Summer brings questions about fans

Summer is here and I’m getting a lot of questions about ceiling fans. Here are the top five.

1. What size should my ceiling fan be?

Choosing the right size ceiling fan for any room is important otherwise it won’t cool your room, which is the reason you installed it. As a rule, the bigger the room, the bigger the fan needs to be. Each manufacturer has various recommendations. Plus the shape of your room, the amount of windows, furniture placement and how cool you want it to be are factors in determining the size.

The American Lighting Association offers these general guidelines. Rooms as big as 75 square feet should have a 29-36-inch fan. Medium-sized rooms as big as 144 square feet should have 36-42-inch fans. For rooms as big as 225 square feet you’d want a fan that is 50-54 inches; anything bigger and you should look for a 60-inch fan or consider using two fans.

2. What size downrod should I use?

Most fans come with a standard downrod of 3-5 inches, but larger lengths can be purchased if you have a higher ceiling. In general, you want to mount the fan 8-9 feet off the floor. For ceilings more than 15 feet, look for a fan that is specifically designed for that height. Manufacturers do make more powerful and sturdy fans for tall ceilings.

If the price is more than you budgeted, consider a decorative standing fan. You’d really only be able to run a standard fan on the low speed so that the fan maintains some stability. If you decide to mount it high, I’ve found that it doesn’t give you the air circulation you need to cool the room. It’s there for more decorative purposes.

If you have a ceiling less than 8 feet, consider a hugger or low-profile fan that mounts directly onto the ceiling. It will not move as much air as a regular fan because it is closer to the ceiling, but it will still make a difference in your room.

3. Do I have to match the exact finish on the fan to my room?

No, it doesn’t have to match, but the style as well as the finish on the housing and blades should coordinate with your room’s décor. Ceiling fans are a very visible item in your room and have really become more of a design element versus just a functional appliance. So if you have a contemporary style, look for a brushed nickel, steel, pewter or chrome housing with wood-colored blades that are similar to your woods. They also have stainless blades, which are fun.

If you have a traditional style, consider polished and antique brass, or even oil-rubbed bronze for the housing with a dark-wood blade. You can see that the stainless wouldn’t work in a traditional setting or polished brass in contemporary.

4. What kind of light fixture should I use and do I need one?

You don’t have to have a light kit on your fan, but I feel there can never be enough light and most people don’t have enough. The light kit on a ceiling fan is used more as general lighting versus a specific function, except when it’s over a table or work area. The light kit should match the style of your fan and room.

Personally I like the bowl-style light since I don’t like to see the bulbs. A simple bowl light kit can be used in any style décor, whereas you do have to be selective with glass shades since most have a distinctive style, leaning more traditional and country.

If you have a high ceiling, look for a fan that also has an uplight; it adds a nice accent effect.

5. What direction should my fan spin?

Although this is not a decorating question, it’s a good one. If you want to cool down the room, the fan needs to run in a counterclockwise direction. This forces the air down, giving you a cooler feeling from what is called “the wind chill effect,” which can actually make you feel 8 degrees Fahrenheit cooler. The faster the speed, the cooler you’ll feel.

And yes, you can use your ceiling fans in the winter as the reverse direction will pull cool air up to the ceiling, mixing it with your warmer air and distributing it back down into the room. Will it heat up your room? Probably not, but it will take the chill out.

Happy summer and stay cool.

Gail Mayhugh, owner of GMJ Interiors, is a professional interior designer and author of a book on the subject. Questions may be sent by e-mail to: Or, mail to: 7380 S. Eastern Ave., No. 124-272, Las Vegas, NV 89123. Her Web address is:


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