The genius idea hasn’t changed since the invention of the electric ceiling fan in 1887: When temperatures climb, just yank a chain, flick a switch, or point a remote and feel instant relief as a breeze wafts down from above. Fans don’t alter the temperature, but they do zap body heat by making moisture evaporate, turning sticky perspiration into a coolant. All this for not much money up front and only pennies to operate.
Even better are the savings on air-conditioning costs. By themselves, ceiling fans will keep you comfortable at temperatures reaching into the 80s, so you won’t need to use your AC system as often. And when the AC is running, a spinning ceiling fan will let you turn up the thermostat by 4 degrees—and knock 8 percent off your electric bill.
While their chilling effect has remained consistent, the fans themselves certainly have not. New blade shapes and improved motors move air more efficiently than ever, and smart controls calibrate speeds with greater precision. Then there’s the proliferation of styles, which makes it easy to find a fan that suits your decor. Before you resort to grabbing the first one that catches your eye, here’s what to look for.
Shown: This industrial-looking model has an oil-rubbed bronze finish and rugged plastic blades. Its integral light has been capped. 52-inch Minka Aire Strata.