5 Things to Know When Buying a Ceiling Fan

When it comes to feeling cooler in your home, there isn’t much that’s better than buying and installing a ceiling fan. While fans don’t actually cool rooms, they do have a dramatic effect on cooling down people. According to Energy.gov, a ceiling fan will allow you to raise the thermostat four degrees without reducing your comfort.

Considering the cost it takes to run an air conditioner, being able to turn the thermostat four degrees warmer means considerable savings. Considering that a good ceiling fan can be bought for just a couple of hundred dollars (or less), it’s a piece of equipment in your home that can easily pay for itself over its life.

If you’ve been looking to buy a new ceiling fan — or replace your old one — there’s no doubt that you’ve looked at plenty of options. For most people the biggest factor in selecting a ceiling fan is its look and design. You want a fan that matches your decor. It doesn’t matter how much air the fan pushes if it sticks out like a sore thumb.

Beyond that, however, there are a number of factors you should consider when buying a new ceiling fan. From the size to the energy rating, here’s all the items you should consider — beyond the style of fan that looks best in your room.

Ceiling fan in motion

Correct Size of Ceiling Fan

Before you start to even think about buying a fan, you need to know what size you are looking for. Too small of a fan and you won’t get the air movement required to make you feel cooler. Too large a fan and the breeze it provides could be overwhelming.

Fans are measured in the diameter of the circle made by the fan when in operation. Common sizes includes 72 inches, 54 inches, 42 inches, 36 inches, and a number of options in between.

Obviously, the size of the fan depends on your room size. Use the following guidelines to size your ceiling fan appropriately for your room:

  • Room size > 400 square feet: Multiple fans between 54-72 inches
  • Room size 225-400 square feet: One fan between 54-72 inches
  • Room size 140-225 square feet: One fan between 52-54 inches
  • Room size 75-140 square feet: One fan between 42-44 inches
  • Room size < 75 square feet: One fan 36 inches

Keep in mind these aren’t hard rules, but suggested guidelines. If you find a fan that’s slightly larger or slightly smaller than what’s suggested, that’s fine. Just keep it close to these suggestions.


Not every fan comes with a light kit attached, but we’d highly suggest you only look at fans that have lights included. Given the location of a fan in the room — usually in the very middle of the room — it’s useful to have a light. Even if you don’t think you need the light, it’s a nice thing to have. And you can always just leave it off if you don’t want to use the light.

Does the type of light matter? These days most lights included are LED, which use drastically less power — and put off a lot less heat — than traditional incandescent bulbs. These types of light also typically last for years longer than a regular light bulb. If the light on your fan doesn’t have bulbs included, we’d suggest using LED bulbs that can be picked up from any home improvement store.


Perhaps the most important factor in the ceiling fan that you buy is the amount of air is pushes. Fans measure airflow in cubic feet per minute or CFM. The higher the CFM, the more air the fan will move.

Obviously, the larger the fan, the more CFM it will push. So if you want to the most air movement possible, go with the largest fan for your space. Beyond that, you want to compare the air flow between fans of similar sizes so that you are comparing apples to apples. The fan box or its online listing will show the CFM clearly for consumers, such as the image below:

Ceiling fan energy information

Keep in mind that different styles of fan and fan blades will impact the CFM, so even if two fans are the same size, they could have dramatically different air flows.

Energy Use

The great news about fans is that they will use less energy than just about any air conditioner you can find. So if you are using your fan instead of the A/C, you’ll likely be saving money on your electric bill.

Just as with the the CFM measurement, fans will tell you the amount of electricity it uses at high speed. This measurement is made in watts. In addition, your fan should have an “airflow efficiency” rating. This rating tells you how much air is moved by the fan per watt of electricity used. Fans with higher figures are more efficient than those with lower ratings.

The math behind the efficiency rating is simple if it’s not already provided to you. It’s simple the cubic feet per minute of airflow divided by the number of watts. So a fan that pushes 4,000 CFM of air at 60 watts will have an airflow efficiency rating of 67. Remember, higher numbers mean more efficiency.

For reference, the most efficient fans have efficiency ratings starting at around 240 up to 370 as judged by Energy Star. You can see their list of most efficient ceiling fans here.

Noise Ratings

For some people, the noise that comes from a ceiling fan is one of its most important features. Some like to have some noise when the fan runs, providing white noise that can help them sleep at night. Others can’t stand any noise from their fan.

Unfortunately, noise ratings for ceiling fans are not near as common as wattage and airflow measurements. Some fans might list it, but if others don’t, this it’s tough to compare one fan to another.

So what can you do is the sound of the fan is important to you? This is where online reviews can be extremely helpful. Search for mentions of the fan’s noise in these reviews to see what others have said. As well, you can also search for fans that are marketed as being quiet in operation. If a fan runs quietly, the company is sure to be proud of this fact and promote it.

Have more questions about buying the perfect ceiling fan? Let us know in the comments below…


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