Ceiling Fans 101

How to size a ceiling fan, ceiling fans 101

Welcome – to a mini Ceiling Fans 101 course.

Let's start with a key component that revolves around a question you'll definitely have the answer to right off the bat: Where are you going to install the fan you're looking for? And we'll be honest, you're welcome to call us anytime to compare fans, too.

[1] Fan Ratings

If you've ever noticed an outdoor fan that has sagging blades, then you'll see the importance of quality products (and the knowledge of fan ratings). Fans are rated into one of four categories: Indoor/Dry, Damp, Wet, or Marine/Coastal.

The price tags in our showroom, include a little icon of each rating to help you find and compare the ideal ceiling fan for each of your spaces.

Dry / Indoor Rated Ceiling Fans
These are to be used indoors, except for areas such as pool rooms or bathrooms where heavy moisture is present. Our showroom displays include a House icon on our price tags if the fan is Dry/Indoor rated.

Damp Rated Ceiling Fans
For use in covered or screened-in patios, or indoors rooms with high humidity or moisture in the air, such as bathrooms or indoor pools. Meant for areas that do not come into direct contact with any rain or snow. Damp rated fans can be used indoors, as well. Our showroom displays include an Umbrella icon on our price tags if the fan is Damp rated.

Wet Ceiling Fans
For use outdoors, even in a pergola that would result in direct contact with the elements, such as rain or snow. Wet fans can be used in both damp and indoor areas as well. Our showroom displays include a Water drop icon on our price tags if the fan is Wet rated.

Fun Fact: All of the Modern Forms Fans branded ceiling fans are Wet rated, meaning they can be used anywhere: indoors or out.
Marine / Coastal Ceiling Fans
For areas by the lake, the beach, or high-salt and water contents in the air, these ceiling fans are made with a step up in materials to help withstand those elements. Keep in mind, that these are generally tested against some harsh conditions, but they are not necessarily wind-proof.
What's the difference between DC versus AC motors on ceiling fans?
[2] Motor Quality – AC v DC
The speed of a fan dependent on the fan motor quality as well as the weight of the blades; lots of variables come into play. Now, while every customer that walks through our showroom's doors don't necessarily always have a AC/DC preference, it is a key specification that are now displayed on our ceiling fan tags to help educate on the differences. We don't want to sell you something you don't need, and knowing when you need to step up to DC will help you to make a more educated decision in your ceiling fan(s). Plenty of homeowners have mixed motors within their home -- there is no requirement that you need to have all AC motored or all DC motored ceiling fans in your home, either so don't worry about that.
The easiest way to compare a AC and DC motor, in our opinion, is to compare the Fanimation's Spitfire ceiling fan collection – that's because this family comes in both AC and DC options. The Spitfire AC comes in 48" and 60" blade options, while the DC comes in 64", 72", 84" and 96" blade options. Since we're able to compare the same fan family, design, and even the brand, we're keeping as many variables consistent without comparing different manufacturers, product designs, and other changes.
  AC – Spitfire 60" DC – Spitfire 64"
Motor AC 188x 25
Reverse Switch on the Remote (not all ACs can do this)
DC 153 x 25FS
Reverse Switch on the Remote


Airflow Efficiency

4,908 CFM on High

78 CFM/Watts

9, 076 CFM on High

311 CFM/Watts

RPM 120 RPM on High 163 RPM on High

Energy Use

Est. Yearly Energy Cost

Average Speed

44 Watts


19 Watts


Sound Quiet, Soft Quieter, Almost Silent
Longevity Better Best
Control Remote with 3 Speeds
Low, Medium, High
Remote with Variable Speeds
0-100% on the App, ~31 clicks on the remote
Smartphone Apps Not included
Sold Separately
Included at no extra charge
Fan can be controlled without the app
Warranty Limited Lifetime on the Motor Limited Lifetime on the Motor
Light Kit 1,500 Lumens, 90 CRI
Sold Separately
Dimmable on the Remote
1,600 Lumens, 90 CRI
CCT (3000K, 4000K, 5000K)
Sold Separately
Changeable & Dimmable on the Remote/App
*Information is gathered from Fanimation.com and is subject to mistakes/changes/product improvements.

In some instances, the electricity humming through the motor can be heard on some AC (alternating current) motored fans. DC motored fans are direct current, and you tend to only hear the whishing of the airflow itself.


What is fan CFM? What is fan RPM? What is fan blade pitch?
[3] Motor + Blade Performance
Airflow. There's more to ceiling fans than the visual aspect, especially if airflow is important to you. Some homeowners prefer to have a fan for its statement looks, while others want the closest thing to a propeller shaking the sheets on their bed. Wherever you fall within this range of airflow importance, there is a fan out there that would work for you. The best way to compare the specifications of each ceiling fan you look at, would be to know the terms to look at, and what each one means.
The three main ones you should focus on: CFM, RPM, Blade Pitch.
Cubic Feet per Minute – This is the measurement of the ceiling fan's airflow. After a while of being on, the airflow from your ceiling fan in the room will start to flow in a circular motion: going down, hitting the floor and pushing out to the walls, being pulled back up the wall, across the ceiling as the fan pulls the air in, and back down to circulate once more. A fan that has 6000 CFM will produce more airflow than that of a 3000 CFM fan, meaning the air will flow throughout the space more, better, and feel more noticeable. The higher the CFM, the higher the airflow said fan can produce.

Revelations per Minute – This is the measurement of the ceiling fan's blade's as they spins around the motor. How many times does the fan spin around the motor, within a minute. The higher the RPM, the faster the fan will "look" since the blades are spinning faster. RPM is a key component when searching for outdoor fans. Why? Because think about it: CFM bounces air off of the walls in an effort to make the circular motion as it pushes back up to the fan to circulate again. When you're outdoors, you don't have any walls; the air flows down, out and doesn't return.
Blade Pitch (#°)
The angle of the ceiling fan blades – The sharper an angle, the steeper a blade is angled on the fan. Fans with around a 14°-22° blade pitch are the more steeper blade pitched fans. Variable (V°) blade pitched fans mean that the degrees of the angle varies along the length of the blade, which is usually because of the shape or style of the blade.
How to size a ceiling fan based on room size

[4] Sizing a Ceiling Fan

Now, that we've at least got the longevity of your fan's blades, motor, and quality situated, let's focus on the next step: Sizing.

There are rules of thumb that you can find, which might suggest a certain square footage of room, might need a certain size, but what this leaves out are the details. Details that differ between your home and your neighbors. Does your ceiling have wooden beams, or a ceiling that slopes? Do you have a lot of can lights in the room (can you imagine your fan strobing your living room into a disco party because your fan blades are too long and reach into the beam spread of the can lights)? What if you love big fans, but the 72" isn't showing up on the one chart you found online? Details matter and can help adjust any chart you find.

We have customers with 44" in bedrooms, and some with 72" fans in their main bedrooms. There is no one-size-fits all. It comes down to room size, ceiling height, and of course a little preference, too.

Fun Fact: Ceiling fans with more blades (5+) can look, and feel, bigger than those with three blades. A 72" 3-bladed fan doesn't always feel as heavy in a space like a 64" 8-bladed fan does. If you think about it, you see more of the ceiling/open air in the space above the fan, while fans with more blades reduce what you can see 'through.' Interior designers might pick a fan style, based on how prominent they want the fan to be within their designing of the space for this reason. 

Main Bedroom +Common Living Areas
Shown above. Zelle works here in our showroom and loves her 72" three-bladed ceiling fan; her main bedroom measures 15' x 19' (not fully shown in the image) with a 8' ceiling. Most homeowners, in the same room sizing, might say it is too large and feel more comfortable with a ceiling fan in the 60" - 64" range, which would work great for the space, as well. In main bedrooms and common living areas, homeowners tend to want those fans to stand out and become staple pieces to the decor. The overall home's design gets brought into consideration with the fan choice.

The most common sizes we sell for main bedrooms is between 60" - 72", living rooms between 56" - 72", and office fans linger within the lower end of the 44" - 56" range.

Guest Bedrooms
Shown below. Normally, the secondary and guest bedrooms are smaller in size. Some range around 11' x 12' to even 13' x 15' in general-ish sizes.
Most commonly, for children's bedrooms and guest bedrooms, we sell anywhere from a 48" - 60" ceiling fans comfortably. With higher ceilings, we can possibly go up to the 54" - 72" range, again depending on the room size, ceiling height, and homeowner's preference.
Fan Height Diagrams

What size or length down rod do I need for my ceiling fan?

[5] Down Rods + Ceiling Heights

How low can you go? What length of down rod can you use? The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors will state that when a fan is installed, its blades should not be spinning lower than seven (7) feet from the floor. Think about it, if you have people taller than 6ft in your family, you'd like for them to comfortably walk under a fan without the spinning blades becoming a safety concern.

On higher ceilings, hanging a fan higher will not only reduce the chances of someone, or something, hitting the fan, it'll also help the space to feel larger and more open, or airy. That being said, there are definitely ceiling heights that call for the use of down rods.

The prime range that Fanimation Ceiling fans recommends a fan to be spinning, for optimal airflow underneath, is between the 7' to 9' range. Now, this isn't always doable, especially on homes with two story living rooms (~22' ceilings) and ceiling fans with 6' down rods. This scenario would be the blades in the 14' - 16' range – which on a well performing fan is okay.

Shopping Tip: Not all fans come with the same down rod length. While 6" used to be the most commonly included down rod right out of the box, fan styles and their performance has changed. Some fans, come with a rod as small as a 4.5", while others can include between a 8" to 12" down rod out of the box. Keep this rod and the fan's overall length in mind when you're shopping.

For 10ft ceilings, we aim for 12" down rods. Now, there are always exceptions when the fan itself is large vertically (usually because of a large motor), which would affect the rod length. We use the selected fan itself and down rod measurements together when deciding the down rod.

Consider the example: If you were swimming in a pool, you'd be able to come up for air freely. Now, imagine while you're underneath, someone laid a tarp a few inches above the pool. When you surface, you're going to have a thin layer of available air, most likely gasping for air. This is what a ceiling fan does when it is too close to the ceiling: it gasps for air. Fans can only push down what they have available above the blades, and if they struggle to bring the air in, they will not be able to blow 100% out or reach its peak performance.

8ft ceilings do not necessarily require hugger fans – down rod fans that are very short do exist. Two examples are the Modern Forms Torque, measuring at 9.2" from the ceiling right out of the box for the 58" size and the Minka Aire Simple, measuring 12.75" with the 6" down rod it comes with out of the box, except purchasing it with the sold separately 3.5" down rod instead.

How to hide or distract a ceiling fan in a room?

[7] Fan Style + Color

Fans used to be classified as utility items, and believe it or not with most allocated budgets for lighting, they're clearly still under the assumption that a homeowner can buy a nice, functional fan for under $100 -- it's just not the case anymore.

For a modern style, that has a light kit of quality, the price usually starts at around the $320 mark, on average.

To hide a fan, most homeowners choose lighter, or paler, color ways such as White, Brushed Nickel, or even pale-stained woods. For more bold, statement fans, darker color ways such as Black, Coal, Ebony, or even Medium Maple blades would complement the design of the space while becoming eye catching pieces themselves. The simplest fan you'll find is going to be a three bladed fan with a slim motor in the white color way. The boldest fan you'll find is going to be a multi-bladed fan with a thicker motor in the black or two-toned wooden color way.

Why is my fan spinning but not cooling the air? Why isn't my fan working? Check if it is summer or winter mode.

[8] Summer + Winter Modes

It happens -- buttons are hit on accident, causing a ceiling fan to spin the alternate way. In the summer months, or when you want a ceiling fan to actually push the air down to help cool yourself off, then you'll want to ensure your fan is in "Summer mode."

Summer Mode
The most commonly used mode for fans is known as "Summer Mode" This is when a ceiling fan is spinning counter-clockwise (when standing underneath) or right-to-LEFT when staring at a ceiling fan from the side view. The fan will actually spin with the blades angled to push the air downward, towards the ground.
Winter Mode
"Winter Mode" on the other hand, is when a ceiling fan is spinning clockwise (when standing underneath) or left-to-RIGHT when staring at a ceiling fan from the side view. Since the fan is spinning in reverse, the angle of the blades will actually pull the air up and push it up and outward across the ceiling. Standing beneath, you'll feel airflow from the fan moving the air, but you usually don't feel 'cold' since the air isn't pushing towards you. If you feel like your fan is on high, but it doesn't feel like it's working, it might be because Winter Mode is on. Fan Remotes and Wall Controls that have a reverse symbol (usually one circular arrow), will reverse the spin of the fan.
Do I need to use a fan in the winter?
We think so. While, there's no need for your fan to be on high, leaving a fan on a low speed throughout the cooler, winter months will help to circulate the air within your home. When the heat is on, the air in the home might become stuffy -- a ceiling fan pulling the air up towards the ceiling and dispersing it along the sides of the room can help with this.

email us at
call us at
visit us at
4335 Monroe Road, Charlotte, NC 28205