Ceiling fan helps in any weather Those whirling blades are great for moving hot as well as cold air


March 09, 1997|By Karol V. Menzie and Randy Johnson

A RECENT surprisingly warm weekend had people scrambling to open long-shut windows and to turn on ceiling fans. It wasn't hot enough to turn on air-conditioning, but getting the air moving made a big difference in comfort.

Comfort is the reason old-fashioned ceiling fans have been making a comeback, especially during the last decade. If you don't have air-conditioning, judicious use of ceiling fans can almost replace it. If you have some air-conditioning, ceiling fans can make it feel like you have more. And if you have central air, ceiling fans can help you use it more efficiently.

In the winter, reversible ceiling fans can help circulate warm air and make furnace use more efficient.

Now is the time to think about installing a fan. A reader in Anne Arundel County who wants a fan for her kitchen writes:

"I have no idea what size to buy or whether it should be extended downward since we have 9-foot ceilings." She also asks who should she get to install the fan.

Most fans come in standard sizes, based on the sweep of the blades -- 48 inches and 52 inches are the most common sizes, though there are fans for smaller spaces.

Fit the space

The size you choose is largely a matter of common sense. The fan should fit the space where it's being installed. A small room doesn't need a huge fan, but in a large space, the fan needs to be big enough to move enough air to make the room feel cooler.

We recommend a clearance of 7 feet from the floor to the bottom of the fan (or the bottom of its light fixture). Local building codes may require more, but the person who is going to install the fan should know that.

A distance of 12 inches from the ceiling to the blades is best for air flow, but you don't want to put the fan where you're going to hit it when you put on a jacket. A fan installed closer to the ceiling -- and there are fans for close installations -- will still move air, just not as much.

Most places that sell fans also sell extension tubes that can provide as much as 36 inches of clearance between ceiling and blades. Unless the reader's kitchen is very large, however, the fan probably will work fine without an extension.

Placing the fan in the middle of the room provides the best air flow, and may allow you to take advantage of the wiring for an existing ceiling fixture.

The fan itself uses about the same amount of electricity as a regular light fixture, though if your fan also has a light fixture, you should check to make sure you're not overloading the circuit.

Adequate support

Ceiling fans should be mounted to a metal box in the ceiling. If you're using an existing fixture's box, make sure the box is attached to the framing above the drywall or plaster.

Fans up to 35 pounds can be installed in a secured junction box, but anything heavier will need additional support.

Installing a fan can be a do-it-yourself job, but if you don't have some experience dealing with electricity, it's probably a better idea to hire a qualified electrician.

Here are the steps involved in installing a fan:

Turn off all power to the existing fixture and check to make sure it's fastened to a joist. If you don't have an existing fixture, locate the center of the room by running diagonal lines from the corners. Then cut a hole large enough for the junction box and run wiring to it.

If you have access from above, such as in an attic, you can screw the junction box to a piece of 2-by-4, position the box so it is flush with the surface below, then screw or nail the 2-by-4 to the joists.

If you don't have access from above, you can use one of a variety of fan braces that can be mounted through the outlet box hole. The braces adjust for 16- to 24-inch joist spacing.

When the box is installed, and electricity is turned on, it's time to assemble the fan. They all come with assembly directions, and the only trick is not to attach the blades until the rest of the fixture (including any light fixture) is in place. It's much easier to lift the fixture and make the electrical connections if the blades aren't on.

You can install a fan in the middle of a room without a junction box if you use a swag kit.

The fan is bolted through the ceiling to a joist and the wiring is suspended on a chain attached to the ceiling with hooks. The swag leads to a wall outlet where the fan is plugged in.

Since this installation is portable, it could work in a rental property, where you would just have to repair the holes where the bolts and hooks were to move the fan.

If you want to use a swag, check the fan before you buy it to make sure it's suitable for that kind of installation.

Randy Johnson is a Baltimore home-improvement contractor. Karol Menzie is a feature writer for The Sun.

If you have questions, tips or experiences to share about working on houses, e-mail us at homeworlark.net, or write to us c/o HOME WORK, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column; comments, tips and experiences will be reported in occasional columns.

Pub Date: 3/09/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.