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Installing Energy-Efficient Ceiling Fans

by Gabby Hyman 

Repair-Home Columnist

With summer on the way, many homeowners are looking to install or replace their ceiling fan-lighting combination units. Before you make any moves, you may want to visit a home improvement store or speak with your electrical contractor to find a unit that can handle your cooling needs while saving you money. Despite how good they look, not all ceiling fans are efficient or cut back on high power bills.

A great place to begin your research is at the Energy Star Web site. Energy Star is a division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. It evaluates and rates appliances, doors, and windows for both energy efficiency and durability.

According to Energy Star, ceiling fan-lighting units that have earned its approval can save consumers $15-$20 annually on utility bills. Costs may also be less for heating and cooling costs because other appliances work more efficiently when the ceiling fan works properly. The government claims that units with the Energy Star designation are about 50 percent more efficient than models that lack the rating.

According to Home Energy Magazine, "typical" ceiling fan-light combos consume about 300 kilowatts per year, while Energy Star approved models use approximately 120 kwh/year.

Energy Star Consumer Tips for Mounting Ceiling Fans

The government recommends that ceiling fans be installed in the center of a room, at least seven feet above the floor and a foot and a half from any walls. So-called "hugger fans" with units that mount flush can be a good choice if you don't have much initial height to your room.

If you're working with a contractor, be sure to request that the fan is well anchored--preferably to a ceiling joist. For both energy efficiency and overall safety, have your contractor balance the ceiling fan blades. Sometimes the blades lose their alignment during manufacturing or in shipping.

Check the motor grades when you compare different models. Fans with "performance grade" motors may cost more, but hold up better if in continuous use through several seasons. Fans with heavier base materials also tend to operate more quietly, with less vibration, and can outlast less expensive models.

If you plan to use your ceiling fan to distribute warm air during the winter months to help cut heating costs, be sure you buy a fan with reversible airflow controls.

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About the Author
Gabby Hyman has created online strategies and written content for Fortune 500 companies including eToys, GoTo.com, Siebel Systems, Microsoft Encarta, Avaya, and Nissan UK.