One of the most utilized and least appreciated appliances in the home, the humble ceiling fan works hard to improve your comfort on a daily basis. Inside and out, ceiling fans are efficient and cost-effective, helping to maintain a consistent temperature without infringing on valuable floor or table space. What’s more, ceiling fans can improve the aesthetic balance of a room, offering illumination, movement, and style to the ceiling, which tends to be boring and bare.
If you have not respected your ceiling fans in the past, the following facts about the history and function of ceiling fans may transform you into the number-one ceiling fan.
The First Ceiling Fan Was Made From a Sewing Machine
In truth, the world’s first ceiling fans were invented in India more than 2500 years ago, when large palmyra leaves were attached to the ceiling and pulled in a circular motion by a doting servant. In America, the first rotary ceiling fans were driven by waterpower — and some of these systems are still operational today in the Southeast, where they were popular in stores, restaurants, and offices in the middle of the 19th century.
However, the first electric ceiling fan was invented in 1882 by Philip Diehl. Using an electric motor he pulled from a Singer sewing machine, Diehl could drive the blades of the fan relatively quietly and quite efficiently. Electric ceiling fans became an immediate commercial success, and by the 1920s, they were commonplace in American homes.
A common misunderstanding about ceiling fans suggests that they help to cool the air, but actually, the opposite is true (as you’ll find out in the next fact). In truth, ceiling fans help you feel cooler by taking advantage of your body’s natural cooling system. When your body gets hot, it releases moisture onto the skin — which we call sweat. When the sweat is wicked away via evaporation, the skin feels cooler, which increases your comfort levels. Ceiling fans increase airflow, which helps evaporate your sweat faster, thus helping you cool off in a natural way.
The electrical motor of a ceiling fan transforms electrical energy into mechanical energy — and in doing so, the fan creates heat. A motor can heat up to as much as 150 degrees Fahrenheit, which will certainly burn you if you touch it. The heat from the motor permeates into the air around it, slightly increasing the temperature of the space near the ceiling.
It is worth noting that this is not a unique feature of ceiling fans; almost every electrical fixture in your home creates heat in addition to its primary function. What’s more, this heating capability can come in handy during the cold winter months, when your fan should be rotating clockwise to pull hot air from the ceiling down into your room.
There are many features of modern ceiling fans to consider when you are making a purchase, such as the style and size, you should stop and read the fan’s label to better understand its ratings. In the United States, ceiling fan manufacturers must include a label explaining the fan’s efficacy, which is a type of efficiency rating. The efficacy rating will look like a series of boxes containing numbers and labels like “Airflow,” “Electricity Use” and “Airflow Efficiency.” Generally, you want a fan that will give you an airflow efficiency of more than 100 cubic feet per minute per watt — but if you are not careful, you could find yourself with a fan efficacy of lower than 30.
Ceiling Fans Cannot Cause Grievous Harm While Spinning
It is a common myth that a fast-spinning ceiling fan can chop through a human viscera with ease. In fact, more than a few urban legends involve fan-related decapitations. Fortunately, serious injury is all but impossible when a fan is properly installed and functioning as normal. Fan blades are not sharp or robust enough to cut through a human hand, let alone a neck, and fan motors are not powerful enough to drive the blades into human flesh. Popular science show “MythBusters” was only able to cause harm when they replaced the regular ceiling fan motor with a lawn mower motor and swapped the fan blades for razors, so as long as you do not make any alterations to your fan, you will be safe.
You shouldn’t need to think about your ceiling fan for it to do its job well, but perhaps these facts will help you appreciate this oft-ignored home appliance a little more.