HEAVENLY BREEZES FROM A CEILING FAN

      Last week we introduced readers to our sustainable renovation on a marvelous old church that we have purchased. We are, over the next number of months, going to explain the how’s and why’s of turning an older building into a “green” home. 

      Next week, we will introduce a couple of the pro’s who have been called in for initial evaluations, however, this week we are starting in on the long list of upgrades we intend to add to the church.

      It is no secret that the climate is changing. Hence the need for making our homes more energy efficient and the introduction of air conditioning has almost become a must in today’s homes, not unlike in southern climates. While this comfort-added feature is nice, it comes with a cost and, with the ever increasing price of electricity, a larger and larger cost. With that in mind, we are looking at other options.

      I have long been aware of the benefits of air movement and ceiling fans are a valuable addition to any home. In fact, they can make a room feel four to five degrees cooler and in the case of a home with cathedral ceilings, like a church, they can result in a major cost savings on the energy bill.

 

    If you are considering installing ceiling fans in your home, adding one in every room can, based upon one study I have read, reduce air conditioning use by up to 40%. That’s a significant figure. For maximum savings, the only fans worth buying are ones rated as an Energy Star compliant fan. These fans, on average move 15% more air than a standard fan. Energy Star specifications for ceiling fans are stringent, which is why so many fans are not rated. To get the Energy Star rating a fan must move a defined air flow, based on the number of watts of power consumed by the motor and controls. A conventional ceiling fan uses about the level of power that a 100 incandescent light bulb uses, while an Energy Star fan will use about half of that. They must have a minimum air flow of 1250 CFM (cubic feet per minute) and a maximum of 5000 CFM. As well, they must come with a 30 year warranty on the fan motor and 2 years on any light kit.

    Today’s ceiling fans are considerably more efficient than they were even a few years ago. A review of the values of Energy Star fans showed that some operate 24/7 for less than $20 a year. They are lighter, certainly more decorative and come with numerous blade sizes. Blade size is very important. An 80 square feet room should have a fan with blades no larger than 36 inches. For a room that’s up to 150 sq. ft., a blade length of 36” to 42” is recommended. A larger room larger should have a minimum of 50-54 inch blades. Very large rooms, over 300 sq. ft.  should look at fan blades of 60 inches. Due to the height and open space of the church, I did the air calculations and we will be purchasing fans with 72 inch long blades.

     Where it is located can make or break the benefits of the ceiling fan installation. The blades should be no less than seven feet from the floor and 10-12 inches from the ceiling. Many fan kits are adaptable for a standard eight foot ceiling height. Further, the blades should be no less than 18 inches from any wall.  In a long, narrow room it may be necessary to install more than one fan; this also applies for a large great room, especially one with cathedral ceilings, which are popular in modern homes today.  Two or more strategically located properly sized fans are more effective than one with very large blades.

    There are other less obvious benefits to ceiling fans. Installed over a dining room table or in a kitchen, they can reduce the number of flying insects in the vicinity; the air movement makes flying difficult for them. Ceiling fans can move a substantial amount of air, eliminating the need for floor or desk fans and making the area safer for pets and younger members of the family.

     What else do you look for when purchasing a ceiling fan? If the fan you are looking at has wooden blades, make sure they are fully coated to prevent warpage. If you are considering a fan for a bathroom or hot tub room, stick with plastic blades. The pitch of the blades is important, cheaper blades have a minimal pitch, look for a fan with blades that have no less than 11 to 16 degrees of pitch.  In an area with high humidity, look for one with a blade pitch of up to 22 degrees.

 

    Once you have installed your fans and most can be installed where your existing ceiling light is located, there are summer and winter benefits. In the winter, run your fans in a clockwise rotation, opposite that for the summer. The winter setting will push air down from the ceiling, while in the summer the circulation lowers your skin temperature, making you feel cooler even when the actual temperature is higher.

    While looking at fans so early in a renovation project may seem premature, in fact the necessary ceiling location and wiring must be installed before the insulation goes in, hence the need to select the fans. We researched a number of makes and given the size of our area, there are not many fans with 60 inch plus blades, so we found the choice limiting. That said, we could use more fans, but again the design of the interior had some dictating factors. We selected fans from Fanimation, a reputable manufacturer. Their Keistone 72 model has a 72 inch blade span, a very energy efficient DC motor and six speed controls. On high RPM it moves a staggering 8895 CFM, operating with 14 degree pitch blades. This fan has an annual operating estimate of just $30 a year. A close second and worthy of a look is the Emerson Midway ECO. This fan has an even more amazing annual energy use of just $18. Emerson is world renowned for quality ceiling fans.  One of the best web sites for reviewing fans is www.hansenwholesale.com. The information and technical advice on this site is excellent. The value of ceiling fans is, unfortunately underrated and proper use can and will reduce your energy cost.