There are many types of fans, one perfect for every corner of your home. You can turn off your air conditioning and save money often if you buy enough fans and use them everywhere. This web page describes ceiling fans, whole house fans, and large and small portable fans.


Window Fans
Portable Fans
Energy Tips for Using Window Fans and Portable Fans
Whole House Fans
Ceiling Fans
Energy Tips for Buying, Mounting and Using Ceiling Fans
Fan Electrical Safety

If your top floor doesn’t get cool enough when your air conditioning is running or if you want to use less air conditioning to save money, you can circulate the air with fans and make your top floor or your whole house much more comfortable. Learn how to use fans in place of air conditioning in every room of your home.

When the outdoor air is cooler than the indoor air, fans can draw in outdoor air to cool your home, while removing air that is more humid and not as clean as outdoor air. You may need to move a few fans around, and open and close a few windows, and you will need to live with a little less comfort when the air conditioning is turned off, but you could lower your electric bills by a lot.

Breezes cool you because air moving rapidly past you causes heat to leave your body, so when using fans you can raise the thermostat temperature by a few degrees with the same comfort level, and you can at times turn off the air conditioning. By using fans you can do less repair and replacement of your air conditioners.

If your top floor is too hot in summer, there may be little or no insulation between the attic and the top floor, allowing too much heat from the attic to radiate downward.  See the Chapter, Attics. For energy tips on using air conditioners, see the chapter, Air Conditioning.

Window Fans

Window fans are normally used to cool the home by blowing out air, which is replaced by cooler air entering from open windows or infiltration. Some have reversible direction, so cool air can be blown in. They have rain-resistant motors and “expander panels”, which slide outward to block air from flowing around the fan. Without these panels,  the air pressure would be lower behind the fans, causing outside air to be drawn in next to the fans and immediately blown out. The fans would be much less effective. Box fans are often used in window openings, but are much less effective because they have no expander panels. Also, they are not rain-resistant.

There are single blade window fans, which normally have 16″ or 20” blades and are used in double hung windows. There are dual blade window fans, which have two 7″, 8” or 9” blades and are also used in double hung windows, and there are window fans designed for sliding windows and casement windows, called “vertical window fans”. Most of these have three small blades.

8″ Dual Blade Window Fan


use fans in place of air conditioning

Single Blade Window Fan with 16″ Blades

cool your home with fans

Vertical Window Fan in Sliding Window














Single blade window fans create much greater airflow than dual blade window fans, but they block the view through the window. Most single blade fans create airflows of between 2500 CFM and 3500 CFM. Dual blade fans have airflow rates in the range of 750 CFM to 1500 CFM. These ranges are only approximate because most manufactures don’t give them, but they may be printed on the box or on the company’s website or the store’s website. The maximum airflows are similar for fans of a particular blade size with three speeds. They are similar because the fans would be too noisy at a higher speed. The wattages are not given for most window fans, but you can estimate it using the models which do the wattage. One 1400 CFM dual blade window fan uses 70 watts at high speed and one 3560 CFM single blade fan shown above uses 170 watts at high speed. These wattages may not indicate your electricity usage because you may run the fan at lower speeds to be quieter.

Almost all window fans have three speeds, some models allow the window screen to remain in, and some are “electrically reversible”, to blow air in or out. Window fans with thermostat control measure the inside and outside temperatures and go on when the outside temperature is cooler than the inside temperature. To use these you must leave the window open during the day. If you have fans that do not have thermostat control you can leave the windows closed with the fans removed or cover the fans with the plastic cover that is provided with some fans, or cover them with a make-shift plastic cover. With the fans covered, watch an outside thermometer to know when to turn them on. There are 10″ weather resistant box fans with thermostat control that can be used as window fans. They are easier to put in a window opening because they have no side panels.

Use and care manuals warn that it is unsafe, but not forbidden to use an extension cord, so try to use window fans in windows close to electrical outlets. Never use an old cord or a thin, low-wattage cord designed for lamps. Both of these present serious fire hazards. See, Fan Electrical Safety


Portable Fans

You can create a breeze that cools you anywhere in your home if you use the right fan. Buy many types of portable fans and test them to find which work best in every part of your home:  box fans, floor fans, stand fans (pedestal fans), table top fans and clip on fans.

Box Fans

types of fans

20″ Box Fan

Box fans are large, inexpensive, relatively powerful fans that rest on the floor. Most models have three speeds. They run quietly at low speed and create a high airflow at high speed. The 20″ models create airflows of over 2000 CFM (cubic ft. per min). Most models should not be used in windows because they are not rain-resistant.

Box fans are more popular than stand fans because they are less expensive, easier to carry from room to room, and easier to store. Most have 20” blades, which gives them greater airflow than stand fans, but they need greater airflow to cool as well as stand fans because they blow the air close to the floor, where you don’t feel it as strongly, and because the air doesn’t move across the room well at floor level. There are 10″ rain resistant box fans which can be used either as window fans or set on the floor. These are lighter in weight than window fans.

Floor Fans


14″ Floor Fan


High Velocity Floor Fan – 20″









Floor fans are large fans that rest on the floor an tilt upward. They basically have greater airflow than any other type of portable fan. They cool more effectively than box fans because they can be tilted upward to aim the breeze toward your upper body and because the air flows farther.

Floor fans are available in a very wide range of sizes, from models with small 9″ blades that produce only about 300 CFM to models with 20″ blades that produce 5000 CFM. The largest stand fans produce about 3000 CFM.

The maximum airflow is not given for most models but those that produce very high airflow may be labeled as “20 inch high velocity floor fans”. The size and weight of a floor fan will help you estimate its airflow relative to other floor fans. Weights are given on the websites of the store where the fans are sold. The largest floor fans available at most stores produce airflow of about 3000 CFM.

Stand Fans (Pedestal Fans)

fans instead of air conditioning

18″ High Airflow Stand Fan

Stand fans, also called “pedestal fans”, are mounted on adjustable-height stands. They can be more effective than floor fans or box fans because they create a breeze at chest level where you feel it more strongly, and because air flows farther at that level. Many are designed to oscillate about 80º to cover a large area. Their maximum airflow is limited by the size and weight of the base.

Stand fans with high airflow rates and heavy bases are not popular, largely because they are hard to move around the house. The most popular models have a light-weight disk base and 16” blades that produce about 1100 CFM. This is about half the airflow of the typical box fan. Models with heavy disk bases may have 18” blades and produce about 2000 CFM. The largest models have large, four-legged bases and produce over 3000 CFM. These can create breeze for an entire floor. They are not popular, partly because they are harder to store. Oscillating stand fans can be used next to a window air conditioner or a mini split heat pump to circulate its cold air throughout the room.

Tower Fans

42″ Tower Fan

Tower fans are tall, narrow fans that are shaped like a tower and have no blades. In place of blades they have a long, thin drum with many small wind vanes attached. The drum rotates within an outer casing and the wind vanes throw out air all along the fan. The outer casing has an opening directs the air. Many models oscillate, to cool a large area. The most popular models range from 3 ft. to 4 ft. tall. They are quieter than any other type of large, portable fan because the rotating drum is in a casing and because their are no blades.

Tower fans are very popular, in spite of being the most expensive type of portable fan. They are good for bedrooms because they are quiet and take up less floor space. Their airflows range from less than 1000 CFM to over 3000 CFM. This is about the same as the range of airflows of stand fans. Some models have a feature called an “ionizer”. This allows the fan to electrically remove dust and smoke from the air as it passes through.

12″ Table Top Tower Fan

Table top (desktop) tower fans are typically about 12″ high. They are quieter and produce higher airflows than other table top fans, so they are good to set on a table or desk to cool you while you work. Many models produce about 400 CFM. Their airflows are usually not given on the packages or the websites.

The energy efficiency of tower fans is hard to compare to that of stand fans because the manufacturers of each type seldom give the wattage used by their products. However, tower fans that have ionizer features are much less efficient than those that do not, because ionizers use much electricity.

Table Fans

7″ Table Fan

Table fans, also called table top fans, range in size from fans with 4″ blades that you set close to you on a desk or table, to models with 12″ blades which can move air across the room. The smallest models have airflows of about 160 CFM and the 12″ models have airflows ranging from 400 to 900 CFM. They cool you fairly well and some can be plugged into your desktop computer while you work. These are called “usb fans”. The smallest models are the most energy efficient type of fan because they can cool you as well as larger fans if you are sitting at a desk or table, while using much less electricity. There are oscillating models and other features available such as three speeds.

As stated above, there are also table top tower fans. These are normally about 12″ tall and produce about 400 CFM. They are quiet and powerful and take up less desk space than table fans that produce this much airflow.

You can estimate the maximum airflow of a table fan if it is not given by comparing its weight and blade diameter to that of larger and smaller models. The weight is often given on websites and the heaviest fans tend to have the highest airflows.

Clip On Fans

6″ Clip On Fan

“Clip on fans” are very small fans that clamp onto the edge of a desk or table, so they don’t take any space. They are quieter than most table fans because most table fans make a little noise by vibrating against the table. Many are battery powered, and easy to move around the house.

Most clip on fans have 5″ or 6″ blades and some are smaller. Their airflows are seldom given on their packages, but you can roughly compare the airflows of different models by comparing their blade diameters and comparing their power sources. For example, 120-volt clip on fans have the highest airflows and models powered by double A batteries normally have about the lowest airflows. They may be powered by 120-volt or 12-volt current, or by two D Cell batteries or by two double A batteries. Some are powered through a USB charging cable so they can be charged by a laptop, desktop, or USB transformer.


Energy Tips for Using Window Fans and Portable Fans

    • Cool a large room or an entire floor by creating cross-ventilation, using  one or two window fans, or stand fans next to open windows. With two fans, run them on opposite sides of the room or floor with one blowing in and one blowing out. A window fan will blow inward if it is electrically reversible.  direction.  To create cross-ventilation using one fan, run it at a window  and open about two windows on the opposite side of the room or floor.
    • When the nights are cool and the days are hot enough to use air conditioning,  run window fans, or stand fans next to open windows all night long.  Much of the heat energy stored in the walls, floors and ceilings of your home will be released into the air and escape from the house, so you will need much less air conditioning on those days.
    • If your home is two-story or three-story, use at least one window or stand fan to blow out air on the top floor, and open one or more windows on the first floor (and second floor if the home is 3-story) for the air to enter. This allows the hot air in your home to rise to the top floor and escape, taking advantage of the “chimney affect”. This will create greater airflow.
    • To cool a room rapidly on cool evenings, close the door to the room, run a window fan or stand fan to blow out air and open the window farthest from it to give the air a long path.

Outdoor Thermometer

    • Own at least three stand fans. With your windows closed, you can move them to locations where they will create breeze almost anywhere you are in your home.
    • Mount an outdoor thermometer outside a window where you can see it from inside, and mount an indoor thermometer nearby, to quickly compare the temperatures. When the outside air is cooler, you can open windows and blow out air with fans.

Outdoor thermometers are sold at garden stores, hardware stores, and garden departments of home centers.

    • Instead of using an indoor and an outdoor thermometer, mount a thermometer inside which has an inside and an outside temperature sensor. These are available at many hardware and home centers.
    • When the outside air is cooler than the inside air in the early morning, run a window fan

      Daily Timer

      or a stand fan to blow out the air and use a daily timer to shut it off in late morning after you have left.  A daily timer is plugged into the outlet where the fan was plugged in. Use a heavy duty model, not one designed for a table lamp. You will need less air conditioning in the evening because heat energy will escape from the floors, walls, and ceilings while the fan is running. A thermostat-controlled window fan could also be used. These measure the inside and outside temperatures and turn the fan off when the inside and outside temperatures are similar. There are window fans available which close a door when the fans turns off to stop air from entering.


    • If the outside air is only slightly warmer than the inside air when you go to bed, open at least two upstairs windows. Before long the outside air will be cooler than the inside air and warm air will flow out of the house. If there is air leakage around doors and windows, air will enter on the first floor or basement and warm air will flow out through the open windows due to the chimney effect.  The home will lose heat energy throughout the night and as a result need less air conditioning the next day.
    • When a fan is blowing air out a window, close the nearby windows. The air pressure is slightly lower near the fan, and this would draw air into the home through any nearby open windows. It would be blown out by the fan, and much less air would be drawn into the home through windows in other rooms, to cool the home.
    • Use an oscillating stand fan next to a window air conditioner or mini split heat pump to circulate its cold air throughout the room.
    • With the whole house air conditioning running, raise the thermostat temperature by a few degrees and check if certain rooms are uncomfortable. If a room is too warm, use a large stand fan or large floor fan to blow air into it from a cooler room.
    • Leave open the door to the basement and run a box fan at the top of the basement stairs, or run a stand fan at the bottom, to bring up the cooler air from the basement. The basement can be 20 degrees cooler than the first floor.
    • If you have transoms that don’t open, restore them to working order by cutting the paint around their edges. They were designed to allow air to flow through the house with the interior doors closed and the windows open. In  rooms you want to cool with window fans with the doors closed, open the transoms and a window in each room.

In the Bedrooms:

    • Sleep with a stand fan or tower fan blowing breeze over the bed. A tower fan is the quietest type of large portable fan. A high airflow stand fan running at a low speed is quieter than a low airflow model running at high speed, creating about the same airflow.
    • If you cool a bedroom with a window fan while you sleep, control it with a daily timer. These are simple to use and inexpensive. The fan cord is plugged into it.  You could, for example, set the timer to run the fan for two hours before going to bed to cool the room and until midnight. Set it to turn off the fan for quieter sleeping. With a daily timer you can check the weather forecast each day and then set the timer. Buy a heavy duty model, not one designed for a table lamp.
    • If you sometimes fall asleep with a fan running when you meant to turn it off, buy a “wireless remote control appliance switch kit”, to turn off the fan using a remote. A component is plugged into an electrical outlet and the  fan cord is plugged into it. The kit shown allows you to control five appliances from either of two remote switches, so you can turn off your fans and lamps from your bed. They are sold at home centers and online.

In the Home Office:

    • The quietest way to create a strong breeze at a desk is to use a 48″ tower fan, not oscillating. For extra breeze, use a clip on fan at your desk or table.
    • Use a 12″ table top tower fan at your desk or table. They are quiet, powerful and take little desk space. You feel breeze from a different direction than when using a tower fan or a stand fan in the office.

In the Kitchen:

    • If your floor space is very limited, use a large tabletop fan (12″) on a table or on a counter. If your floor space is fairly limited, use an oscillating stand fan adjusted to a height higher than the counters.

In the Living Room:

    • Use one or two high airflow oscillating stand fans, floor fans or oscillating tower fans.

In the Workshop:

    • Use a large oscillating stand fan, adjusted to be higher than the work bench.


Energy Tips for Whole House Fans

Whole house fans draw air forcefully out of the whole house through the attic floor. They have greater airflows than any other type of fan. They push out the warm attic air through the attic vents, which draws air into the home through open windows. This cools the home when the outside air is cooler than the indoor air. Large fans can purge a house of hot air in two to three minutes. Some whole house fans have shutters that close automatically when the fan is not operating. Unless your home is unusually air-tight, a whole house fan will cool the home without the need to leave windows open.

    • Install a whole house fan if you have central air conditioning or several window units, to turn off the air conditioning on cool evenings. There are two types of whole house fans that are mounted to the attic floor: belt drive fans and direct drive fans. Belt drive fans are generally quieter but more costly, but the more expensive direct drive fans are also quiet. To avoid cutting a very large hole in your attic floor, install a ducted whole house fan. These are mounted nearby, normally to the attic ceiling rafters above the opening in the ceiling. They are very quiet.
    • If you install a whole house fan, your attic should have as much attic vent area as required by the fan’s manufacturer, or the fan will move less air out of the house. Also, the air pressure in the attic will become too high, forcing hot attic air down into the living area and causing a push on the roof structure, which could be harmful.
    • You can install a fan that requires more attic vent area than you have by cutting additional soffit or gable vents or by installing one or two roof turbine vents. Roof turbine vents rely on wind to be fully effective but they vent air when there is no wind. They are used mainly in warm climates, where the homes use more cooling that heating.
    • Run your whole house fan all night when possible. The walls, floors and ceilings of your home will lose heat energy into the cooler air and be exhausted from the home, so less air conditioning will be needed the next day.
    • Run your whole house fan when the outside air is cooler than the inside air, and open only the windows in the rooms you are using. These rooms will become cool almost immediately.
    • If you use a fireplace, you must open several windows when using a whole house fan to avoid drawing air down the chimney and bringing soot into the home.
    • To save energy you could replace the fan’s switch, which is normally mounted below it on a wall, with a mechanical timer switch, to turn off the fan after about 4 hours. This would also prevent the fan’s noise from waking people early in the morning.
    • Codes now require that you install a separate electrical circuit for any new whole house fan.  The cable can be run from the basement along the outside of the house, or through the chase way that boxes in the plumbing stack. The stack is a large pipe that is an air vent from the roof to the kitchen and bathrooms, and a drain below them.

30″ Belt Drive Whole House Fan

30″ Direct Drive Whole House Fan

Ducted Whole House Fan















Advantages and Disadvantages in Installing a Whole House Fan:

    • In cool evenings, they can cool the home faster than whole house air conditioning.
    • It should increase the property value of the home
    • They purify the home’s air by replacing it
    • They are quieter than using window air conditioners, good for sleeping
    •  They create a comfortable breeze, especially in rooms with open windows.
    • They use less electricity than running many portable fans
    • Whole house fans that are mounted directly to the attic floor are at least slightly noisy  due to air flowing rapidly through them, and some less expensive direct drive fans are noisier. When sleeping with the bedroom door open, this bothers some people.
    • They require much labor to install. Can only be done by contractors or very experienced do-it-yourselfers. They require installing cable from circuit panel to fan. Switch may require wiring but wireless controls are a feature on some fans. Most models require cutting attic floor joist and framing out a 30″ x 30″ or 36″x 36″ opening.
    • On rainy days, they raise the humidity in the home to near 100%. When the pollen count is high, pollen will enter.

If your home is mid 20th century, it may have a whole house fan that is not working. It will be above the hallway near the center of the house. These were built into many homes in the days before central air conditioning. You should be able to fix it yourself. If the fan doesn’t run, the motor is probably burned out. The original motor cannot be purchased, but these old whole house fans are belt-driven, so any motor of that horsepower can be used to repair it.

Ceiling Fans

52″ Ceiling Fan with LED lighting

Ceiling fans create a breeze, which allows you to turn down or turn off your air conditioning. It has been estimated that a correctly-sized ceiling fan can allow you to raise the air conditioning thermostat setting by as much as 4°F with no reduction in comfort. Sleeping with a ceiling fan running allows you to use less air conditioning because the breeze removes a layer of warm air from the blanket.

A ceiling fan uses only about as much electricity as an incandescent light bulb. The largest models use about 85 watts and the smallest use about 50 watts. The right fan will beautify almost any room, increasing the property value of your home.

Energy Tips for Buying, Mounting and Using Ceiling Fans

Energy Tips for Buying Ceiling Fans 

    • To use less air conditioning, install ceiling fans in all of the rooms where they are commonly used: the living room, the bedrooms and the sun room. Installed in other rooms they would appear out-of-place and may not increase the property value of your home.
    • For quiet operation, buy a larger fan than necessary so you can run it at low speed, because all fans are quiet at low speed. Also, fans with a high number of blades are designed to move the same amount of air while rotating slower, making them quieter. If possible, listen to the fan in operation before you buy it. The least expensive fans tend to be a little noisier, but not all of them.

Almost all ENERGYSTARTM qualified fans are 52” or larger, which shows that large fans are the most efficient. The airflow efficiencies in CFM/watt are given on the labels of all fans and also on the websites of some retail stores. The efficiency is the product of the fan’s size, the blade pitch (the angle of the blade), the number of blades, the shape of the blades, and the efficiency of the motor.

    • Compare the maximum airflows of the fans you are considering buying. Fans of the same size can have very different maximum airflows because they have different blade pitches, numbers of blades, motor speeds, and blade shapes. The maximum airflow is given on a fan’s label on the box, in CFM (cubic ft. /min). It may also be given in a fan’s specifications, which is on the website of some retail stores.
    • A ceiling fan that is controlled by a remote may use less electricity per month than one that is operated by a pull chain because if a fan has a pull chain you may not always turn it off when you leave the room.
    • For bedrooms, buy ceiling fans that are large for the room size. You can run them at a lower speed to create the same airflow and they will be quieter.
    • Some manufacturers advise you to mount two fans in a room that is greater than 18 feet long.
    • Some very large ceiling fans must be oiled periodically. If you wouldn’t oil it, don’t buy one of these models.
    • If it will be installed in a bedroom, buy a model with a remote so you can turn it off while in bed to save electricity.
    • If there are loose papers that would be disturbed by a strong breeze, buy a fan that is larger than the manufacturer’s recommended size and run it at low speed.

Energy Tips for Using Ceiling Fans 

    • Use ceiling fans to draw air into the home on cool evenings. If you open upper sashes instead of lower sashes, slightly more air will be pulled in.
    • If you use many ceiling fans, post a note next to the air conditioning thermostat control, such as:


    • If you use ceiling fans in the winter and in the summer, post a note on a wall to remind you to reverse the fans’ direction. For example:


    • Check that your ceiling fans rotate counter clockwise in the cooling season. All ceiling fans rotate this way to push air downward to create breeze. If a fan is rotating clockwise in the cooling season, reverse its direction by sliding a switch on the side of the fan or by pressing the “reverse” button on the remote. If the fan has neither of these it may have a switch on its top surface or you may have to remove a small cover plate on the bottom to access the switch.
    • When you run ceiling fans with the central air conditioning operating, raise the thermostat temperature a few degrees so that the air conditioner runs a little less.
    • Do not run the fans in winter, in reverse direction unless the ceilings are unusually high. Fan manufacturers and utility companies recommend that you run them in winter in reverse direction to remove the layer of warm air at the top of the room, but if you don’t have unusually high ceilings, the effect is almost insignificant and there are problems with doing it. First, people very often forget to reverse the direction when the cooling season starts, and the fan runs in the wrong direction all summer. Second, it shortens the life of the fan and may cause the blades to loosen sooner.
    • Never leave ceiling fans running when no one is in the room. Their motors may be very hot and radiate heat into the room, slightly raising the room’s temperature. Several ceiling fans running in a home could raise the home’s temperature by 1º, which adds to the cost of air conditioning. In addition to this, the cost of running several fans all day adds to the electric bill.
    • If a fan is using 60-watt incandescent bulbs, replace them with 13-watt mini-CFL bulbs, or with LED bulbs. Incandescent bulbs convert about 80% of the electricity used into heat, which increases the need for air conditioning in the room.
    • If you sleep with a ceiling fan running, it will cool you better if you use a very loose weave blanket.
    • If you let your bedroom ceiling fan run all night because you don’t get out of bed to turn it off, convert it to remote control. A “ceiling fan remote kit” can be used to convert most ceiling fans. The remote can be supported in a wall bracket next to the light switch, allowing you to turn on the fan when you enter the room or carry it with you. The kit includes  a remote, a wall bracket and a receiver that you install in the canopy of the fan or in the ceiling next to the fan. The kits are sold at most stores where fans are sold.
    • If the blades of a fan are higher than about 8 ft. above the floor, replace the  downrod with a longer one to lower the fan to about 7 ft. above the floor.  A downrod is a pipe that supports the fan’s motor and blades, with wires running through it. You can replace any downrod with a longer one, but only if there is enough extra wire in the electrical box. The installer may have left extra wire to allow the fan to be lowered. It is unsafe to extend the wires by joining them to new wires inside the downrod. Downrods are sold at most stores where ceiling fans are sold and these can be used for almost all ceiling fans.
    • Mount one or two ceiling fans in your porch if you would spend more time there with your air conditioning turned off. They must be labeled, “inside/outside” or “for wet locations” and should be 60” or 52”.
    • If you have a ceiling fan that you don’t use because it wobbles, repair it. Fans wobble either because the blades are loose or because they are out of balance, that is, one or more blades are too high or too low. If the blades are loose, tighten the screws with a #3 Phillips screw driver. This is larger than the common Philips screw driver. To balance the blades, check that the distance from the tip of each blade to the ceiling is the same. If the tip of a blade is higher, tape a weight, such as a large steel nut onto it. If the tip of a blade is slightly low and the blade is connected to a brace with three screws, loosen the screws and slip in a shim or piece of cardboard to slightly raise its angle.
    • If you have a ceiling fan you don’t use because it shakes or wobbles, it may not be firmly mounted. The fan’s mounting bracket is mounted to an electrical box and the electrical box may not be firmly mounted. To check, lower the canopy to see the mounting bracket and electrical box. Shake the fan and check if the electrical box moves. Often, an electrical box designed for a ceiling light is being used, and this is unsafe. The screws that attach the mounting bracket to it are thinner than those used with ceiling fans, and the box may not be strongly mounted. Nails may have been used to mount the box instead of screws. The vibration of a ceiling fan may loosen this type of box.

      Fan Box Mounted to Brace

Electrical boxes designed for ceiling lights are rectangular metal boxes with an opening of about 2” by 4”. If your fan is mounted to one of these, you should replace it with a ceiling fan box. If you cannot do this because the wiring in it is very old and could break if you replace the box, you may be able to mount the mounting bracket directly to the ceiling. If your ceiling is made of plaster with wooden lath strips (pre-1960’s) you can screw the mounting bracket to lath strips.

The fan may be loose because it has a fan box that is screwed to a brace, and these screws came loose from the vibration. All fan boxes are mounted to braces which are attached to the joists on either side of the fan box.

    • Check if any of your ceiling fans must be oiled periodically. The large majority of fans sold today have “sealed bearings”, which do not require oiling. Some high-end ceiling fans require oiling, as do many very old ceiling fans. There are several signs that a fan has gone too long without being oiled: the blades are slightly hard to turn by hand; the fan is slightly noisy; the fan has a burning smell.

Fans that require oiling are usually made of cast iron and are very heavy. These may have an oil port and an oil reserve below the motor, which you access by removing plates, or they may have an oil port at the top of the motor. It is best to check with the fan’s manufacturer for instructions on oiling these fans. If you have no instructions, use 10- or 20-weight non-detergent oil. The oil port is a very small hole with “oil” stamped next to it. After adding oil, run the motor at low speed for a few minutes to distribute the oil. If run on high speed it may sling the oil around the room.

    • If a ceiling fan that was not designed to be oiled has blades that do not turn freely by hand and do not coast, or if it makes noise as the blades spin, the bearings may need to be oiled. This is more likely if the fan has been running in dirty, dusty air. Use a 10 or 20 weight non-detergent motor oil. WD40 can be used to clean very dirty bearings, but after using it you must oil the bearings with 10 or 20 weight non-detergent motor oil.

On some fans you must disassemble the motor to access to the bearings. There are bearings at the top and bottom of the motor that should be oiled. Bearings that are particularly dirty or worn can be replaced. The motor has to be disassembled, in which case they can be pulled or punched out. Replacements are available at motor and bearing shops.

Energy Tips for Mounting Ceiling Fans

    • Ceiling fan installation instructions may require that you use a ceiling fan box, so replace an electrical box that was designed for a ceiling light with a ceiling fan box if possible. In many cases you can avoid replacing the box by securing the mounting bracket strongly to the ceiling with screws. The box must be mounted very strongly because the vibrations could otherwise loosen the box. Also, a ceiling box designed for a light has smaller mounting screws for the fixture mounted to it. Homes built in recent decades may have their ceiling lights mounted to large, round plastic boxes that are designed for lights or fans. “For Ceiling Fan Use” is stamped on them.

There are ways to make a ceiling box stronger without replacing it. For example, if an unfinished attic is above the ceiling box, you could nail a 2×4 between the two nearby joists to support the electrical box. If the ceiling is made from plaster with lath strips you could screw the mounting bracket to the lath strips. If the ceiling is made from drywall you may be able to mount the mounting bracket to it using very large toggle bolts. If you drill into drywall to use toggle bolts, be very careful not to drill into an electrical cable.

    • If the ceiling is very high mount a down rod between the ceiling and the motor to lower the blades to 7 to 8 ft. above the floor. This creates the strongest airflow. Down rods of many lengths are available wherever fans are sold. The instructions for assembling a fan show how to assemble it with a longer down rod.
    • Ceiling fans must be mounted with their blades at least 7 ft. above the floor for safety. If the ceiling is too low for 7 ft. blade clearance, check if it is high enough for “flush mounting”. This is removing the standard short down rod and mounting the motor and blades a few inches higher. Many ceiling fans offer this option.

Ceiling Fan with Standard Short Downrod

Flush Mounted Ceiling Fan

Ceiling Fan with Long Downrod









    • When screwing a blade onto the motor, be careful to hold the blade at the correct angle or you could strip the threads in the motor. The motor is aluminum so the threads are not hard to damage. This would be difficult or impossible to repair.  Put in the screws carefully with a screwdriver, not a power tool.
    • If the fan will be controlled by a wall switch, a dimmer designed for lights cannot be used. Only a ceiling fan dimmer may be used. A dimmer that is not designed for ceiling fans will destroy a ceiling fan by reducing the voltage to a level that is too low for a fan motor.
    • If the fan has pull chain control and you install a ceiling fan dimmer, set the pull chain speed at high. Cut off the chain to prevent someone from changing the fan speed because if the dimmer and the pull chain control are at low speed the motor will burn up.
    • A ceiling fan can be installed on a ceiling of any slope, but if it is greater than about 34 degrees a special mounting cap and down rod must be used. The installation instructions should explain this.

Fan Electrical Safety

Using Extension Cords:

  1. Try to avoid using extension cords because they are never 100% safe. You may be able to avoid using them by buying fans with long cords or by installing new outlets.
  2. If you must use an extension cord, no not use a “lamp extension cord”. These have thin, 18 gage wire which is only safe when used for one lamp. They are labelled 18/2 or 18/3. If used for a fan, the cord could overheat and start a fire (18 gage wire is thinner than 16 gage wire).
  3. If you must use an extension cord, buy a new cord. A used cord may be damaged or may not be long enough to put it completely out of the way. If the cord is too short, you could trip on it or damage it by stepping on it. Also, a new extension cord will have the gage written on the package, which will prevent you from using a lamp extension cord.
  4. Never run an extension cord under a rug or carpet, because stepping on the carpet could damage the cord.
  5. Never use an extension cord in wet areas such as bathrooms.
  6. If a fan will be used close to a wall but far from the nearest outlet, you could install a new outlet using wire channel,

    Wire Channel Outlet Box and Cross Section

    and you can do this yourself if you are handy. A wire channel outlet is mounted to the surface of a wall, and wire channel is mounted along the baseboard leading to it from another outlet. Wire channel is commonly referred to as “wiremold”, but wiremold is actually a brand name. A do-it-yourselfer can install a wire channel outlet by following the instructions on the package and watching a video that shows how to do it.

  7. If a cord is used where people walk, cover it with a rubber “cord protector” or “overfloor cord protector”. These are sold at hardware stores and home centers.

I hope you will take a close look at these many types of fans and buy some of them so you can turn off your A/C!