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With New Styles, Choosing a Ceiling Fan Is a Breeze


As hot weather continues to simmer, the pleasures of ceiling fans reassert themselves. These oldies but goodies have been rediscovered by a generation raised on air conditioning.

Promoted as energy savers--the breezes they create make people feel cooler at higher temperatures--ceiling fans also stir up a breeze of fashion excitement.

What's new is the explosion of styles now available. Hunter Fan Co. of Memphis, Tenn., for example, markets about 350 models. Ten years ago, the company made only 44 ceiling fans. Other manufacturers also offer a wide assortment.

"We discovered that consumers would buy more ceiling fans if they fit into their decor," says Steve Martin, marketing manager of Hunter. "They want quiet fans in the bedroom, good light in the kitchen and elegance in the dining room."

Since all fans include the same parts--a motor and blades suspended on an armature from the ceiling--the variations in looks are achieved with decorative trim, color changes for motor housing and blades, and the design of the lighting fixture that is a feature of many ceiling fans. Blades may be wood or aluminum and motors chrome- or brass-plated.

The variations extend from a reproduction of a ceiling fan offered in the 1880s to a novelty fan that resembles a World War I airplane. A model geared for kitchen installation comes with a 150-watt halogen bulb, while a fan for a dining room resembles a chandelier with blown-glass light bulbs and a brass motor housing.

Controls also vary. Top of the line models come with remote controls to turn fans on and off and to change speed.

The many variations show that ceiling fans have come a long way since 1886 when John Hunter and his son, James, began marketing a water-driven model invented by the elder Hunter in Fulton, N.Y.

A few years later, engineer Samuel Tuerk employed an electric motor to drive a ceiling fan. This triggered the beginning of commercial production, and ceiling fans became one of the earliest successful electrical appliances.

Their first use was mainly in industrial and commercial settings, such as factories, hotels and restaurants. By the 1940s, however, the ceiling fan became a popular home appliance and remained so until home air conditioners displaced them in the 1950s and 1960s. The energy crisis of the 1970s resurrected fans, according to Martin.

These days, a ceiling fan is as much a decorative accessory as a functional appliance. A fan can set a mood, especially in rooms decorated in tropical or Caribbean, Victorian and early 20th-Century bungalow style.

Prices of fans range from about $50 on sale up to $500, reflecting the great variety of available features. Look for the best selection in large home-improvement centers and discount chains.

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