on our first hand knowledge of each fan. The quality rating has nothing to do with how much air a fan will move, that is a separate rating. Quality has to do with how well the fan is made, how smooth and quiet it will operate, how long it will last, and equally important...how good looks in real life. The internal components use to make the fan including the motor, capacitors and controls are considered for the precision and tolerances to which they are made are critical. We highly recommend any ceiling fan that has a Quality rating of 4 or 5 when considering the other criteria below.

CFM Airflow: CFM is short for Cubic Feet per Minute, which is how the airflow of a ceiling fan is measured. The CFMs shown in each graph represent the volume of air the fan can move when it is on High Speed. Aside from Quality, CFM is by far the most important piece of information to compare between ceiling fans. Simply put, the more CFMs the fan can produce, the cooler it will make you feel...and since most people buy ceiling fans in order to stay cooler, you must make sure you get sufficient airflow, otherwise you may be dissatisfied with your ceiling fan regardless how smooth and quiet it performs or how great it looks in your room. Based on comparing over 1200 ceiling fans that we have data for on our site, the average ceiling fan moves about 5755 CFM. The worst is around 1400 CFM and the very best is just a little over 10,000 CFM. So there is quite a range of difference in the performance between ceiling fans. For average size rooms, we recommend ceiling fans that are capable of moving at least 6300 CFM, which is slightly above average. Larger rooms will need much more and smaller rooms can get away with less.

Wind Speed: Ceiling fans cool you off by creating a wind chill effect, they do not change the actual temperature in a room. Ceiling Fans with higher Wind Speed will create the most wind chill effect. The Wind Speed is the calculated measure of the expected wind velocity in the column of air directly beneath the fan, so it takes into consideration the CFMs and the Blade Span. To make it easier for you to compare fans of various CFM and blade spans, we calculate the wind speed of the air colum below the fan. This calculation is based on the CFMs per square foot of blade span, and then converted to Miles Per Hour. Ceiling fans cool you off by creating a wind chill effect, not by changing the temperature in a room. The breeze created by a ceiling fan is mostly concentrated in the column of air just beneath the blades. Two fans that generate the same CFM but have different blade spans will cool you off differently. A larger fan will have a wider column of air that is less concentrated (lower wind speed) than a smaller fan. So the smaller fan will make you feel cooler when you are directly beneath it, while the larger fan will provide less breeze, but spread it over a larger area. So when see a fan that has a very high CFM, be sure to look at the blade span and wind speed as well to see how they compare to other fans.

Efficiency: Efficiency is defined by the EPA as CFM/Watts. This translates into the amount of air a fan moves (in CFM) divided by the amount of electricity it uses (in Watts) at high speed. Normally you would think of efficiency as a number between 1 and 100 because no mechanical device can actually be more than 100% efficient. However, the formula adopted by the EPA is actually a rather good way to compare the cost to operate a fan -vs- the comfort level you can expect from it to create. However, the most efficient ceiling fan will only save you about $10 to $20 per year max compared to the worst fan because even the worst fans use less electricity per hour than a single 100 watt light bulb. So it is our opinion that the CFM rating is far more important than the efficiency rating because a fan that produces more airflow is going to allow you to raise your thermostat 2 or 3 times higher than one that blows less air. That alone can save you hundreds of dollars per year. So don't sell yourself short by using the efficiency rating as the first criteria to consider. If you are torn between 2 models, then you may want to use it as a deciding factor. The best choice would be a fan with both a high CFM rating and a High Efficiency rating...although there are few that meet that criteria since getting the most air generally entails using more power.

Watts of Electricity Used: This is the amount of electricity that you can expect the ceiling fan to use when operated on the highest speed. Watts is the only criteria in the graph that should be "LOWER" not higher, since the less Watts a fan uses, the less it costs to operate. Although this number is used to calculate the efficiency of the fan, it can also be used as a direct comparison between fans, or simply to get a better grasp on how much energy a fan will use. Think of the wattage in terms of light bulbs and you will easily understand just how little electricity virtually all ceiling fans use. This is the main reason that ceiling fans are such a popular alternative to air conditioning...simply because they use less electricity than an average light bulb. Use the calculator below to see just how much any of our fans will cost you to operate based on the Watts it uses.

Calculate how much it will cost to operate a ceiling fan based on the Watts it uses

If you look at your last electric bill, it will tell you just how much you are paying for each kWh of electricity (Kilowatts per hour). You can use that number to calculate the actual cost of operating any of the ceiling fans on our site that have the Watts data. Just plug in the Watts the ceiling fan uses and your own kWh cost...or select your state to automatically input an estimated average.

Ceiling Fan Cost Per Hour Calculator
Watts $/kWh

The average kWh by state used by our calculator is derived from information published by the US Government Department of Energy as of May 2009. Since this is an average number calculated by the Government, your actual cost may differ from this. You can find your exact cost of electricity per kWh on your electric bill if you wish to plug in that number for a more precise calculation.

EPA Exemptions for CFM Testing

Certain ceiling fans are exempt from the EPA legislation, particularly hugger fans and fans with large palm leaves. Apparently hugger fans cannot be tested using the same method...and they do not move as much air as traditional fans anyway. Fans that are considered as strictly decorative are exempt as well such as fans with palm leaf blades, belt driven fans, and Punkah style fans that waft from side to side. Fans like these are simply not capable of moving much air and should only be considered where you are more interested in making a decorative statement and do not really care about keeping cool or lowering your thermostat.




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