Ceiling fans are beneficial in warm and cold weather

By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Aug. 2, 2012
- Contributed Photo

With the hot weather at full throttle, it may take running your air conditioning at the same speed to keep you from overheating. But few things can bulk up your electric bill like running A/C. One way to keep fairly cool, while not expending so many kilowatt hours, is using ceiling fans to move the air around. The gentle airflow from a fan can be just enough to keep you cool on many days, and will act as a supplement even when you absolutely have to turn the air conditioning on.

Ceiling fans (technically, paddle fans) are functional and attractive room additions that will add value when you have to sell your home. They can also assist with both heating and cooling your home in the coldest and warmest months of the year, with a switch that reverses the flow of the air as needed. When your heating system is operational, moving the switch up pushes the warm air off the ceiling to warm the whole living space. When the air conditioner is on, moving the switch down forces the cooler air to mix with the warm air at the top of the room. The A/C processes all the air, removing moisture and cooling it as well.

Adding ceiling fans in the biggest and most frequently used living spaces in your home requires only a moderate level of DIY skill. The degree of difficulty varies depending on whether or not you are replacing an existing overhead light or have access to the area between the ceiling joists. If you need to run electricity to the ceiling on which the fan will be mounted, you may need to employ the services of a qualified electrician. If your skills include sizing and adding outlets to your electrical system, you're ahead of the game.

In some towns, you will need a permit from the building department to plan and install ceiling fans. This may only make the project a little more challenging. Check with your town to see what is required, if anything. The paddles of a ceiling fan should be 7 feet from the floor. If your home's ceilings are less than 8 feet, you may need a special kit to have a safely operating unit.

Even the smaller fans are heavy, and they will need an electrical box rated to hold a fan. You will find the words "acceptable for fan support" stamped inside the metal box. That means it will be able to support the weight of the device as well as withstand the motion of the operating fan. These boxes need to be well braced between the joists. So if the box itself cannot be mounted directly on a wooden support cross member, it will need a metal brace designed just for this purpose. The box with brace should cost about $10, perhaps less. Consult the instructions included with the fan to determine how much the fan weighs and what support it will require.

The available configurations and designs make selecting a unit to meet your needs a real challenge. Regardless of design, you will have the option to install only a fan or a fan and light unit. Most units can be controlled by pull chains on the fixture, but these can also be controlled by a wall switch that turns both the fan and the light on and off. If a wall switch is not your preferred method of control, or it would be difficult to impossible to include a wall switch, opt instead for a unit that employs remote control devices.

If you want to replace the light fixture over your kitchen table, and you are concerned with functionality more than glitz and doodads, the basic steps are few. First turn off power to the box mounted in the ceiling. Test the wires for the absence of electricity. Remove the existing light as well as the electrical box. You can leave the old box in the ceiling if you can't easily remove it. Just move the electric cable from the old box to the new one. Install a fan-rated box and any required support bracket. Follow the manufacturer's instruction included in the package. If you have a fan and light combination, assemble the fan first, and attach the light unit last.

Always be safe when working with electricity. And if you feel your skills are not adequate to handle the challenge, call in a professional electrician.

Install a ceiling fan in a room or two now and enjoy the cooling breeze on hot summer days. Then continue to use it when your heating system kicks on to help distribute the warm air evenly.

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