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Ceiling Fans & the Energy Protection Act

By Jeff Eller September 12, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

A few years ago our US Government decided they needed to get more involved in the ceiling fan industry with making it a part of the Energy Protection Act (EPA).  In my opinion both good and bad came from this.

The good part is that a customer can now easily tell how much cubic feet per minutes of air a ceiling fan moves by simply looking at the Energy Information label that is now required to be put on all ceiling fan boxes.  Although not always 100% accurate, its a start and it will give you a good idea of how much airflow each ceiling fan will move.  The higher the CFM rating, the better the fan will be for keeping you cool.

Another part of the test measures wattage.  From that point the fan's CFM rating is divided by the wattage used, and whatever number that equals is what the EPA likes to call the fan's Airflow Efficiency Rating.  The problem with the Energy Efficiency Rating is that the EPA is not taking into account that a ceiling fan that moves more airflow (higher cubic feet per minute rating) will be able to save more on air conditioning cost, thus allowing fans with a high CFM rating, but maybe not as high of an Airflow Efficiency rating to actually save you more on cooling cost than a fan with a low CFM rating, yet high Airflow Efficiency rating.

I know this all can get confusing.  So in plain English, a fan only cools by creating a wind chill.  The higher the cubic feet per minute rating, the greater the wind chill.  A fan can have a low cubic feet per minute rating and at the same time boast a high airflow efficiency rating by using little electricity.  Although a fan like this uses very little energy consumption, whatever little energy it is using is wasted energy if it doesn't move enough air to keep you cool enough to turn back your A/C.  What I am trying to say is, ignore everything the Energy Information Label on the fan box says except for the Cubic Feet Per Minute Rating.  The higher that number is, the better the fan is for cooling and the happier you will be with your purchase.  The only exception to this is some of the new fans using DC motor technology, which I'll get into in a future post.  For now you may want to look at Modern Fan Outlet as they carry a lot of fans that use DC motors.

Now, the really bad part about the Energy Protection Act when it comes to ceiling fans.  The EPA messed everyone up who wants a fan light that produces a lot of light.  It requires that ceiling fan light kits use a maximum of 190 watts of light.  Anything more than that, well now there is a lighting limiter installed within fan light kits that will shut them down, so don't even try to over watt them, it will not work.  I've never understood this, because if a customer likes to save energy there are smarter ways to do it, but causing a person to be in the dark isn't one of them.  If the fan light isn't producing enough light, then a person will turn on lamps to get the extra light, thus using the same amount of electricity before the EPA messed up fan lights!

That being said, some high end fan companies, such as Gulf Coast Fans, have found a loophole in the EPA when fan light kits are concerned.  They can use standard sockets in the lights, and leave out the lighting limiter providing the lights are packaged with CFL (compact fluorescent) bulbs.  If you get one of these lights and don't like CFL bulbs, simply don't use them.  Use them in closet lights instead and in your fan light put in the incandescent bulb of your choice.  Go ahead put in 240 watts, 300 watts even, being there is no lighting limiter in these lights you can now see again.  Thank God for loopholes!  The only issue with some fan companies taking this route is it has now made the lights a little more pricey because the CFL bulbs they are packaged with aren't cheap and the cost has to be passed on to the consumer.  However, it still beats being in the dark.  Plus, the lighting limiters tend to cause problems, so it's also worth a few extra dollars to get rid of the troublesome part that the EPA wants us to use.

So now you have it, the upside and the downside to the Energy Protection Act.  The next time you go out shopping for a ceiling fan you will be more educated and you will actually know what all those energy numbers mean.  I hope this has helped.

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