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differences between indoor and outdoor fans

Updated July 1, 2020

How Do Indoor & Outdoor Fans Differ?

While dry-rated ceiling fans are ideal for cooling down your home efficiently, the blades and other mechanical features aren’t designed for outdoor areas, such as a porch or covered patio. Instead, you’ll need a wet-rated or damp-rated option that can handle moisture, rainstorms, and dampness. By checking a fan’s rating and considering factors like the wiring and materials, you can choose one that works for your needs, whether indoors or outdoors. Here is a guide to the various ratings so you can make an informed purchasing decision.

The Rating System

There are three primary ratings.

  • Dry-Rated ceiling fans can only be installed inside the home in dry locations.
  • Damp-Rated fans are for outdoor covered areas or indoors where there is moisture.
  • Wet-Rated fans can be used anywhere indoors or outdoors, even in the rain or snow.

The materials and design determine the rating. For example, a wet-rated fan must be water-tight to protect the motor, lights, and sensitive wiring against harsh weather conditions.

Dry-Rated - Indoor Ceiling Fans

dry rated ceiling fan graphic

Designed for indoor areas that aren’t exposed to moisture, dry-rated options can be placed in bedrooms, dining rooms, foyers, finished basements, workshops, dens, and kitchens with proper ventilation. However, they shouldn’t be installed in bathrooms, as a shower or bath will cause moisture to accumulate.

Since dry-rated fans aren’t exposed to moisture and don’t need waterproof materials, they feature a larger variety of electronic components, designs, and hues.

Keep in mind that because dry-rated options are installed indoors, dust will build up over time, which can exacerbate allergies. Avoid this issue by washing each blade regularly using a cloth and cleaning agent.Additionally, the ornamentation, hardware, and lighting components tend to be more intricate. There are also more material options, such as high-grade furniture wood, balsa wood, metal, plastic, and medium-density fiberboard (MDF).

What Happens if You Use Dry-Rated Fans Outdoors?

Indoor fans aren’t built to withstand the elements, and even a little water can damage the motor, causing the fan to break down. Even worse, it can create a short and cause an electrical fire.

Additionally, the blades may melt, warp, or become uneven as a result of the outdoor heat, leading to reduced airflow, wobbling, or extra noise. Finally, the finish will rust and fade, resulting in a lackluster fan.


Damp-Rated Ceiling Fans

ceiling fan in bedroom

These are designed to function in indoor or outdoor areas where moisture builds up. However, they’re not meant to come into direct contact with water. Many homeowners place them in bathrooms, laundry rooms, screened-in porches, uninsulated garages, unfinished basements, carports, or covered patios.

In addition to withstanding indirect moisture, they stand up to humidity, making them ideal for humid climates or rooms with poor ventilation.

The specially designed motor housing protects the wiring against damage due to moisture, preventing fires, rusting, and unexpected breakdowns. However, the casing can’t withstand snow or heavy rain, unlike wet-rated options.

Still, many homeowners prefer damp-rated fans because they’re available in more designs and materials, including all-weather plastic, steel, and wood that’s sealed against moisture. Plus, the blades are less likely to sag over time as long as the fixture is placed in a sheltered space, such as a covered patio.

Wet-Rated Ceiling Fans

Designed to withstand contact with snow, rain, and water, wet-rated fans are highly durable. However, they generally come in fewer styles and designs than damp-rated or dry-rated options.Wet-Rated Brown Ceiling Fan on House Porch

Homeowners often install wet-rated fans under lanais, verandas, cabanas, gazebos, exposed decks or porches, pergolas, boat docks, waterfront porches, tiki bars, or outdoor bars. They transform these outdoor spaces into ones that can be enjoyed for long hours at any time of day, as they cut down on solar heat and keep the air moving on hot, muggy nights. You can even install outdoor ceiling fans with lights to improve visibility and enhance the atmosphere.

Because moisture won’t warp, corrode, or otherwise damage the blades, these waterproof ceiling fans can be easily washed using a garden hose.

Additionally, the electrical wiring and motors are encased in waterproof and weatherproof protection, including a silicone protectant. The area above the fan is also sealed and weatherproofed to protect against leaks.

Wet-rated fan blades are often made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic polymer. This lightweight material is durable enough to withstand wind, sun, and water over time, protecting the color and texture and preventing cracking and sagging.

ABS is used to manufacture components in a wide variety of products, from luggage and small appliances to the heads of non-wooden golf clubs and drain-waste-vent pipes. The material can be shaped and cut into thin strips, making it a versatile substance that can be formed into different shapes and styles of ceiling fans for outdoor spaces. Finally, ABS can be creatively manufactured to look like real wood, allowing you to have an indoor feel outdoors.

Ceiling Fans for Salt Air

Most damp- or wet-rated outdoor fans are not specifically designed to handle the corrosive effects of salt air. If you live near the ocean, consider buying stainless steel ceiling fans for both inside and outside your house. These fans are rust-resistant and weatherproof and are available in anti-corrosive painted finishes, as well as a natural brushed stainless steel. There are also a few plastic fans with ABS blades that are reasonable alternatives at lower price points.


Can You Use Outdoor Fans Indoors?

outdoor patio with ceiling fan

A common mistake people make when shopping for a fan for their living room or bedroom is to limit their search to indoor fans only. By doing so, they will miss out on some of the best fans. The truth is, many of the best fans on the market are specifically made as wet-rated so they can be installed anywhere.

A great example of this is the brand Modern Forms®. Not only are all their fans wet-rated, but they are also very stylish smart fans that can be controlled by voice commands, smartphones, and home automation systems. Yet, the majority of their fans are installed inside people’s homes.

Wet-rated fans are more durable and easier to maintain. The finishes last longer, the blades don’t warp or split, and you don’t have to worry about getting water inside the motor when you clean them.



Final Thoughts on Choosing a Fan

If you need an outdoor fan for an area that’s covered by a roof, install a damp or wet-rated option. If the space isn’t sheltered by roofing, you must use a wet-rated model to protect against the elements.

For a bathroom or laundry room, pick a damp or wet-rated fan to avoid damage due to moisture. You can also go with a wet-rated option indoors if you want a model that’s low-maintenance, easy to clean, and 100% protected against moisture.

When choosing the best outdoor fan, consider environmental factors. For example, select an option that can handle high winds if that’s an issue near your home. For houses that are located by the ocean, pick a fan that will last in a salty-air environment.

Finally, consider the sizing carefully to ensure the fan provides ample airflow and cools you down sufficiently. While indoor fan sizes can be easily chosen based on the room’s square footage, it’s still worth utilizing our sizing calculator when picking an outdoor model. Measure the patio or porch to better determine if you’ll need a small or large ceiling fan.


Whether you need an indoor or outdoor ceiling fan, reach out to us at (800) 201-1193. Our experts will help you choose the perfect option for your needs.

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