With Ceiling Fans, You Get What You Pay For
If you’ve ever shopped for ceiling fans, you've probably been struck by the huge price variations. Fans with the same style and features, blade size and air movement (cfm) specs can cost anywhere from $80 to $300. We wondered if there's really an electrical/mechanical difference between the high-priced fans and the economy models, and whether those differences were worth the extra cash. So we called in Tom Breeden, vice president of engineering at Hunter Fan, to get his take on the issue. We learned that there are two key questions to ask yourself:
1. How much does noise matter to you?
Fan manufacturers offer some great-looking models at really low prices. To sell at those prices, the manufacturers use lower-quality bearings and mounting brackets with minimal noise isolation. The noise levels may be tolerable when the fan is new, but once the bearings wear, the fan will start to wobble and transmit an annoying rumbling sound across your ceiling. Premium fans, on the other hand, are built with high-quality bearings filled with synthetic grease to ensure long life and minimal wear. They also incorporate noise-dampening features into the body, blade irons, downrod connections and ceiling mount to isolate the vibrations created by the fan blades. Noise probably won’t be an issue if you’re installing the fan in a kitchen, eating area or family room. But if you’re buying the fan for a bedroom, living room or study, Tom recommends digging deeper to get a better-quality unit.
2. Will you run it constantly?
Besides longer-lasting bearings, premium fans include higher-quality remote control electronics, switches and speed controls. If you plan to run the fan constantly and want to avoid trouble, buy a premium fan. That’s especially true if the fan will be mounted on a high ceiling where service or replacement can be a real hassle. Tom says fan noise, wobble and shorter life span are the three biggest complaints about economy fans, and he doesn’t recommend them for any location. But we think low-cost fans can be a good choice if you’re on a budget and need a fan for a kitchen, family room or a low-use guest room. Choose a premium fan for a primary bedroom or other areas where you expect peace and quiet.
The innards are what matter
The differences in these small parts may not look significant, but they play a big role in the fan’s noise level and longevity.
Motor bearings: High-quality bearings are the most important component of a premium fan. Low-quality bearings wear out quickly and make noise that transmits up to the ceiling.
Mounting systems: On economy fans, the notched single-insulated ball-and-bracket pin design transmits more vibration to the bracket. The foam-rubber noise isolators compress during installation, allowing the bracket to contact the ceiling and transmit noise. On premium fans, the double-insulated and ribbed triangular “ball” joint transmits far less noise to the bracket. The four rubber noise isolators prevent the bracket from touching the ceiling, further reducing noise transmission.
Electronics and switches: Economy speed and light switches and motor run capacitors fail far more often than premium components.