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The Spin on Outdoor Ceiling Fans

Basic tips to keep in mind before you buy

An outdoor ceiling fan is a great way to help keep your patio or sunroom comfortable when the temperature rises, especially during the dog days of summer. And with styles that include everything from sleek, contemporary designs and vintage looks to tropical “palm leaves,” you’re sure to find a fan to complement your décor. 

While a style that suits your space is a definite must, you’ll also need to take the following technical features into account when narrowing down your options. 


  • Damp-rated vs. wet-rated. Outdoor fans with a damp rating are designed to be installed in a sheltered area, like a sunroom or screened porch. These fans can take humidity, but not direct exposure to water. Fans with a wet rating are designed to withstand direct moisture, making them ideal for an open porch or patio. (Do not use a dry-rated fan outdoors. Dry-rated fans are for indoor use only.)

  • Flush-mount vs. hanging. You’ll need about 7 to 10 feet of space between the fan and the floor—so if you have a small space or one with a low profile, a flush-mount fan is probably your best option. If you have high ceilings, opt for a hanging fan with a down rod.

  • Blade span. Blade span (or blade sweep) is how ceiling fans are measured. Blade span reaches from the tip of one fan blade to the tip of the blade directly across from it. The measure of the blade span is the diameter of the circle created when the fan blades are in motion.

    The appropriate blade span for your space depends on the space’s size. For example, a fan with a blade span of 52 to 60 inches works well for a 12 x 12 or 16 x 16 space; a larger space requires a larger blade span.

  • Air circulation. You’ll obviously want a fan that creates a decent breeze, so take into account the square footage of your room and the fan’s maximum number of cubic feet per minute (CFM). The higher the CFM, the more powerful the fan (an average fan generates about 4,000 CFM).

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