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Byline: Barbara De Witt Staff Writer

Some days it's not easy to keep your cool. Crank up the AC and the electricity bill could cause you to break into a sweat. Leaving it off is an equally sticky proposition.

So fan yourself.

While fans don't actually cool rooms, they do create a wind-chill effect on our skin that makes us feel cooler. That may explain why we've fanned ourselves throughout history with anything we could find, from palm fronds to accordion-pleated paper fans.

That link to our roots - and climbing summer temperatures - is fueling a fan frenzy that ranges from attic fans that can cool an entire house to vintage tabletop fans like those seen in black-and-white movies.

``People are going retro in their decor and like the nostalgia idea so much that it's really helped business,'' says Patrick Moya of Valley Breeze Fan Co. in Saugus.

At Home Depot, the nostalgia factor has cranked up sales by as much as 25 percent this spring, reports Ken Vargo, ceiling fan expert at the Woodland Hills store, where plantation and Mission themes are best-sellers. New outdoor ceiling fans have also boosted sales.

Nostalgia aside, the increase in fan use is causing a decrease in energy use that's warming the hearts of the California Energy Commission. Spokeswoman Percy Delta says ceiling fans in particular use about as much energy as a 100-watt light bulb, and when a fan is used in place of air conditioners, the savings are substantial.

Delta wouldn't say how much, but local fan experts claim well-placed fans could save you up to 40 percent on your electric bill.

Keep your cool when considering fans and do your homework. For a novice it may seem as overwhelming as buying a new car when you start looking at hundreds of styles available, so we've provided a cheat sheet, dividing fans into categories.

ATTIC/WHOLE HOUSE FANS: They can keep a home fairly cool for less money than central air conditioning. This type of fan is priced at about $300 - not including installation - and draws cooler outside air through your open windows and forces it through the attic and out through roof vents.

Choose one large fan (or several smaller fans) and place it in the attic where heat is the most intense. You can cool your home by directing an attic fan to heat-trapping hallways and other rooms. You cannot use your refrigerated air conditioning when attic fans are on, but you can enhance attic fans' effectiveness with ceiling and table fans.

Look for them at most home improvement stores as well as through local contracting companies such as Quality Builders in Woodland Hills, which claims a power attic ventilator can move 1,540 cubic feet of air per minute while prolonging the life of your shingles.

CEILING FANS: They used to be so expensive to buy and install that few people used them, but today you'll find one for any budget - from $29.99 at stores such as Target to $299.99 at Home Depot and Lamps Plus.

For those with discriminating tastes, Valley Breeze Fan Co. will let you custom design your fan, from the color of blades to decorative icons on high-end brands such as Emerson and Casablanca Fan Company, for about $1,000.

Ceiling fans are best used as an energy-saving enhancement to air conditioners. Crank up the thermostat two to four degrees higher than usual and switch on the ceiling fan; you'll still feel cool, but the AC won't work as hard, and you'll use up to 25 percent less energy, says Gary Foreman, editor of the Dollar Stretcher Web site.

When shopping for ceiling fans, keep in mind that a family room will probably need a fan with at least a 52-inch diameter blade, while a hallway or kitchen can use a smaller one - you don't want blades so long that a door or cupboard would snap them in two.

Newer ceiling-fan models are quieter, rust-free, wobble-free, offer variable speeds and include wireless remote controls. There are also models that can be used indoors and out, but consumers should make sure the motor is guaranteed to be completely rust-proof.

Installation requires ceiling fan-approved wiring with a metal electrical box and a sturdy beam to which the fan will attach, says Santa Clarita electrician George Cleminson.

OSCILLATING TABLE FANS: This is the classic black or metal-finished round desktop model seen in old films and noted for its 90-degree swivel action that sweeps across a room. You'll find both floor and pedestal-style oscillating fans at stores including Restoration Hardware, the Do It Center, Lowe's, Home Depot and Sav-on Drugs.

Prices vary from $39 to $100, and many models include a remote control. A pair of the fans can keep a room fairly cool and can help lower energy bills by cutting down on AC use. Best of all, they can be moved from room to room.

NON-OSCILLATING TABLE FANS: These tabletop models do not swivel but have a high-velocity action, usually with variable speeds.

Also in this category is the air circulator, or air mover, which has the ability to stir up pockets of hot and cold air in a room and neutralize it. A circulator will not necessarily cool you off the way an oscillating fan can. Vornado makes a '40s-inspired table model for $59.95, available at; plastic types can be found at Do It Center stores. Larger units for industrial purposes can be ordered at fan stores.

BOX FANS: The large box-shape, non-oscillating fan called a high-velocity air circulator was a staple of the '70s and '80s but is now considered passe by decorators. But you can still find them at most home-improvement stores as well as Sav-on Drug stores, where they can be bought for as little as $12.99. They're usually very lightweight, made with a handle and are best used in front of an open window to blow out hot air.

FLOOR FANS: They're similar in appearance and size to a box fan - not to be confused with pedestal fans - but are designed to be placed on the floor and usually have a child safety guard as well as multiple speed settings. You can find them in lightweight plastic for under $30 at drug and home improvement stores.

PERSONAL FANS: These are the original hand-held fans used by numerous cultures throughout history.

The accordion-pleated paper fan, used by Victorians to send flirtatious messages as they fanned themselves, are back in style as wedding party favors. Large tropical designs can be found at gift and specialty stores for under $10. And really decorative designs are available for $25 to $250 from the Cool Breeze company at

Children and teens will be more fascinated with the tiny battery operated models for as little as $2.99 a pair at Target. Larger ones that can be clipped onto a desk sell for $4.99.

Auto parts stores also sell small fans that are powered by vehicle cigarette lighters for under $8.99.

Barbara De Witt, (818) 713-3666


Before you invest

Before shopping for a ceiling fan, clip and save these consumer tips from appliance experts:

Motor: When you're shopping for fans, you want the biggest and best within your budget. A top-quality motor will be able to cover more floor space, last longer and run more quietly. Most ceiling fans come in three to six speeds. If you're using the fan outdoors, you'll want to make sure the motor parts are rust-proof.

Blades: Fans come with two to five blades in numerous shapes, sizes and lengths, but longer, wider blades usually have the most air-moving capability. They're available in plastic, metal, wood or wood-laminated materials. If you break one, you've got to replace all of them because the fans are carefully weighted. Also consider the blade pitch, which helps push the air.

Size: When you see measurements such as 42'' or 52'' on ceiling fans, the manufacturer is referring to the diameter, measured from the tip of one blade to the tip of the blade on the other side. Family rooms and other large rooms usually need at least a 52-inch diameter fan.

Extras: Newer models come in a variety of decorating themes, blade types and colors for indoor or outdoor use, with or without lights and remote controls and timers. The more extras, the more money you can expect to pay, but none reflects the quality of the motor or blades.

Installation: Unless you're a skilled handyperson, most stores and manufacturers recommend using a certified electrician. In a relatively new home with an existing ceiling fan-approved electrical box and a sturdy beam, a fan will cost about $75 to hang, while an older home may require complete electrical installation, which can cost from $200 to $300. Also note that ceiling fans need to be eight to nine feet from the ground to provide the maximum wind chill cooling factor, so it may be a waste of money to install in a cathedral ceiling.

Cleaning: Ceiling fans quickly get dusty and grimy. You can use a vacuum attachment with brush for quick jobs; wash the blades while standing on ladder (with electricity off); or remove blades and wash by hand in a sink with warm soapy water and dry before replacing. Portable fans also can be vacuumed with a brush or wiped with a damp cloth. Never immerse in water.


8 photo, box


(1 -- cover -- color) Hampton Bay's Antigua ceiling fan, with hand-carved wood blades and a remote control by Hampton Bay, is $199 at Home Depot stores.

(2 -- color) For outdoor use, the stainless-steel Tahiti Breeze is $129 at Home Depot.

(3 -- 5 -- color) Restoration Hardware's Art Deco-inspired Silver Swan oscillating table fan, above left, $99, is made by Vornado. Other Restoration Hardware fans include its Tri Vane tilt-model, above, $59, and the moderne-styled Dragon Fly fan, above right, $40.

(6 -- 7 -- color) Above left, Tiki Lounge paper fan, $5.99 at Jo-Ann's, West Hills. Above, miniature battery-operated fan, part of Target's ``I Scream for Summer'' collection, $2.99 a pair.

(8) Hunter's Mission design with a Tiffany glass lights complements a '40s decor, available at Home Depot. Casa Vieja offers a similarly inspired design at Lamps Plus.

Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer
COPYRIGHT 2003 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 28, 2003

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