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Contemporary living area in white and beige with black ceiling fan
Discover everything you need to know about how to stay cool indoors and out with this quintessentially Aussie feature.


How fans work indoors

Most ceiling fans are designed for indoor use. There are three general ways that they work to keep you cool.

  • The extra airflow helps perspiration evaporate, even if you are not particularly sweaty.
  • A fan forces air to circulate in a room, moving air that is warmed by your body further away from you and replacing it with cooler air. 
  • Fans also displace air that is warmed by hot objects, and propel cooler air around the room.

Outdoor ceiling fans

In a space such as a covered courtyard that’s sheltered from natural breezes, a ceiling fan can be very effective. A fan mounted outdoors needs to be sturdy enough to survive any wind that is passing through, and must have an adequate IP (ingress protection) rating to withstand the elements.

Fans suitable for outdoor use often have blades made from ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, a type of tough plastic). The best bet is to choose a fan that is explicitly described as being suitable for outdoor use.

Alfresco deck living space with outdoor lounge seat and an exterior ceiling fan

What size fan do I need?

A good rule of thumb is to match the optimal recommended diameter with the area of your room. For an approximate guide, a small room of 4m x 4m or less is best cooled by a fan of up to 120cm (48in) in diameter, while larger rooms up to 6m x 6m will require a fan with a blade span of at least 132cm (52in).

For bigger spaces, such as an open-plan kitchen/dining area, two fans might be needed, or you might opt for an extra-large 178cm (70in) fan. A fan of this size can also be well-suited to an outdoor area.

Open-plan kitchen and living space featuring two ceiling fans 

What makes a ceiling fan quiet?

There are five common factors that cause fans to be noisy, so keep these in mind when choosing and using your fan. Here is how to make a ceiling fan quiet.

1. Number of blades

The more blades a fan has, the quieter it is as it doesn’t have to turn as fast as one with fewer blades to move the same volume of air. 

2. Shape of blades

A fan with ordinary rectangular blades disturbs the air more and therefore creates more wind noise or ‘whooshing’ sounds than one with contoured and rounded blades that are designed to glide more cleanly through the air.

3. Balance

A build-up of dust and dirt can throw the blades out of balance, meaning the quietest type of ceiling fan is a clean one. 

4. Loose components

If your fan is making a creaking or rattling noise, there’s a good chance something is loose. Tighten the blade mounts, light cover (if the fan has a light), motor cowl and anything else that might be moving.

5. AC motor

In general, DC fans are much quieter than their AC counterparts (see below).

The difference between AC and DC fans

AC (alternating current) is the type of electricity supplied by mains power at 240V, while DC (direct current) is what comes from batteries, USB and laptop power adaptors, to name three common sources.

DC voltage can vary widely; in domestic applications it is almost always lower than mains voltage. DC fans use a power adaptor to transform AC mains to DC voltage; they are more energy-efficient because they draw the minimum amount of power they need to operate. AC-powered motors need a larger current to turn without necessarily providing a stronger cooling effect.

Style options for ceiling fans

There is a remarkable variety to choose from, including fans with plywood, timber, steel, aluminium and ABS blades. Polymer (plastic) and ABS blades can be made to appear just like real timber, while aluminium fans normally come in a brushed or coloured finish (such as white). The body of the fan can be white, black, steel, brassy gold or other colours, even timber finish, to match the blades.

Contemporary study/office space featuring blue walls, timber built-in desk and a black ceiling fan

What extras do you need for your fan?

A built-in light is a popular option, allowing the fan to illuminate your room in place of an existing fixture. The fan (and light, if fitted) can be operated either using a remote control, which comes with a bracket for securing it to the wall, or a speed/on-off dial which must be hardwired by an electrician.

An increasingly popular option is smart control that lets you adjust a fan’s speed and switch its light on and off using your smartphone or smart home device. Check the packaging to choose the right fan to work with your existing smart home system, for example Grid Connect.

In winter, most fans can be set to turn in reverse, pulling air up to the ceiling and letting it drift down again as it cools. This enhances the convection of existing room heaters and helps warm up your space.


Photo credit: iStockphoto and Getty Images


Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.