Every ceiling fan brand has a range of ceiling fans to choose from with varying levels of quality and performance and there are huge differences in the quality and performance of ceiling fans even within each brand. So how do you know which whether one ceiling fan is better than another? The information on this page and details provided throughout our website will help you do just that.
Now when it comes to the question "Who Makes the Best Ceiling Fan?", there really needs to be some consideration to the application where the fan is going to be used as well as what style is desired. In an attempt to answer this question by making specific recommendations, we have selected what we consider the "Cream of the Crop" for each of the categories below. Although there are some other fans that are close in comparison to these, each of these fans represents the highest quality, performance and durability in their category, so you can't go wrong with any of them. They will all run dead quiet, move lots of air without wobbling and last you a lifetime. In cases where there are other fans that are quite equal, we have chosen the most popular.
Operating a central air conditioner or wall unit can cost anywhere from 20 to 50 cents/hour or more, whereas a ceiling fan on high speed costs between 1/4 of a cent to 3 cents per hour to operate. So ceiling fans cost far less to operate than air conditioning. Using ceiling fans more and your AC less can save you anywhere from 10% to 40% on your cooling bills. Keep in mind that ceiling fans do not change the room temperature they simply create a wind-chill effect that makes you feel cooler than it actually is. This allows you to use your air conditioning less without sacrificing your level of comfort, which explains why ceiling fans are so popular. But in order to use your air conditioning less, you must either manually turn it off or raise the temperature of your thermostat. If you do neither of these, you will not save anything on your energy bills...in fact you will spend a little more because you are paying to run both your AC and your fans. So in order to realize the actual potential savings of ceiling fans, you must not forget to raise the temperature of your AC by several degrees or turn it off altogether. Furthermore, there is no need to run a ceiling fan if you are not there to feel the breeze, so always turn them off when you leave a room.
The best ceiling fans are those with the highest Quality, highest CFM (Cubic Feet of Airflow per Minute), and lowest Watts (or most efficient)! Of these factors CFM is most important because it is what creates the wind-chill effect. The more wind-chill effect you have the less you need your AC. For an average size room, ceiling fans that produce at least 6,000 to 7,000 CFM will keep you cooler and allow you to raise your thermostat more to save the most on your energy bills. Efficiency is defined as CFM/Watts, so the amount of air produced divided by the amount of electricity used. If you are torn between several fans that have similar CFM ratings, then choose the one that is most efficient (uses less watts). Keep in mind that even the least efficient fan motors only cost about 2 or 3 cents per hour to operate (which is nothing compared to your AC), so CFM is far more important than efficiency since the goal is to maximize the wind-chill and minimize the AC.
As of January 1, 2009, all ceiling fan manufacturers are required to test their ceiling fans for airflow 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 only website to put all this data together into a graph format that allows you to easily compare the performance of each ceiling fan! The graphs you see below are examples of what you will see in our search results as you shop on our site outdoor ceiling fans, modern ceiling fans, remote control ceiling fans, ceiling fans with lights and other unique styles of ceiling fans. 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.
The Department of Energy (DOE) is now in the process of reviewing previous ceiling fan regulations with plans to impose even further regulations which will likely drive the price of ceiling fans up in the near future. You can read more about these new regulations here: Highly Decorative Ceiling Fans and Other Ceiling Fan Classifications or follow the development of the legislation by reading the information in the Docket Folder at the DOE: Energy Conservation Standards Ceiling Fans and Ceiling Fan Light Kits: Public Meeting and Availability of the Framework Document.
Our ceiling fan comparison graphs rate each fan from 1 to 5 where 5 is best for each of the 5 comparison factors listed below. Fans that far exceed the highest rating will appear above the 5 line and are considered the best of the best for that rating. The averages below are based on data compiled from of over 2,000 ceiling fan models from 12 different brands.
Average Quality = 3
Average Airflow = 5500 CFM
Average Energy Use = 70 Watts (on high)
Average Efficiency = 79 CFM/Watt
Average Wind Speed = 2.5 MPH (220 LFM)
Important Note: The formula for calculating wind speed was revised on 1/31/2015. The previous formula did not take into account that the testing chamber (cylinder) used to determine the CFM of a fan is 8" in diameter larger than the blade span. The revised formula ads 8" to the blade span to account for this. The new wind speed results are now slightly lower than previosly stated but are still proportionally similar for the purpose comparing various fans.
Averages: Fans that are average in for any factor are given a rating of 3. We recommend looking for fans that are rated at 4 or 5 for quality, CFM and MPH. Some fans that have very high CFM will use more energy and be less efficient, but may be the best choice for your application. Many ceiling fans that are rated 5 for CFM are still rated lower for Efficiency and Watts. This is because some 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. Keep in mind that the best way to save energy with ceiling fans is to feel enough cooling breeze so that you can raise your AC thermostat a few degrees during the summer so you use less electricity from you AC. Even the least efficient ceiling fan will still use far less electricity than your AC...but you cannot benefit from the energy saving ability of ceiling fans if you do not raise the temperature of your thermostat several degrees.
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 EPA now requires all ceiling fan manufacturers to test their fans for CFM using a testing cylinder like the one pictured here. The intent of this requirement is to give consumers a method of comparing the performance of ceiling fans. Although CFM is good for comparing ceiling fans of the same diameter, it does not bode very well when comparing fans of with different blade spans and it does not give you a very good correlation to how much wind-chill a fan will produce. So when comparing fans, we recommend you not only look at the CFM, but pay close attention to our "Wind Speed Factor", which is more closely related to the wind-chill affect a fan will produce. With that said, the CFMs shown in each graph represent the volume of air the fan can move when it is on High Speed. Based on comparing over 1200 ceiling fans that we have data for on our site, the average ceiling fan moves about 5513 CFM. 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. The worst is around 1400 CFM and the very best approach 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 6000 CFM, which is above average. Larger rooms will need much more and smaller rooms can get away with less.
Wind Speed Factor:
"Our exclusive Wind Speed Factor is the only online tool that allows you to compare the actual potential cooling effect of fans with different sizes and CFM"
Aside from Quality, our Wind Speed Factor is by far the most important piece of information to compare between ceiling fans. Wind speed is not the same as CFM. CFM is a measure of the overall amount of air being displaced in an area, whereas wind speed is the measure of how fast the air is moving. Ceiling fans do not change the temperature of a room, they cool you off by creating a wind chill effect, which is directly related to wind speed...not CFM. So it is logical to assume that higher wind speed will make you feel cooler. It is also important to note that the breeze created by a ceiling fan is mostly concentrated in the column of air just beneath the blades and does not extent out much more than a foot or two beyond that. If you have two fans of different sizes that produce the same CFM, the smaller fan will have a higher wind speed. It is a bit more complicated when two fans of different sizes produce different CFM. In many cases, the larger fan may move more air or have a higher CFM, but because the airflow is spread over a larger area, the intensity of the breeze you feel (wind speed) may be less than a smaller fan. Our exclusive "Wind Speed Factor" is the only online tool that allows you to compare the actual potential cooling effect of fans with different sizes and CFM. This is particularly useful if you are trying to decide whether to use a single large fan as opposed to two or more smaller fans for a particular area. It is our experience that for large rooms it is often better to have 2 or more smaller ceiling fans than a single large fan. So, what should you look for when it comes to wind speed? We have determined that the average wind speed factor of a ceiling fan is a about 2.5 MPH, which is lacking when it comes to cooling you off. If the main reason for considering installing a ceiling fan is to cool you off, we recommend considering fans with a wind speed factor of 4 MPH or higher.
How we calculate our "Wind Speed Factor": Manufacturers are now required to test their ceiling fans in a testing chamber like the one shown here. The chamber is a cylinder that is 8" in diameter larger than the blade span of the fan. There are several arrays of sensors (anemometers) that measure the actual wind speed in the area of each sensor. The CFM is then calculated by combining the wind speeds for the area of each sensor to determine the amount of air moving through the entire chamber. The actual wind speeds used to calculate the CFM are not reported publicly, so we have devised a formula to extrapolate the wind speed from the CFM data based on the diameter of the chamber (8" larger than the fan) and the reported CFM for that area. To make it easier for you to compare fans of various CFM and blade spans, we devised the Wind Speed Factor, which is calculation is based on the CFMs (as reported by the manufacturer) per square foot of the testing chamber, which is the diameter of the fan plus 8". We use the term Wind Speed Factor because it is a calculation based on the CFM results in the testing chamber, not an actual scientifically tested measurement of wind speed.
Efficiency: Efficiency is defined by the EPA as CFM/Watts. The average efficiency of a ceiling fan is bout 79 Watts/CFM. 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. The average watts used by ceiling fans is about 70 watts on high speed (without lights). A higher rating for Watts means the fan uses LESS watts, which is more desirable. 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.
Operational Cost Calculator(Instructions/Details)
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.
If you do not have your electric bill handy, use this map to find he average cost per kWh by region in the USA, then plug that in to the calculator. The cost for your area could vary dramatically from this table, so for a more exact calculation, refer to your electric bill.
The numbers below are "CENTS" per Kilowatt "NOT" Dollars per Kilowatt
For example: California is just 12 cents per kWh!
Important Note: The information below has been posted on our website for several years...which was prior to having the CFM and Watt data as detailed above. We have kept this information on our site for you to review because most of it is still pertinent, although some details make less sense now that there is actual data that can be used to compare fans.
The most common mistake people make when purchasing a ceiling fan is to base their decision strictly on how a fan looks and how much it costs without considering how it will perform. Will it wobble? Will it make noise? Will it actually cool you off? After talking to thousands of people shopping for ceiling fans over the past 20 years, I have learned that the average consumer is not even aware that there are such differences between ceiling fans. They generally assume that one fan is more expensive than another simply because it is fancier...or it has a remote control or some other feature.
The bottom line is, there are huge differences in the performance and quality of ceiling fans that you need to be aware of...and the information on this page will help you understand them
If you have ever shopped for a car, you know some cars are available with your choice of a 4 cylinder, 6 cylinder, V8 and or high performance V8. You also know that the price goes up substantially with each motor as does the performance capabilities and optional bells and whistles. In general, the same is true for ceiling fans. The motor inside each ceiling fan is the most important component to compare because it is what makes the fan work. Smaller cheaper motors move less air and are not precision made so they have the propensity to wobble or make noise. Larger high performance motors have precision made components designed to provide maximum air movement with smooth quiet operation, but they come at a much higher price. Just as with shopping for a car, you will need to balance the quality and performance level with your budget.
Unfortunately, the motor inside a ceiling fan is completely hidden inside the decorative outer casing, so you don't necessarily get to "Pop the Hood" before you buy a fan. But, if you know what to look for, you can make an educated decision when comparing ceiling fans...which is why we have made it easy for you by including this information in our search result pages and on our product detail pages.
Although there are many more motors used in ceiling fans than what we have here in this chart, this information will give you a good idea as to how we go about rating our fans. In most cases, the rating we give a fan is directly related to the motor inside. However, equally considered is the quality of the additional components used to make up the fan. The best fans will have precision made components throughout so they will run smooth and quiet and last a lifetime.
Motor Rating Chart
(ratings updated 4/30/2011 - added DC motors)
Super Efficient DC Motors (the Green choice!): DC motors are the latest technology for ceiling fans. Unlike all other ceiling fan motors, DC Motors have their own built-in electromagnets so they do not use Electricity to create a magnetic field. This allows them to operate using up to 75% less electricity! They also generate more power than other motors with no wobble or noise. What's more, they operate at a cooler temperature boosting their efficiency even more while introducing less heat into the room. We consider all ceiling fans with DC motors to be the Best of the Best and our highest recommendation!
Hi-Performance Motors: No wobble or noise. Fans with these motors are precision crafted throughout including the balancing of blades and careful engineering all components so they run perfectly smooth and quiet. Fans with these motors are built to last a lifetime with an unsurpassed proven track record of longevity. You can leave fans like these running 24 hours a day for years on end without worrying about the motor burning out. You will find them to be the most attractive as well since they are designed to appeal to those who can afford the very best. Highly recommended for sound sensitive applications such as bedrooms.
|4||188mm - 212mm||Very Good Performance: Great air movement. Very little wobble or noise. Will last many years. Good for small to medium size rooms.|
|3||172mm||Above Average: Acceptable air movement. Very slight noise. Very affordable. Recommended for smaller rooms if a higher quality fan is not affordable.|
|2||53mm||Average: Less air movement. Some noise or wobble over years of use. Recommended for contractors where projects require inexpensive fans.|
|1||*Typical Import||Below Average: Very little airflow. Annoying wobble and noise when new or within 1 or 2 years of use. Not recommended for any application.|
(motors from Emerson ceiling fans)
*Fans with smaller motors are typically found at home centers and mass merchants. We do not supply this type of fan at Home of Decor.
Important Note: Fans with extra wide palm leaf, wicker, or canvas type blades will only provide a gentle breeze and are considered to be more decorative than functional. Because this type of blade will tend to overwork an average fan motor we recommend that you choose only brands that offer these styles with Hi-Performance motors. Otherwise, your fan will overheat and start to make annoying noises and eventually burn out.
DETAILS: What makes some fans better than others?
The motor inside your fan is the most important component!
The most important consideration when purchasing a fan (aside from the way it looks) is the size, power, and durability of the motor. Larger more powerful motors are more expensive than smaller more generic mass produced motors...but they will move substantially more air without wobbling or making noise and can be left running for days, weeks, even years on end without burning out.
There are 5 major factors that work together to determine how much air a fan will move as well as it's overall performance and durability. The most important factor is the motor. A strong precision made motor will move the most air without noise or wobble if the other 4 factors are present.
The 5 basic factors are:
Looking more closely at each of these factors will show how they affect each other and why a fan with the most powerful motor can produce the most air movement.
Motor - Size,
Power, and Quality
The motor is the most important component of a ceiling fan. The most powerful motors will move the most air when combined with the proper blades and RPM. High power fan motors are only available in the top of the line models from each of the major name brands. As a consumer, it is difficult to know what type and quality of motor is inside a fan that you are considering. So to make it easy for you to find fans with good motors, we give each of our fans a motor quality rating between 1 to 5...where 5 is the best. Fans rated above 5 on our website are super efficienty DC motors that are 2 to 3 times more efficient than other motors, so they cost much less to operate. You can rest assured that any fan with a motor rating of 4 or 5 will be a good quality powerful motor that we would highly recommend. Fans with good motors are going to be more expensive...but the difference in the amount of air you will feel is quite remarkable and the performance, durability, and efficiency is well worth the extra money.
The angle at which the blade sweeps through the air is called the "Pitch" of the blade. A good blade pitch is typically 14 degrees or more, although some fans with slightly lower blade pitch may perform well based on other factors such as blade surface area and shape. For example, some fans have blades with an airfoil shape where the pitch is not fixed, but rather more steep closer to the motor and flatter out near the end of the blade. These types of blades are much more aerodynamic and can be extremely efficient, requiring less power from the motor to move the same amount of air as a flat blade.
A good way to understand how blade pitch effects air movement is to equate the blades of a fan to the oars of a rowboat. If you have ever tried to row a boat, you know that if you put the oars in the water virtually flat, it takes very little effort to row...but even if you row very fast, the boat moves very slow. If, on the other hand, you tilt the oars at a steep angle in the water, it becomes very difficult to row the boat...but each stroke makes substantial progress. You will need to be much stronger and in better shape to sustain a high rate of speed for any period of time in this case.
The same is true with ceiling fans. Believe it or not, a fan spinning at a high RPM encounters substantial wind resistance if the blades are set at a steeper pitch. A fan that has blades with a very flat pitch (between 10 and 12 degrees), does not require a very powerful motor to make the blades spin fast. However, even at full speed, the fan will move very little air and may have a tendency to wobble or make noise. On the other hand, a good blade pitch (between 14 and 15 degrees) or a fan with airfoil designed blades requires a well engineered finely tuned powerful motor to move the blades through the air at a high rate of speed for extended periods of time without overheating and burning out. Just as well, a good blade pitch with an average or lower grade motor will not be able to reach as high an RPM and may in fact be overworked resulting in a fan that overheats and eventually burns out.
Therefore, the pitch of the blade and the power of the motor must be well engineered to work together to create air movement without going beyond the motors capability in order for a fan to operate efficiently and last a lifetime.
Blade Shape and
Imagine rowing a boat with short narrow oars compared to wider longer oars. The wider and longer the oar is, the more effort it takes to pull it through the water. But once again, more effort means more progress. With ceiling fans, when you combine a wider longer blade with a steeper pitch, you get even more air movement...at least to a certain point.
There is a limit to the shape and size that the oars or fan blades can and should be. If the oars or blades are too wide or too long, you will not be able to move maneuver them fast enough no matter how strong you are. As with ceiling fans, blades that are too wide or long cannot be moved fast enough to be effective with even the most powerful fan motor. So...larger does not always mean better...but too small or narrow is not good.
RPM is simply how fast your fan blades spin at a given speed setting. Faster means more air...but only if the blades are pitched properly. Also, some fans have a lower RPM at low speed and a higher RPM at high speed, which means they give you more flexibility in the cooling effect required. The best fans will give you 6 speeds from very low to very high.
Height from Ceiling
In order for a fan to operate efficiently, there needs to be about 10 to 12 inches between the blades and the ceiling so that the air can flow freely around the blades without bouncing up and down between the blades and the ceiling. For this reason, you will find that ceiling hugger fans (fans that mount flush to the ceiling) don't move very much air. This type of fan will always have a small motor with relatively flat blades so that it does not create enough turbulence to cause it to wobble or shudder. You just won't find a "Hi-Performance" hugger fan.
The blades on a typical hugger fan will be 7 or 8 inches from the ceiling as opposed to 10 to 12" for a good quality performance fan. The additional 2 or 3 inches makes all the difference in the world...kind of like having a tire on a car that is just a little out of balance. It may only take a small .5oz weight to balance the tire, but without the weight, the tire will bounce up and down like crazy at certain speeds. You should only use hugger fans if your ceilings are lower than 8' high or there is some other restriction (such as a bunk bed) that prevents you from installing a Hi-Performance fan that drops down a few more inches.
For higher ceilings, a longer downrod is recommended in order to bring the fan blades to about 8 or 9 feet from the floor so that you will feel the air movement.
A well engineered ceiling fan takes all of the factors on this page into account, and with precision testing, a "Sweet Spot" is determined with the most efficient combination of blade pitch, shape and size of the blades, RPM, height from the ceiling, and most importantly, the capacity or capability of the motor.
The fans on our site that are rated 4 or 5, or are referred to as "Hi-Performance" are fans that are well engineered to the "Sweet Spot" and will give you the best performance for many years. We are sure you will be satisfied if you purchase one of these fans. We believe any other rating to be a compromise that manufacturers make in order to design fans to meet lower price points.
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