10 tips

By Laura T. Coffey, Times Correspondent
Published May 20, 2007

Ah, Florida in May. It's hot outside, and it's only going to get hotter. If you're looking for ways to beat the heat, a ceiling fan can be a great investment for your home. This one appliance can make a room feel 6 or 7 degrees cooler, and even the most power-hungry fan costs less than $10 a month to use if you keep it on for 12 hours a day. Consider these shopping tips:

1 Don't pay too little. At first glance, ceiling fans ranging in price from $50 to $500 can look similar. But here's the rub: Lower-end fans often have inefficient motors and inadequate blades. They also tend to make more noise and require more service over time. Listen to different models before you buy.

2 Take measurements. Think about the size of the room you want to cool and use this guide: Select a 36-inch fan for rooms up to 100 square feet; a 42-inch fan for up to 144 square feet; a 44- or a 48-inch fan for up to 225 square feet; and a 52- or 54-inch fan for up to 400 square feet. Got even more space than that? A whopping 60-inch fan will work for spaces up to 625 square feet.

3 Pay attention to the capacitors. Unless you enjoy buzzing and humming sounds, don't buy a multispeed fan with only one capacitor inside its motor. A quality fan able to handle three speeds should have at least three capacitors.

4 Consider the blade size. Want to run your fan at a low speed and still cool your room down? Larger fan blades will accomplish that for you better than smaller blades will. It's a key detail to remember, especially if you plan to operate the fan in a room where lots of loose papers and other items could get stirred up easily.

5 Pick the right angle. Your fan's blades ideally should be set at a 14-degree angle. Blades set at a 10-degree angle will simply slice the air, while blades at a 20-degree angle will meet so much wind resistance that the motor may burn out.

6 Install the fan the right way. Because it can be much more complicated to install a ceiling fan than a ceiling-light fixture, you might want to consider having your fan put in by a licensed electrician.

7 Give your fan enough support. Ceiling fans are heavy when they're completely assembled - and they move. To avoid a catastrophe, never mount a ceiling fan on a standard light box. Instead, mount the fan to a special framing member above the junction box, or install a special fan box on the framing or braced to the framing.

8 Steer clear of "huggers." Make sure the fan isn't fit too snugly to the ceiling. That would prevent it from doing its job because there wouldn't be enough air between the fan and the ceiling for the fan to circulate. If your ceiling is 10 feet high, get a 12-inch down rod - the pole from which your fan hangs.

9 Reduce your utility bills in the summer. Equipped with a good ceiling fan, you can raise your thermostat setting by about 4 degrees without noticing any difference comfort-wise.

10 Look for more savings in the winter. Buy a fan with a reverse-direction feature and use that feature when it's chilly outside. It will circulate the warm air trapped near the ceiling and make the whole room feel warmer.

Laura T. Coffey laura@tentips.org

Sources: Money magazine (money.cnn.com); U.S. Depart- ment of Energy (www.eere.energy.gov/consumer/); About.com (summer.about.com)