Ceiling fans are coming around again

June 23, 1991|By John Warde | John Warde,New York Times News ServiceNew York Times News Service 0

Paddle fans are popular again. These large-bladed, exposed ceiling fans circulate air rather than draw it into or out of a building. They are pleasing to the eye, cost much less to buy and operate than air conditioners and can add to comfort and energy savings year-round.

In summer, the downward draft of a paddle fan creates a breeze and produces a feeling of coolness against the skin, even though a fan does not reduce air temperature. Used in conjunction with an air conditioner, fans can cut energy costs.

"Fans can make you feel up to 8 degrees cooler," said Steve Martin, marketing services manager for Hunter Fan Co. in Memphis.

The air-conditioner thermostat in a room equipped with a paddle fan can be raised by as much as 8 degrees without any loss of comfort, he said.

Studies done by the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1977 and by the Virginia Technical Institute in 1978, among the most recent, found that annual savings in air-conditioning costs can amount to 10 percent for every degree the thermostat is raised, up to a maximum of 40 percent.

In winter, paddle fans that have reversible-direction motors, and most do, can produce an upward breeze. This forces warm air off the ceiling, where it naturally accumulates, to lower levels where it can be felt more readily.

Destratifying the air, as this is called, allows homeowners to set the furnace thermostat lower in winter.

In a room with an 8-foot ceiling, using a paddle fan may result in heating-cost savings of only 1 or 2 percent a year. But in a room with a 10- to 12-foot ceiling, annual savings can be 5 to 8 percent.

Some fan companies are reluctant to discuss statistics on energy savings, citing the lack of them in general and the fact that existing ones are not easy for consumers to understand.

"We believe that there are savings, but we let customers decide for themselves," said Sam Williams, marketing manager for Fasco Industries in Fayetteville, N.C.

Consumers are interested in styling as well as comfort, marketers say, and as a result manufacturers like Beverly Hills Fan Co. and CasaBlanca Fan Co., both in California, produce models designed with appearance as much as function in mind.

Prices range from about $30 to $500, with some models costing as much as $1,200. Lighting kits and remote-control units are frequently extra, but for $60 to $150 most consumers can find an attractive, well-made fan with these accessories.

Fans provide their greatest benefit when installed in the busiest rooms. For rooms that are square and measure up to 12 by 12 feet, choose a fan with a blade sweep (overall diameter) of about 42 inches. For rooms up to 12 by 18 feet, choose a fan with a blade sweep of 48 to 52 inches.

Fans with blade sweeps of up to 60 inches work well in large square rooms. For rooms longer than 18 feet, two or more medium-size fans produce better results.

For quiet performance and the longest service life, look for a fan with a high-quality motor. This usually means a motor made in the United States; generally these are found only on fans costing more than $100.

The motor should have heavy-duty castings and sealed bearings requiring no lubrication. The best sealed bearings normally run quietly for eight to 12 years; Hunter's top-of-the-line paddle fan has unsealed bearings that need lubrication, but these are so well made that the motor is guaranteed to run quietly for as long as the purchaser owns the fan.

Other features to look for are balanced fan blades made of cross-laminated veneer to eliminate warping, a blade pitch (the slant of each blade away from horizontal) of 12 to 14 degrees and a manufacturer's warranty of at least five years.

A single fan is best mounted in the center of the room or where people congregate most. In a kitchen, installation should be over the work area.

Multiple fans should be hung at equal distances from each other at intervals recommended by the manufacturer.

To prevent uneven air flow, which causes wobbling, the tips of fan blades must be at least 24 inches from walls, sloping ceilings and tall furniture.

The height of fan blades should be about 9 feet above the floor. For safety, they must not be lower than 7 feet. The minimum space required between the blades and the ceiling is about 12 inches; if it is less than 8 inches, a fan can lose nearly half its effectiveness.

To increase the distance a fan hangs from the ceiling, extension mountings called down rods are available. Where headroom is a problem, low-ceiling adapter kits reduce the amount of space between the fan and the ceiling to the minimum allowable (remember to include light fixtures when figuring headroom). Hardware is also available for hanging fans from slanted ceilings.

Installing a paddle fan usually involves fastening it to an overhead electrical outlet box controlled by a wall switch. The outlet box must carry the mark of a recognized testing organization like Underwriters Laboratories and have a label saying it can be used with ceiling fans.

Where to call

For information on paddle fans and where to buy them, contact these manufacturers.

* Hunter Fan Co., P.O. Box 14775, Memphis, Tenn. 38114; (901) 745-9222.

* Fasco Industries, 810 Gillespie St., Fayetteville, N.C. 28306; (800) 334-4126.

* Beverly Hills Fan Co., 12612 Raymer St., North Hollywood, Calif. 91605; (800) 826-6192.

* CasaBlanca Fan Co., P.O. Box 424, City of Industry, Calif. 91747; (800) 759-3627.

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