If you live in a warm climate you know how important it is to have an outdoor ceiling fan. If mother nature doesn’t supply a cool breeze outdoor fans are a great option. They can make any outdoor space enjoyable on those hot summer days.
In this post, I will talk about what you need to consider when choosing a fan for outdoor use. Believe it or not, there are lots of styles that are suited for outdoor use.
What is Different About an Outdoor Ceiling Fan?
Outdoor fans are similar to indoor fans in that they provide a cooling breeze and can add style to an outdoor space. Outdoor fans however are designed to withstand the elements with all-weather blades, a sealed motor, and specialized paint and finishes.
The most important feature that differentiates outdoor ceiling fans from indoor fans is the wet rating.
- Dry-rated. Dry-rated fans are for indoor use only, they are not manufactured to handle moisture or temperature fluctuations in an outdoor setting.
- Damp-rated. Damp-rated fans are perfect for a damp location such as a covered patio, covered porch, screened porch, outdoor kitchens, or even a greenhouse. They are an excellent choice for outdoor areas that are not directly exposed to the elements.
- Wet-rated. Wet-rated fans are specifically designed to stand up to rain, wind, snow, and ice. They can be installed in exposed areas like a gazebo, deck, or pergola (in my case).
Outdoor Ceiling Fan Size
Outdoor ceiling fans come in a wide range of sizes and the size of the fan refers to the span of the blades. The right size fan will be determined by the square footage of the space you are trying to cool.
Here are some general guidelines based on the square footage of your space:
- A blade span of 29-36 inches is sufficient for spaces up to 75 square feet.
- A blade span of 36-42 inches is sufficient for spaces 76-144 square feet.
- A blade span of 44-54 inches is sufficient for spaces 144-225 square feet.
- A blade span of 50-72 inches is sufficient for spaces 225-400 square feet.
If you have an outdoor space that is greater than 400 square feet you might consider installing two fans (or even more).
How Much Airflow Do I Need?
The whole point of an outdoor ceiling fan is to produce a cooling airflow. Airflow is measured in cubic feet per minute or CFM, which is the amount of air the fan can move around a space. For purposes of cooling, the higher the CFM the better.
Here are some general guidelines of the CFM needed based on the size of the space:
- A CFM of 1000-3000 is sufficient for spaces up to 75 square feet.
- A CFM of 1600-4500 is sufficient for spaces 76-144 square feet.
- A CFM of 2300-6500 is sufficient for spaces 144-225 square feet.
- A CFM of 5500-13,500 is sufficient for spaces 225-400 square feet.
If you are installing an outdoor ceiling fan in a space with a low overhang you can get adequate airflow with a fan that is mounted flush to the ceiling.
If however, you are installing the fan in an outdoor space with high ceilings or vaulted ceilings you will need a fan with a down rod mount.
You would think the more blades an outdoor fan has the more airflow you would get, but that isn’t necessarily the case. The airflow produced by a fan has more to do with the size of the motor than the number of blades. An outdoor fan with three blades is generally the most efficient. A fan with 4-6 blades may quieter, but a fan with more than six blades will be less efficient.
Outdoor ceiling fans need all-weather blades which are typically made from something called ABS plastic. This is a galvanized steel with a powder-coated paint finish that resists rust and corrosion.
Fan Controls and Accessories
Much like indoor ceiling fans, outdoor fans can be operated by a pull chain or a remote control. If you are installing an outdoor fan in an area with a low overhang, a pull chain may be reasonable. If however, you are installing a fan in an outdoor area with high or vaulted ceilings you will definitely need a remote or wall control to operate the fan.
Most indoor ceiling fans have reversible blades with the option of a winter or summer mode. This means you can reverse the direction of the airflow to either bring warm air down or circulate cool air. This is less important with an outdoor ceiling fan since the purpose is usually to create a cooling effect with air circulation in open areas.
Many ceiling fans have the option of a lighting package. This can be handy if you will be enjoying your outdoor space at night. Because an outdoor fan is exposed to the elements it is important to be sure you choose a fan that is damp or wet-rated to avoid any electrical issues. While you can put an outdoor ceiling fan indoors you should never put an indoor ceiling fan outdoors.
There are also ceiling fans that come with a sloped ceiling adapter kit for installation on a sloped ceiling.
Ceiling Fan Styles
There are many styles of outdoor ceiling fans so you can be sure to find one that complements the exterior of your home. In the process of shopping for a fan for our outdoor living room I discovered that the big box stores had exactly one wet-rated ceiling fan. This one product where the selection is MUCH greater online.
A picture is worth a thousand words so here we go! I use affiliate links so I can afford to keep doing this. Hope it saves you time. See my disclosure policy.
- Traditional. This is a 52-inch, damp-rated, flush mount, outdoor ceiling fan with a pull chain and light. It has a CFM of 5070.
- Modern This is a 44-inch, 6 speed, wet rated, outdoor ceiling fan with a down rod mount and remote. It has a CFM of 5289.
- Rustic. This is a 52-inch, wet-rated outdoor ceiling fan with a pull chain. It has a CFM of 4935
- Tropical or Coastal Style This is a 52-inch, wet-rated outdoor ceiling fan with an available light kit and down rod. It has a CFM of 4831.
- Industrial. This is a 60-inch, damp-rated outdoor ceiling fan with a down rod mount and remote control. It has a CFM of 9999.
I hope this helps you find the right outdoor fan and extra features to make the most of your outdoor activities.