All of a sudden ceiling fans are becoming quite fashionable. Jeff Dross, Corporate Director of Education & Industry Trends at Kichler explains why.
We’re seeing a lot of decorative choices in ceiling fans these days. What’s going on?
Jeff Dross: One of the main reasons you are seeing so much action and interest in ceiling fans is their potential for energy savings. By adding a ceiling fan, the air conditioning can be increased by two to three degrees – and that can make a significant difference in monthly electric bills, especially in warmer climates. With taller ceilings in the winter, fans can be reversed to push the warmer air down, again allowing for an adjustment in thermostat settings. With this information, consumers, who had previously ignored ceiling fans, are being enticed to reconsider. This new collection of buyer is forcing manufacturers to offer a wider selection of designs, sizes, and styles.
EM: We’re seeing ceiling fans being used in more rooms than ever before. Why?
JD: The National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) annual survey of consumer preferences indicates that ceiling fans are one of the Top 10 most likely products to include in new construction. This desire comes at a time when design style preference may be at its widest. Some customers are seeking more traditional looks for their home, other want more contemporary, and a large group wants something in the middle. To satisfy that wide berth of desire, you are seeing new Traditional, Retro-Modern, and Contemporary fans that work well with furniture, wall coverings, and household appliances.
Because we now know that fan motors should be sized to accommodate blade length and pitch to maximize the efficacy of the fan, smaller and larger diameter fans are now being offered to more effectively fill every room.
When the ceiling fan renaissance started in the 1980s, they were considered to be a very utilitarian commodity with minimal design and technical proficiency. As manufacturers got smarter, interior environmental scientists weighed in on functionality, and designers influenced style so now ceiling fans have become a functional, hard-working, fashion piece in the home.
EM: Should all ceiling fans have light kits?
JD: When fans first became a viable option for a homeowner, they were likely filling a ceiling outlet box previously held by a lighting fixture. To prevent total darkness, a light kit was a necessity and they were hurriedly developed. They always appeared to be “pasted” onto the bottom of a fan. Now, with fully designed fans, the light can be an integral part of the aesthetics, flowing seamlessly into the shape of the body. Many fans now offer two types of lighting, an indirect light that is hidden above the blades and the aforementioned, lower/ambient light. The option to forgo a light is also more prevalent today. If a ceiling is filled with recessed cans, the light on a fan is of little use. A fan can be selected simply for the visual acumen of the blades and center. Decisions on light should now be based on need, then selecting the fan with the most successfully integrated light design – as it should always have been!
EM: What are some of the advances that have affected the performance of ceiling fans for the better?
JD: While DC motors are not new, they had not been employed in ceiling fans until recently. Since first used, their efficacy made them a force to be reckoned with. Their size also made them a favorite with designers, who could now reduce the girth at the center of a fan. Saving an additional 70 percent in energy has made the DC motor ceiling fan the biggest advance in this industry.
Almost as important is “right-sizing” the fan to a room and “right-sizing” the motor to the blades. In the past, bigger was always considered better, but a bigger motor also consumes more energy. A small room did not need a 54-inch blade sweep, but that was typically all that was available. Today, we have motors properly sized to drive the blades and deliver the correct amount of air movement. Retailers are now armed with sweep-to-room area information to help them assist customers in making informed decisions. In turn, both have made operation more energy-efficient.
EM: Many people do not even think of replacing their ceiling fans. Can you give some reasons where it makes sense to upgrade or replace?
JD: There are two reasons to replace old or aged ceiling fans: aesthetics and functionality.
Utilities and state environmental agencies are urging the recycling of old refrigerators. They need these inefficient behemoths off the grid to ensure we have a ready supply of electricity. Old fan motors are no different. The older motors were likely inexpensive and therefore extremely inefficient. Replacing an old fan, even with an ENERGY STAR-qualified AC motor will likely save some costs. Moving up to a DC motor fan will make significant gains. Consumers should evaluate whether their fan’s blade sweep is appropriate for the room size; this could also increase the savings. If the fans date back to when the home was built, they are probably entry-level efficacy and an upgrade might be necessary. Remember too, these motors are working pretty hard, sometimes 24-7. They will eventually stop working. It could be preferable to replace the fan when the consumer “wants to,” rather than “needs to.”
You aren’t wearing bell-bottom slacks and leisure suits any longer, but many fans have been spinning since those fashions were first in vogue. You change your furniture, floor covering, paint, and window dressings. A new, more stylish fan will add to the aesthetic relevance of the room and the overall appearance of the home. If a homeowner can’t remember when the fan was installed, it is likely time to replace the dated look!