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?

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 three categories: Dry/Indoor, Damp, or Wet.

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

Fans for use indoors, except for areas such as pool rooms or bathrooms. (Our showroom displays include a House icon on our price tags if the fan is Dry/Indoor rated.)

Damp 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 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.



What is fan CFM? What is fan RPM? What is fan blade pitch?

Understanding the Specs

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. Here are 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.


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.

Fan Motors

The speed of a fan is also dependent on the fan motor quality as well as the weight of the blades. Now, while we don't get many customers who come into the showroom specifically asking for DC motors, or AC motors, it is a key specification that are now displayed on our ceiling fan tags. 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.
What's the difference between DC versus AC motors on ceiling fans?

"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."
Why is my fan spinning but not cooling the air? Why isn't my fan working? Check if it is summer or winter 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 really need to have a ceiling fan on at all during 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.

Now, that we've got the specifications of a ceiling fan situated, you can enjoy the fun part of fan shopping: the style and color way.

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. Does your ceiling have wooden beams? 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 the idea of a large fan, but you can't find a chart that suggests your extra 12"on a fan is worth it?
Instead, we're going to give you a general idea of what is commonly used in rooms. Use this as a starting point for your search. The ceiling fans we display in our showroom range, so that you're able to stand beneath them, judge sizing, feel the difference in size that a 3-blade 60" versus a 8-blade 60" can make when installed.
How to size a ceiling fan based on room size
Rest assured, if you feel a 60" fan is the way to go, ranging between 58" - 62" isn't too much of a difference. If a chart you found online says you need no more than a 60" but you've found a 65" that you love, it's worth giving us a call -- we'll help to consult based on your room's measurements and any other aspects of the room that might affect the fan sizing, such as ceiling height, can lighting, sloped ceilings, or wooden beams.
We have customers with 44" in bedrooms, and some with 60" fans in bedrooms. There is no one-size-fits all. It comes down to room size, ceiling height, and a little preference, too. 
Is there an issue with having a ceiling fan too close to the walls? If you have a 62" hallway that you're hoping a 60" fan will fit in -- will it? Yes. It will fit. Will it work the ideal way you need it to? Probably not. This is because ceiling fans can only blow the amount of air down that it has access to above. The closer a ceiling fan sits to the ceiling, or the slimmer the area on the side of the fan blades is open for air to come up along the walls, the less airflow available to the fan. Give a fan a bit of space, to help get the most airflow out of it.
The same concept applies to the length of a fan's down rod.

Fan Down Rods

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.
What size or length down rod do I need for my ceiling fan?
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 over the pool. When you surface, you're most likely gasping for air within about a 1-2" pocket of 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.
Now, when you have a shorter ceiling, such as 7ft or 8ft, you don't need to limit your search to only huggers, or flush; these fans tend to have large motors. Looking for something sleek? The Minka Aire Simple fan has a small motor, sleek design, and while it comes with a 6" down rod, the company does sell a 3.5" down rod, giving you an extra three inches of wiggle room. A commonly used alternative to the larger, thick motored ceiling fans, especially when you have a modern or minimalistic design in mind for your ideal 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 color way.
How to hide or distract a ceiling fan in a room?

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