Outdoor ceiling fan

Summer home with an outdoor dining area featuring a ceiling fan.

Even if mother nature doesn’t cooperate, you can start your own breeze with the simple flip of a switch.  Outdoor ceiling fans can be used in garages, sun-rooms, outdoor porches, attached to gondolas over decks, covered patios, or just about anywhere else electricity can safely be run.  And an outdoor ceiling fan does more than just combat heat, it also combats flying bugs, even this year’s prolific mosquito.  Since it is difficult for bugs to fly in a draft, ceiling fans are ideal over outdoor dining and seating areas.  In fact, often the biggest perk of an outdoor ceiling fan is not cooling the temp, but ridding the space of bugs.  But when choosing the right outdoor ceiling fan for you, there are a handful of things to first consider.

Outdoor rated

If there’s any chance a fan will be exposed to the elements, it needs to come with a UL rating for outdoors.  Often you will have the choice between a wet versus damp rating. Fans rated for wet conditions are intended for areas where the fan will come into direct contact with water – in our case, not an ocean mist, but rather rain or snow.  Ceiling fans rated for damp conditions are only for outdoor deck or patio areas that are completely enclosed.

Moving the air

Cubic feet per minute (CFM) is the measurement used to indicate the amount of air the fan is able to move on its highest setting.  This number is found on the label of every fan, and usually falls somewhere between 4,000 CFMs and 10,000 CFMs. Besides being able to tolerate weather conditions, this is the fan’s most important rating as it’s the number that determines your perception of how well it cools the space.  If you find multiple fans in the same price range with similar CFM ratings, then look for the efficiency or “airflow efficiency” rating on the label to help make your final decision.

The optimum number of blades on a ceiling fan?  Three.  Three blades are ideal for moving air efficiently.  Adding additional blades might improve aesthetics, but it does little to improve its performance and might actually worsen it by increasing the drag on the motor.  More blades, better cooling?  Not when it comes to ceiling fans.

Oh, the noise

Even the most modern and expensive of ceiling fans can become off balance, the blades and screws shift, and the fan’s quiet whisper operation becomes a pronounced buzz that keeps light sleepers awake and pervades the background of quiet conversations.  The motor type that makes the least noise is a DC motor – it’s virtually silent.  An additional perk is that DC motors consume 70 percent less energy than AC motors due to their smaller, lighter size.  A final note – not only are three blades best for efficient cooling, they also operate more quietly.  

Six of one, half dozen of the other

The experts say to size an outdoor ceiling fan the same as an indoor one – match the fan diameter with the square footage of the space.  A 36-inch fan suites 144 square feet, 42-inch fan suites 225 square feet, and 52-inch fan suites 325 square feet. That being said, it’s sometimes better to use several smaller fans than it is to choose a single large one.  With more small fans, you can lower the speed and let a soft gentle breeze cool as good or better than the high speed of one large fan whose breeze also blows around loose papers and other lightweight items. 

When placing and finding the right fan, keep in mind that the fan needs to sit at least 2 feet away from other fans and/or walls, hang at least1 foot from the ceiling, and hover 84 inches from the floor.  Also remember wider blades move more air.

Keep your cool

As the summer heats up, outdoor fans will help you keep your cool.  Not only that, they’ll help keep those pesky insects at bay, including those dreaded mosquitoes.

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