04.What to look for
The models in the What to buy list give a range of choices when it comes to blade material, number of blades, type of controls, and integrated lights. However, several other models tested perform the task of moving air around the room efficiently and reasonably quietly, so design and price may also play a part in your final decision.
Number of blades The fans tested have between two and four blades.
Blade material While most fans have wooden blades (timber, plywood or MDF), a few are stainless steel, aluminium, or plastic.
- In our test there was no difference in cooling ability between fans with wood and stainless-steel blades. Both types featured among the top performers.
- The fans with wooden or plastic blades tended to be quieter, making them more suitable for bedrooms; however a couple of the DC fans in the latest test are particularly quiet and use plastic materials.
Reversing the direction of the fan draws air upwards rather than downwards, aiding in moving warm air around in winter without creating a downward breeze in the room. This is useful on its own, or when used together with a heater or reverse-cycle air conditioner.
Minimum ceiling height needs to be between 2.1m and 2.4m high, depending on the model you choose for the best performance. If your ceiling is significantly higher, you may need an extension rod to lower the fan to an optimal level.
Fan balance kit This helps correct any wobbles that can rob a fan of efficiency and also lead to extra noise during operation.
Fan control options include a pull cord control on the bottom of the fan or a wall switch that usually replaces the light switch.
Remote control provides a good level of control, and also allows easier fan installation in situations that make it difficult to rewire to a light switch.
Settings All the fans in our test had three operating speeds. Some are regulated with a pull cord that dangles from the fan itself. However, this proved to be the least user-friendly option. The remote-controlled fans are the easiest to use. Wall switches are also easy to use, but they require professional installation.
Integrated light This can be a useful feature: if you rely on an existing light fitting mounted above the fan, you could end up with a strobe lighting effect.
Other points to consider
Wiring and mounting The fans in this test have to be wired in by a qualified electrician or their warranties will be voided.
Noise We tested fans with the living room and bedroom in mind – the key difference being that a bedroom fan should be quiet enough to let you get to sleep. We measured the noise with the fan on 'low' to correspond to use in a bedroom, and on 'high', a setting that's likely to be used in a living room for faster and more effective air circulation.
Note: we've had reports of humming or buzzing noises in ceiling fans caused by ripple control signals sent through the electricity supply (to switch devices such as hot water systems on and off for off-peak tariff switching). This is a known problem but is unlikely to be covered by the fan warranty. Your electricity supplier may be able (or even required) to fix the problem, so contact them in the first instance to see how they can help.
The problem may be solved by having a suitable signal filter installed by a qualified electrician. The filter has to be matched to the local signal; a good fan dealer or electrician should be able to recommend the correct model. However in some cases the ripple control signal might be too strong to be effectively filtered.
Have you experienced this noise problem? Please let us know in comments.
Keeping it cool
A fan (or air conditioner) will be much more effective if your home is as heat-proof as possible:
- Seal all the gaps around your windows and doors.
Insulate your roof space.
- Install blinds or curtains over the inside of windows.
- Install external awnings or double-glazing.
If you're renovating or building, get professional design advice about regulating temperatures naturally with smart architecture, window shading and ventilation.