Tweak Your Ceiling Fan — Wired How-To Wiki

Tweak Your Ceiling Fan - Wired How-To Wiki

From Wired How-To Wiki

Photo by Michael Calore/Wired

When was the last time you paid any attention to the humble ceiling fan, spinning all lonely-like above your head? Stop giving it the runaround and show it some love.

Here’s our guide to calibrating, hacking and improving your ceiling fan.


Flip the switch

Ceiling fans don’t cool or warm a room, but they can circulate the air such that it feels warmer and cooler to you.

The trick is make sure your fan is spinning the correct way:

In the winter, that means the fan blades bring the warm air down from the ceiling, to circulate heat around the room. Since in the the winter you do not want to feel a draft, much less one on your neck, you turn the fan so it draws air upwards. In the summer, you want a breeze so the fan turns to blow the air down, creating a breeze you can feel and the sensation of «windchill» reducing the apparent temperature of the air.

Note, this might seem counter intuitive, that you are blowing warm air down at people in the summer, but the heat transfer from moving air, i.e. a breeze from a direct flow, is greater than the decrease in heat transfer caused by a few degree difference in temperature (as would be in a room with properly circulating air). See [1] for a nice explanation. (or for additional confirmation, ceiling fan manufacturers, e.g. [2] )

Turn on your fan and note which way it’s spinning. If necessary, flip the switch which should be on the main fan drum near the pull chain.

Fix a wobbly fan

Wobbles are worse than annoying. They will actually wear down the motor bearings and bushings, leading to nights filled with dreadful squeaking and whining.

The first trick to balancing a ceiling fan is mark each blade with a bit of tape. For added visual help when the blade is spinning, put a bit of florescent paint on each piece of tape, one color per blade. The paint will make it much easier to keep track of the blades when they’re spinning.

Now go around each blade and tighten all the mounting screws to make sure everything is firmly in place.

The next step is to stop the fan and use a ruler or yard stick to measure the distance between the ceiling and the leading edge of each blade. This will tell you which of the blades — if any — is out of alignment.

If the edge of a blade is clearly out of whack (step up to eye level to check) you can try gently bending the blade’s mounting bracket up or down. If that works then you’re home free, if not, read on.

Balance it

If the wobble is too severe for you to correct by bending the blade brackets, or if you just don’t trust yourself to bend it properly, you can add weights to the blades to correct a wobble.

You’ll need a binder clip and some small magnets or weights (U.S. quarters works well).

Tweak Your Ceiling Fan - Wired How-To Wiki

Clamp one of the small weights to the blade using the binder clip. Start by placing it in the center of the blade that’s farthest out of alignment and turn the fan on to the speed to produces the most wobble. You may have to move the clip from blade to blade until you find the best position to correct the problem. Once you’ve found the most promising blade to work with, begin to slide the weighted clip in and out along the length of the blade until the wobbling stops.

Once you have found the perfect spot for the clip, apply some very strong adhesive to the weight on the back of the blade where the clip is located. Remove the clip, and your fan should be working properly.

If this isn’t working, or if you’re not confident that your adhesive is strong enough to hold the weight on, head to your local hardware store and pick up a balancing kit. The kits are cheap and consist of a set of self-adhesive weights and a weighted clip.

Light it up

The fan works fine, but it’s pretty boring to look at. Some inventive hackers have taken to installing POV systems on their fans. These consist of a strip, or several strips, of multi-colored LEDs arranged along the fan blades. When the fan spins, the LEDs flash at a rate that produces an image. A POV system can be used to draw groovy patterns and shapes, or to display text.

You can get Adafruit’s popular SpokePOV ($38 to $100), which is made for bicycle wheels, and modify it to light up your ceiling fan.

Also, Instructables user UncleBone has created his own ceiling fan POV. Check out his step-by-step instructions for further ideas.

Here’s a video:

Overclock it

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