Ceiling fans aren’t just for the indoors. They can also create a breeze in an outdoor space, like a porch or covered patio, pergola, gazebo, or lanai. Outdoor ceiling fans can make enjoying your outdoor space much more comfortable, but you have to choose the right kind of fan.
That’s because outdoor fans face environmental conditions that indoor fans simply don’t. They’re more likely to get wet or damp, experience high winds, or suffer corrosion from salt air, if you live on the coast. Sizing a fan for an outdoor space can also be more complicated — you’ll probably want a fan with a stronger motor that’s capable of creating higher airflow outside.
Buy an Outdoor Rated Fan
The most important thing to remember when buying an outdoor fan is to get one that’s rated for outdoor or wet use. Indoor or dry-use fans don’t have any waterproofing at all, and many can’t even withstand the humidity that exists in damp areas like bathrooms, basements, kitchens, and garages (for these areas, you would need at least a damp-rated fan).
Wet-rated or outdoor use fans come with weather sealing that protects the motor and electrical components from rain. They’re safe for use in all outdoor areas, even pergolas and lanais, where they will be fully exposed to the weather. If you’re installing your outdoor fan on a completed covered porch or patio, you may be able to get by with a damp-rated fan, but it’s best to buy a wet-rated fan, just in case.
Consider Your Local Environmental Conditions
Does your area get high winds? You should buy a fan that’s made as one single piece, also known as a “unibody” fan. While very high winds may still damage these outdoor ceiling fans, they’re less likely to fly apart in windy conditions than fans with blades that attach as separate pieces.
If you live near the coast, you should look at outdoor ceiling fans made with marine-grade materials. These fans are designed to better withstand the corrosion of salty sea air than fans made with more traditional materials. A fan made with marine-grade materials will last longer and function better than one made with traditional materials.
Choose the Right Size
Choosing the right size fan for an outdoor space can be a little more complicated than choosing the right size fan for an indoor space because you probably need or expect higher airflow capacity from an outdoor fan than you would from an indoor fan in a similarly sized space. You can still use the general rule of thumb for sizing ceiling fans — buy a smaller fan for a smaller outdoor space, and a larger fan for a larger outdoor space. Spaces up to 75 square feet may need only a 29- to 32-inch fan, especially if it’s a small covered porch or gazebo. Spaces from 75-144 square feet will require a fan up to 44 or 46 inches wide. The largest spaces will require the largest fans. Choose a fan that fits in your ceiling space and provides enough clearance — get a flush mount or low-profile fan if the ceiling in your outdoor space is low.
Get the Airflow Capacity You Need
You’ll probably need your outdoor fan to create stronger airflow than you require from your indoor fans, just because it’s outdoors and working to create breezes in a larger space. The airflow ceiling fans create is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM), so look for a fan with a higher airflow rating to get a stronger fan that will create a more powerful breeze in your outdoor space. Average airflow is about 5,000 CFM, but you can get fans that move air at 20,000 CFM or more.
An outdoor ceiling fan can be just the thing you need to create some air movement and reduce the stifling summer heat in your outdoor space. It’s a must in hot areas, but you need to make sure you buy a fan that can withstand wet conditions, high winds, salt air, and other environmental factors. Spend the extra money to get a sturdy outdoor ceiling fan — it’ll give you many years of service, and you’ll enjoy your time outside so much more.