How To Choose A Ceiling Fan – Questions To Ask Yourself

Ceiling fans play an important role in many homes: they help keep you warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer while reducing your heating and cooling bills by circulating the air throughout a room.  They can also provide lighting and add a touch of style to your home.  But the process of selecting a ceiling fan can seem daunting, as there are so many sizes, configurations, and styles on the market.  So we've created a clearinghouse of information to help you research and identify the ceiling fan that best meets your unique needs!

When choosing a ceiling fan, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where will the fan go?  
  • How high is the ceiling?
  • What size fan will I need to regulate the room's temperature efficiently?
  • Do I need lights on my ceiling fan?
  • What type of fan motor will best meet my needs?
  • How do I want to control the fan?  (Pull chain, wall switch, remote, Smart control?)
  • What style of a ceiling fan will best complement my decor?

In the remainder of this article, we'll take an in-depth look at each of these issues.  We'll also explore the pros and cons of various types of fan blades, how to determine if your fan is rotating at optimal speed, and how long you can expect a new ceiling fan to last.  Keep reading for everything you need to know before buying a ceiling fan!  

A classic design ceiling fan. Home appliance and electrical device object photo, How To Choose A Ceiling Fan - Questions To Ask Yourself

Where Will The Ceiling Fan Be Located?

You can narrow down the field of available ceiling fans quickly based on where you plan to place your new fan.  Manufacturers label their ceiling fans as "dry-rated," "damp-rated," or "wet-rated."  Dry-rated fans should be used only indoors and not in bathrooms or laundry rooms (select a damp-rated fan for high-moisture indoor areas like these).  For outdoor use -- on a porch or in a gazebo, for example -- use a damp- or wet-rated fan. 

Click here for wet-rated (outdoor) ceiling fan on Amazon.  

You should always hang the ceiling fan in the center of the room, with two exceptions:

  1. If you have multiple fans servicing a large room, position them in a balanced fashion, equidistant from the walls.  This ensures both aesthetic appeal and efficient airflow. 
  2. If centering a fan would result in uncomfortably chilly airflow over a bed or seating area, the fan can be offset.

The picture below demonstrates both exceptions: two ceiling fans positioned to circulate air without chilling the bed's occupants.

Beautiful hanging ceiling fan of oriental house

How High Should A Ceiling Fan Be?

Ideally, a ceiling fan should be 8' - 9' above the floor.  This height maximizes safety and produces the most efficient airflow.  Most building codes require ceiling fans to be a minimum of 7' above the floor, and in some low-ceilinged rooms, this is the best that can be achieved.

Do You Need A Special Mount For Your Ceiling Fan?

If you plan to put a fan in a room with a low ceiling, you should choose a "flush-mounted"  fan: one whose body mounts very close to the ceiling.  These fans are also known as "ceiling-huggers."

Click here for a flush-mounted ceiling fan on Amazon.

For a modern-sized room whose ceiling is 10' - 11' high, choose a standard ceiling fan, which comes with a short rod that holds the body of the fan 9"-12" down from the ceiling. 

Click here for standard-mount ceiling fan on Amazon.

For a high-ceilinged room, you may need to select a fan with an extension rod (also called a "downrod").  This rod allows the fan's body to hang at the optimal level of 8' - 9' from the floor so that the airflow is most efficient.  Make sure to buy a downrod manufactured specifically for your ceiling fan.

cozy and modern balcony garden with a ceiling fan, Is A Ceiling Fan Considered An Appliance?

Cathedral ceilings often feature fans with downrods.

The following guide shows you what length of downrod you will need, based on the height of your ceiling:

  • 10' ceiling:  12" - 18" 
  • 11' ceiling:  18" - 24" 
  • 12' ceiling:  36" 
  • 13' ceiling:  48" 
  • 14' ceiling:  60" 
  • 15' ceiling:  72"

Finally, if your fan is to be mounted on a sloping ceiling, you will need to purchase a special slope-mounting kit, which features a ball-and-socket joint that lets the fan hang at the correct angle while the mount remains flush with the sloped ceiling.  Again, make sure you buy the kit manufactured for your ceiling fan.  

Click here for a sloped ceiling mount on Amazon.

How Do You Know What Size Ceiling Fan To Buy?

With diameters ranging from 24" - 80", choosing the right size ceiling fan for your project may seem overwhelming.  If your fan is too small for the room, it won't circulate air effectively; on the other hand, if it's too big, it may overwhelm the room, both visually and in terms of airflow.  Fortunately, there are some simple guidelines for selecting a fan size!

 The following guide shows you what range of diameters is recommended, based on the square footage of your room:

  • Less than 75 square feet (e.g., laundry area or walk-in closet):  36" or smaller  
  • 75 - 144 square feet (e.g., bedrooms, living areas up to 12'x12'):  36" - 42" 
  • 144 - 225 square feet (e.g., living rooms, big bedrooms): 44" - 50"
  • 225 - 400 square feet (e.g., living areas 15'x15' through 20'x20'):  50" - 54"
  • More than 400 square feet (e.g., great rooms):  60" or bigger

Click here for this 36" ceiling fan on Amazon. 

Are Five Fan Blades Better Than Three?

Although a ceiling fan can have anywhere from two to nine blades, most come with three, four, or five blades.  Because the fan's primary purpose is to move air, it may seem that five blades would be more effective than three; however, the pitch of the blades (ideally, 15 degrees) is more important than the number of blades on a ceiling fan.  So, deciding how many blades your fan should have is mostly a matter of style rather than effectiveness. 

Click here for a 5-blade ceiling fan on Amazon.

What Material Of Fan Blade Is Most Effective?

Ceiling fan blades are manufactured from one of four materials: MDF, plastic, wood, or metal.  While there is no major difference in these materials' airflow efficiency, there are other factors that may help you determine which is best for your needs. We discuss the pros and cons of each below.


MDF (Medium-Density Fiberboard) is made of sawdust and wood fibers mixed with a hardening adhesive agent, then laminated.  This is the least expensive material for ceiling fan blades and the most commonly available.  It is also the lowest quality; MDF blades should not be used in damp areas such as bathrooms or laundry rooms because the moisture can cause the blades to warp and sag, reducing their effectiveness.   

Click here for a ceiling fan with MDF blades on Amazon.


Plastic blades are also inexpensive, and they are easy to manufacture.  While MDF blades are relatively uniform in shape and design, plastic ceiling fan blades can be produced in various shapes, styles, and colors. They are impervious to water and can be installed on damp-rated and wet-rated fans, as well as on dry-rated ones.  Plastic blades fit in best with modern styles. 

Click here for a ceiling fan with plastic blades on Amazon.


Wooden blades are typically fashioned from balsa, a lightweight, aerodynamic, and sustainable wood; they can also be made of other woods, including walnut, oak, and hickory.  Of the four ceiling fan blade materials, wood is the most difficult to manufacture and thus the most expensive.  However, wooden blades add a unique look -- ranging from rustic charm to polished sophistication -- that is well worth the extra cost to some homeowners.  Wooden blades are thicker and often have a hand-carved appearance.

Click here for a ceiling fan with walnut blades on Amazon.


Metal blades are thinner than the other types and, because of the potential danger they pose when whirling rapidly, most building codes require ceiling fans with metal blades to hang no less than 10' above the floor.  They are excellent for use in large, open rooms with high ceilings.   

Click here for a metal-bladed ceiling fan on Amazon.

Should My Ceiling Fan Have Lights?

If the room where you're installing a ceiling fan has plenty of natural illumination, you can choose one without lights.  If, on the other hand, your room is relatively dark, the lighting on a ceiling fan can make up for this by providing ambient light, bright task lighting, or anything in between.  It's wise to choose a fan with dimmable lights that can be adjusted to suit your needs.

There are four types of lights available on ceiling fans:

  • LED lights are the newest technology.  With a lifespan of 50,000 hours, these highly energy-efficient bulbs cost more initially but pay for themselves over time.  Their style works best with modern, contemporary, and industrial homes.
  • Fluorescent light bulbs last approximately 10,000 hours.  Their light is whiter than that of the other types of bulbs.  They use less energy than incandescent or halogen bulbs but more than LEDs.
  • Halogen bulbs have a much shorter lifespan -- about 1,500 hours.  They use more energy than LEDs or fluorescents but cost less initially.
  • Incandescent bulbs have the shortest lifespan, use the most energy, and emit substantial heat.  However, they are the least expensive to buy, and they fit best with traditional, rustic, and farmhouse decor.   

What Kind Of Motor Is Best?

Older models featured AC (alternating current) motors; however, most ceiling fans today have motors that run on direct current (DC).  DC  motors are lighter, produce less heat, and consume less energy.  They also create more torque, converting electrical energy to mechanical energy as the blades rotate.  Another major advantage of DC motors is that they are virtually noiseless. 

Look for a motor with several speed settings, allowing you to adjust the airflow in your room as needed.  And be sure to check the fan's energy efficiency:  ceiling fans with an Energy Star symbol on the box will move more air with less electricity use.    

How Do You Find The RPM Of Your Fan?

The product label on each ceiling fan model includes the RPM (rotations per minute) that the fan achieves at its highest speed.  For safety reasons, blades are not permitted to spin too quickly:  for 3/16" blades, the maximum speed allowed is 3200' per minute; for 1/8" blades, it is 2400' per minute.  

What Type Of Fan Moves The Most Air?

Air movement is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM).  The CFM rating for each ceiling fan is printed on the product label.  Fans that move 6000+ CFM are the best; those rated 5000 - 5999 CFM are good; ratings of 4000 - 4999 CFM are considered adequate.  

What Type Of Control Is Best?

For controlling your ceiling fan, you can choose from four options:

  • A classic pull-chain is easy to use and can be an excellent option for rooms with low ceilings.
  • A wall switch works well in bedrooms or other spaces where you are not likely to change the fan's speed frequently.
  • A remote control adds the convenience of not having to get up to change the fan's speed; however, it is easy to lose the device.
  • If your home has a Smart system, you can pick a ceiling fan programmed with it.

The option you select depends on your personal preference.    

How Do You Pick A Ceiling Fan That Matches Your Style?


Traditional/classic fans feature dark wood blades of oak or walnut and body colors of polished pewter or antique brass.   They often have a refined appearance, with intricate details, and they add richness and warmth to a room.   

Click here for a traditional ceiling fan on Amazon.


Modern ceiling fans feature sleek design, clean lines, and warm neutral colors.  The body of a modern ceiling fan typically has a metallic finish:  brushed nickel, matte nickel, black, or chrome.   

Click here for a modern ceiling fan on Amazon.


Contemporary ceiling fans are designed to make a statement; they can look like works of art.

Click here for a contemporary ceiling fan on Amazon.


Urban-inspired, with an emphasis on modern machinery, look, industrial ceiling fans typically have propeller-style blades made of wood or metal.  

Click here for a unique metal-bladed fan on Amazon.


Rustic fans convey a natural feel, with wooden (often weathered) blades and pewter or bronze housings.  To maintain the primitive feel, use incandescent or Edison-style bulbs.    

Click here for a rustic ceiling fan on Amazon.


Farmhouse-style ceiling fans combine modern design with a warm, cozy ambiance. 

Click here for a farmhouse ceiling fan on Amazon.


In a cottage-style home, choose all-white ceiling fans.

Click here for a cottage-style ceiling fan on Amazon.


Ceiling fans in the coastal style feature blades of bamboo or rattan, sometimes crafted in the shape of palm fronds.  The housing is typically in a rubbed-brass finish. 

Click here for coastal ceiling fan on Amazon.

How Long Do Ceiling Fans Last?


A classic design ceiling fan. Home appliance and electrical device object photo, How To Choose A Ceiling Fan - Questions To Ask Yourself

Today's ceiling fans typically last about ten years, with higher-quality fans having a substantially longer lifespan than those of lower quality.  Your ceiling fan's life will also be impacted by how often you use it, especially at high speeds. 

In Conclusion

Choosing the best ceiling fan for your home can be a complex decision.  By carefully examining all the important factors, you can ensure that your ceiling fan provides optimal airflow and looks great with your decor!

You may also enjoy the following articles:

Should the Ceiling Fan Match the Ceiling Color?

How To Paint Ceiling Fan Blades? [5 Simple Steps]

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