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Beat the heat: Ceiling fans add panache to porches and create soft summer breezes


In some cultures, ceiling fans symbolize balance, good fortune and abundance.

A staple in warm climates, ceiling fans — both indoors and outside — add movement, air flow, a light source and can even help naturally repel pesky insects like mosquitoes.

Dennis Gehman, owner of Gehman Design Remodeling, Inc. in Harleysville, Montgomery County, said porches and covered patios are ideal locations for a sheltered, outdoor ceiling fan.

“If there is a porch or covered patio almost always you’ll see ceiling fans as part of that. People first think about aesthetics or how it looks,” Gehman said.

Outdoor Ceiling Fans 101

While outdoor-rated ceiling fans can always be used inside, the reverse — taking a ceiling fan meant for indoor use only and hanging it outdoors — isn’t true.

“People may think it’s O.K. to put an indoor fan outdoors if it’s under cover but the way the blades are made and with the humidity those indoor blades are not constructed the same way,” he explained.

Indoor ceiling fans used outdoors can become a safety hazard. The blades can droop and warp and the finish can degrade, he said.

“They may twist so the blade is not at the correct angle, which may make it noisier, too,” Gehman said.

Look for outdoor-rated fans with blades made from composite or metal materials such as aluminum.

The ceiling light fixture attached to an outdoor ceiling fan must also be rated for outdoor use, according to Gehman.

Outdoor fans are heavier and the electrical box used to mount an outdoor ceiling fan must be rated to hold the weight and endure the unit’s movement.

“Because the outdoor fan is heavier, if there is any kind of wobble it can be downright dangerous,” Gehman said.

He recommends hiring a skilled electrician offering professional services for ceiling fan wiring and mounting boxes, as well as ceiling fan installation.

Most ceiling fans come from the manufacturer properly grounded to install, which is especially important to operate them safely due to seasonal humidity and rain, Gehman said.

He said screen porch ceiling fans are offered in wicker and wrought iron styles, as well as a variety of other materials, colors and sizes.

Indoor Ceiling Fans 101

According to The, consider the space where you’ll have the ceiling fan and your goals when selecting it for inside use.

The size and number of blades should be dictated by the size of the room. Discuss appropriate ceiling fan sizes with your retailer, interior design professional, a contractor or your electrician. Sizing charts are also available online.

Do you want a fan with adjustable speed settings or remote controls? Smart features, quiet operation or a light fixture are also ceiling fan considerations.

When it comes to sizing the fan “just right” consider the ceiling height.

“You don’t want a fan that hangs down too low as it can be dangerous,” Gehman said.

With most standard home ceiling heights at 8 feet; and many newly constructed home ceiling heights at 9 feet, it’s important to take floor-to-ceiling space and fan size into account.

“With ceiling fans, think about hazards to tall people or will the kids be horsing around” in the room, he said.

Flush mount ceiling fans may need from 6 inches to 10 inches of gap space from the ceiling to the unit. Many standard ceiling fans provide gap space from 12 to 18 inches, according to In these cases, the unit will extend away from the ceiling about those distances.

For high and vaulted ceilings consider such tools as downrods and extension poles to hang the fan at the desired height.

Ceiling fans with a reversible blade option is another consideration when shopping for your first, replacement — or next — ceiling fan. Reversible fan cycles provide for comfort year round — whether or not you’ll feel the breeze in the room. Both directions will move air in the space. One is designed for winter comfort, while the other is to feel the breeze during warmer weather.

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