Forget About AC—The Best Ceiling Fans Are Chic and Cooling
No frilly lights and foot-long chains around here.
Published Aug 26, 2021 1:00 AM
If you’re in the market for a new ceiling fan, rest assured that today’s models have come a long way from their fusty forebears. “Those ugly grandma ceiling fans—you know, the wood ones with frilly lights and dangling chains—are a thing of the past,” says Erin Hiemstra, founder of Apartment 34. There are types to suit any and every decor style, from farmhouse and modern to rustic and contemporary. And these days, in addition to standard indoor options, you can buy outdoor versions for covered patios and wet-rated fans designed for direct exposure to rain, adds John Alexander, CEO of Hunter Fan Company.
The best ceiling fans are not only about style but comfort and sustainability as well, circulating the air in your home and conserving energy in the process. “Adding a ceiling fan can help your home feel up to 6 to 8 degrees cooler, so you won’t be tempted to run your air conditioner as much in the summer,” says Alexander. “By creating a draft in the room, the AC doesn’t have to work as hard and you can save up to 47 percent on cooling costs.” To help you infuse a breath of fresh air (and flair) into your home, we combed the market for the best options, making your shopping experience a total breeze.
- Best wood pick: Pottery Barn Spitfire Ceiling Fan
- Best supersmall selection: Honeywell Ocean Breeze Ceiling Fan
- Best colorful choice: Hunter Dublin Ceiling Fan
- Best design-forward option: Hunter Cranbrook Ceiling Fan
- Best versatile choice: Fanimation Zonix Ceiling Fan
- Best techy pick: Big Ass Fans Haiku
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
Controls and settings: Modern fans offer really easy touch-button control, says Hiemstra: “I like having at least three speed settings that give you plenty of options for air movement.” Control systems are really a matter of preference. Simple ceiling fan controls rely on a wall switch that lets you turn the fan on and off and adjust the speed with a pull chain. More advanced ceiling fan systems allow you to control the fan’s settings from a wall control or handheld remote. Then there are the smart iterations. “Hunter, for example, has a SimpleConnect smart home line of fans that are Wi-Fi enabled and compatible with Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa, which can be controlled with an app on your phone,” says Alexander.
Lighting options: Fans with lighting give a room central illumination. “The number of bulbs a ceiling fan features influences the ambience of the space,” says Alexander. Ceiling fans with single-bowl light kits are ideal for bedrooms, offices, kitchens, and living rooms, which require medium-level ambient lighting. For spaces where no other lighting is provided, fans with multiarm lighting are a great option—these often feature three to four bulbs, depending on their design. The multiple bulbs spread light across the space, brightening the entire room, says Alexander. “Functional single-source lighting provides a space with overall illumination; in spaces where your primary goal is to accentuate decorative elements, a ceiling fan with an integrated down-light kit creates a clean and sophisticated look that won’t overpower the other lighting in the room,” he notes. When looking for ceiling fans with lights, Alexander suggests checking for integrated light dimming features. “Ceiling fans with dimmable lights allow you to set the mood in your space. Wall controls and handheld remotes make the process of adjusting your lighting easy, too,” he adds.
Installation and mounting: How high you hang your fan depends on the height of your ceiling. Ceiling fans should be mounted 7 feet from the floor for optimal air circulation, says Hiemstra. Flush-mount fans (meaning the fan is hung right up against the ceiling) are intended for rooms with ceiling heights around 8 feet or less so the blades hang at a safe distance overhead, says Alexander. Standard ceiling fans, which usually come with a 6-inch downrod, are designed for rooms with ceiling heights around 8 to 9 feet. “For sloped or vaulted ceilings exceeding 34 degrees, a sloped ceiling adapter kit must be used to ensure proper ceiling fan installation,” says Alexander. This type of adapter replaces the ceiling fan canopy (the bowl-shaped covering that hides the wires between the ceiling and the fan).
Our Top Picks:
Best Wood Pick: Pottery Barn Spitfire Indoor/Outdoor Ceiling Fan
Best Supersmall Selection: Honeywell Ocean Breeze Ceiling Fan
Best Colorful Choice: Hunter Dublin Ceiling Fan
If you want an option that’s plucked straight from the crayon box, iterations like dusty green and indigo blue add a subtle pop without going over the top (it’s a vibe even color-phobes will get behind). Funky plastic blades are quiet while looking cool, and its low profile means it’s an ideal fit for lower ceilings.
Best Design-Forward Option: Hunter Cranbrook Ceiling Fan
Our editors are big fans of the mid-century modern design and five fun colorways that this one comes in, including powder pink, mint green, and light gray; each is paired with tapered blond wood blades. A dimmable, high-efficient exposed LED bulb gives you total control of the lighting. The low-profile mounting fits flush against ceilings less than 9 feet high.
Best Versatile Choice: Fanimation Zonix Ceiling Fan
Though you may only need it for one room, we love that it can fit multiple. Mounting options range from flush to 72-inch downrods and six sizes in between, so it can have a space in every place. Finishes are plenty—think: matte black, matte gray, brushed nickel, matte white, and dark bronze. The simple silhouette satisfies most decor styles, and it can be installed with or without the LED light. Decisions, decisions.
Best Techy Pick: Big Ass Fans Haiku
Thanks to Wi-Fi connectivity, Alexa and Google Assistant compatibility, and app control, our experts agree this fan is a supersmart choice (really, even for the name alone). You can change fan speed and lighting levels, set preferences, schedule routine operations, and enable different modes like “eco” right from your smartphone. Choose from bamboo or aircraft-grade aluminum blades, which come in 10 finishes such as driftwood, oil-rubbed bronze, and brushed copper. Best of all, there are seven airflow speed settings to suit every which way your wind blows.
How do I choose the right size ceiling fan?
The number of blades you choose really comes down to style preference; what matters most is the total diameter of the fan. “The amount of air circulated by a ceiling fan is determined by its diameter,” explains Alexander. Generally, larger rooms require fans with larger diameters, while smaller spaces require fans with smaller diameters, natch.He advises usingfans ranging from 30 to 48 inches in rooms under 100 square feet, such as laundry rooms and powder rooms. For rooms under 400 square feet, such as bedrooms and kitchens, fans ranging from 48 to 54 inches work best. For larger rooms, open-concept spaces, or lofts, ceiling fans 56 inches or larger are ideal.
Do ceiling fans use a significant amount of electricity?
The short answer: No, they don’t, especially when compared to air conditioning units. “If every household in America turned on their ceiling fan and turned up their air conditioner just 4 degrees for the entire day, together we could save nearly $13 billion in energy costs this summer alone,” says Alexander. Experts recommend considering the CFM measurement when buying a fan. “This stands for cubic feet per minute and refers to the measurement of how much air is moved by a ceiling fan,” he adds. “More energy-efficient ceiling fans produce higher airflow while consuming less energy than standard fans.” Also, look for the Energy Star® label. Fans that earn the label move air 20 percent more efficiently, on average, than standard models.
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