How we test ceiling fans

Our fan tests sort the best from the rest.

Taking fans for a spin

Ceiling fans come in such a wide range of styles. One to five blades, steel or timber, AC and DC motors and more. And they can be cheap as chips or set you back several hundred dollars. So how can you tell which one will do the best job? We put fans through their paces to help make buying a breeze. Here's how we do it.

See test results from ceiling fan models including Aerotron, Big Ass, Hunter, Mercator and more in our ceiling fan reviews.

Our expert testers

We've been reviewing ceiling fans for many years now, and we've adjusted our test method over that time to keep it both rigorous and practical. While we test most products in-house in our own labs, fan testing requires particular facilities and equipment that unfortunately we don't have space for. So fans are one of the few products we send to another expert lab, which tests them according to our requirements.

How we choose what we test

With so many to choose from, what makes us choose one ceiling fan to test over another? As with most of our product testing, our aim is to test the most popular brands and types on the market, and what you are most likely to see in the shops.

  • We survey manufacturers to find out about their range of products.
  • We check market sales information.
  • We check for any member requests to test specific ceiling fans. 

From this information we put together a final list that goes to our buyers. They then head out to the retailers and purchase each product, just as a normal consumer would. We do this so we can be sure they are the same as any consumer would find them and not 'tweaked' in any way.

How we test

Ceiling fan performance

The fan's performance is evaluated using our test program and quality requirements in a controlled test room measuring 4.5m x 4.5m x 2.4m high. The room has no furniture or heat source and has bare flat walls, floor and ceiling. Room temperature and humidity are measured before and during the tests to confirm their consistency for all tests. 

All fans are pre-conditioned by running on maximum speed for one hour.

Fan rotational frequency

Fan rotational frequency is measured with a tachometer on each regulator setting. The instrument output is averaged over one minute for each reading. Measurements are taken for the highest and lowest regulator settings only. Total air delivery is calculated for both high and low settings. The temperature rise of the regulator and fan motor is measured after approximately 30 minutes of operating time.

Living room performance

This is the ability of the fan to move air at high speeds, a setting more likely to be used in a larger area during the day. The more powerful, the better the score.

Bedroom performance

Settle down, we're still talking about ceiling fans! This rates the ability of the fan to move air at the lowest setting – the most likely setting to be used at night while sleeping. Weak air movement scores 55%, moderate air movement scores 70%, gentle but effective air movement scores 90%. Models considered too powerful on their lowest setting score 50%. 

Strong air movement is less desirable when you're trying to sleep, but can still be compensated for with an extra sheet, for example. Weak air movement, on the other hand, is essentially useless. Many of the DC models have very low air delivery on the lowest setting; however one of the next four settings will most likely deliver the required optimum air delivery for the bedroom.

Ease of use

Ease of use is based on how easy it is to follow the installation instructions, use the fan control, reverse the rotational direction of the fan and move from one fan speed setting to another. We allocate a higher proportion to the day-to-day use of the fan, as you'll most likely have an electrician install the fan. 

Noise (dBA)

Noise is measured with a sound level meter positioned one metre below the centre of the fan in the test room on:

  • the lowest and highest regulator settings
  • highest regulator setting in reverse fan direction.

The dB values are comparative only. We're unable to deliver the exact decibel figures collected for each model as the test room's ambient noise levels are not low enough to distinguish the difference in noise levels below 30dB. While the actual sounds a fan makes may seem loud or quiet, its the type of noise produced that people often find distracting and these noises can be produced at levels that are still very low.

A listening test is also used to describe the type of sound ("clicking", "humming" and so on). We have started to carry out additional noise measurement in a quieter test room and will deliver more useful data on the noise generated at the lowest speed setting in the next test.

Humming or buzzing

We're sometimes asked about humming or buzzing noises in ceiling fans. These are usually 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 that's unlikely to be covered by the fan's 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. We don't test the fans for this problem so we can't advise if any are more susceptible to it.

Running cost

Costs are based on eight hours of use per day for six months of the year, used in summer to keep cool and part of winter to help move warm air down to the living area. Electricity is priced at 30 cents per kWh.

Test criteria explained

The overall score is made up of:

  • living room performance (40%)
  • bedroom performance (40%)
  • ease of use (20%).

Our test lab

We maintain our own lab that is up to date with the latest reference machines and calibrated measurement tools for our testers to bring you the right results.

For any testing required where we don't have the necessary in-house skill or equipment, such as for ceiling fans, we use an external expert lab.

Ready to buy?

Check out our ceiling fans buying guide so you know what to look for, and our latest ceiling fan reviews to find the best models.