Question: I think that adding a ceiling fan or two would improve our comfort and save a few bucks on our electric bills. I want unique-looking fans instead of the standard variety. What is best?
Answer: Adding a few stylish ceiling fans will do more than just save a few bucks on your utility bills. By increasing the comfort level with ceiling fans, you can set the air-conditioner thermostat 2 or 3 degrees higher. In many homes, this can save more than $100 in the summer alone.
Although all ceiling fans look great hanging in home centers or lighting showrooms, there are significant differences in quality.
A cheap one will quickly begin to wobble and hum after you install it. This is particularly noticeable on the medium or high speeds most often used in the summer.
There are new, unique-looking ceiling fans available that are also efficient. Some use natural palm, woven bamboo or wicker in highly pitched oval blades.
For effective cooling with high ceilings, a unique style with filigree trim uses two of these fans mounted on a horizontal axis opposing each other.
Decorative, tall, pedestal ceiling fans, mounted on an ornate wrought-iron base, can be moved where needed. Some high-tech-styled fans have airfoil-shaped blades with a built-in halogen light. For your kid's room, choose one that looks like a soccer ball or an airplane.
Other than price, the pitch of the fan blades is a good indicator of quality. Steeply pitched blades (up to 22 degrees) move more air at a slower fan speed. This requires a heavier, more powerful motor. With this massive motor running at a slower speed, hum and wobble are diminished.
Another feature to evaluate quality and effectiveness-for summer and winter use-is the range of speeds. A larger range is better, as is a very slow low speed. In the winter, you will use the lowest speed. Three-speed settings are adequate, but some offer four or five.
For rooms that get chilly in the winter, install a ceiling fan with a built-in ceramic heater.
For rooms with dust or odor problems, consider a fan with special charcoal/air-filter blades.
Hand-held programmable controls are convenient. You can program the speed to automatically change as the room temperature changes.
For bedrooms, a sleep mode automatically reduces the fan speed soon after you fall asleep.
A ceiling fan's distance from the floor dictates comfort. Fans come packaged with downrods, which hang down from the fan; the higher the fan, the longer the rod needed. In a typical room, use the short downrod. For 10-foot ceilings, use a 1-foot downrod; 12-foot ceilings, a 2-foot downrod; 15-foot ceilings, a 5-foot downrod.
For more information, you can write for (or instantly download at http://www.dulley.com) Update Bulletin No. 487, a buyer's guide of 11 manufacturers of high-quality, standard and air-cleaner ceiling fans listing unique styles, pitch/number of blades, speeds, sizes, controls and features.
Please mail $3 and a business-size, self-addressed, stamped envelope to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244.
Install Whole-House Fan Near Bedroom Hallway
Q: I want to install a whole-house exhaust fan for the summer. I plan to put it in the front hall ceiling, but my husband says the hall near the bedrooms would be better. Which location is better?
A: You will probably use the fan at night when the outdoor temperature is lower. Because you are in the bedrooms at night, that hall is the better location.
Select a whole-house fan with several speeds. Use the highest speed when you first start it to quickly draw in cool air. Set it to a lower, quieter speed when you go to bed.
Softener Only Needed on Water Heater's Inlet Side
Q: I am planning to install a water softener, but my budget is limited. I was wondering whether it makes sense to install a smaller unit only on the inlet side of my water heater?
A: It probably does make sense to do what you suggested. Most of the scale buildup is on the hot water side and in the water heater, so the softened water will help there. Also, there is no need to soften cold water used for watering.
Another option is to plumb the water softener, plus a bypass valve, to soften all the water. Bypass the softener when watering your lawn.
A simple 30-minute inspection of your home and some simple, low-cost improvements can control utility bills and avert the need for rolling blackouts. Download a free list of "100 Energy Saving Tips and Improvements" plus an "Appliance Cost-to-Use" chart from http://www.dulley.com/energy.