Ceiling fans, all facts at a glance


  • How do ceiling fans actually work?
  • And how are they controlled?
  • Ceiling fans – miraculous insider tip?
  • Air conditioning vs Ceiling fan – Why are fans the better choice?

How do ceiling fans actually work?

In order to answer this question one has to take a closer look at each component. The core is a motor housing that encases an electrically operated motor. Currently, there are two kinds of standard electric motors. Ceiling fans usually have an alternating current (AC) motor that consumes about 60 Watts per hour on high speed. Over the last 20 years the only improvements that had to be made in the industry were regarding the bearing of the rotating parts in order to improve the smooth running and sound volume. This development, however, has been so successful that the working of the motor can be considered whisper-quiet, as only the wind sounds of the rotating blades can be perceived.

Another kind of motor that is currently very popular is the so-called direct current (DC) motor. Compared to alternating current motors they only use about half of the electric energy and are therefore a real breakthrough in terms of energy efficiency. Apart from their low power consumption, direct current motors offer the added benefit of a more individual regulation of the rotation speeds. Whereas alternating current motors generally come with 3 rotation speeds, direct current motors usually offer 6 rotation speeds.

Both kinds of motors usually allow the change of motion direction, an essential feature of ideal indoor climate. However, AC motors often require a slide switch to manually switch between summer and winter mode, whereas direct current motors are already equipped with a remote control, allowing you to change rotation speed and motion direction via infrared or radio frequencies. The reason why direct current motors are on the rise right now is the increased awareness of end consumers when it comes to handling energy resources and climbing electricity prices. Due to the type of motor those DC ceiling fans are also known as energy-saving or low energy fans. The acquisition of those devices is a bit pricier than a conventional ceiling fan. However, these expenses are quickly written off, seeing that DC fans are extremely durable and energy-efficient. This makes them particularly interesting for application in commercial and professional environments. The type of mechanical energy transfer is the same for both motor types, though. Blade holders are mounted to drill holes on a flywheel, which is set to rotate. Like the name suggests, the holders are metal parts that hold the fan blades and connect them to the motor unit.

And how are they controlled?

Spoilt for choice – an accurate expression when it comes to ceiling fan control units. Traditionally, the rotation speed and lighting feature of the fan are activated with the help of a pull cord. As ceiling fans are usually not installed at eye-level though, it can be better to opt for a remote control instead, especially in complicated and hard to reach areas. Whereas energy-saving fans are commonly delivered with an included remote control, most AC fans with pull cords can be upgraded later on. In that case the receiver unit of the remote control set is connected directly with the ceiling fan and then activated by the handheld transmitter, allowing full control over rotation speed, lighting and sometimes even a light dimming feature via radio frequency or infrared.

Another means of control are wall controllers. They are mounted into the normal light switch and then directly connected to the circuit. There are in-wall as well as on-wall versions available to go with the existing electrical installation, allowing the implementation of a clean and elegant solution for regulating the features of a ceiling fan. However, it is important to keep in mind that it is not possible to use a wall control and a remote control together.

So-called TDA (temperature difference attenuation) systems use 2 temperature sensors. They are positioned on the ground and on the ceiling where they constantly measure the difference in temperature. If the difference is too big, the ventilator is switched on according to predefined values. This process is called temperature difference attenuation or balancing. This type of technology is often applied in storage rooms and warehouses.

Ceiling fans – miraculous insider tip?

For years insiders have been aware that ceiling fans are extremely versatile. The most well-known use is obviously the provision of the cooling effect ceiling fans create by moving air. The so-called summer (forward) mode sucks in air from the ceiling into the fan and pushes it downwards. The airflow is perceived as cooling and refreshing.

However, most people are still unfamiliar with the winter mode of ceiling fans. Generally most fans are equipped with this feature. It means the motion direction of the ceiling fans is reversed which is why it is also described as “reverse function“. The image on the left illustrates this process: The fan sucks in the cooler air (blue) from below the blades and transports it to the ceiling, where the cool air meets accumulated warm air (red). The movement of the blades pushes the mixed air down to the ground along the walls of the room, creating a constant cycle. This recirculation results in a more even distribution of warmth inside the room.

Both functions make ceiling fans a real, efficient and low-priced alternative to air conditioning systems. Guests of hotels, bars or restaurants usually perceive the atmosphere as relaxing and interesting, particularly since there is a huge choice when it comes to design and colours.

Air conditioning vs Ceiling fan – Why are fans the better choice?

First and foremost the operating mode and therefore installation is completely different. Whereas air conditioning requires supply and exhaust air ducts, ceiling fans are simply put up and connected to the power supply. Modifying and extending the interior concept is also much easier with ceiling fans.

The major difference however is reflected in the consumption. Air conditioning required 2500 Watts per hour on average, ceiling fans get by with about 30 – 60 Watts per hour. This results in enormous possible savings.

If you further take into account the reduction of heating costs due to recirculation of warm air with the reverse function, the ceiling fan comes out on top and easily surpasses air conditioning systems. And that is why they are the one insider tip in the ventilation industry.