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Outdoor vs Indoor Ceiling Fans: A Where to Use Guide

What is better than sitting on your porch swing with a cold glass of smooth iced tea? Swinging on your porch sipping cold iced tea under the cool breeze of an outdoor ceiling fan. There are some important factors to think about when buying outdoor ceiling fans. If you're looking for an affordable, quality fan check out our huge outdoor ceiling fan selection. Take your time and feel out all your options. Once you find an outdoor ceiling fan you love, you can use our guide How to Install a Ceiling Fan to help with your install. But first let’s explain the difference between an indoor fan and an exterior fan.

Can Indoor Fans be used outdoors?

If you’re considering using an indoor fan for your outdoor space, please know outdoor ceiling fans are built to withstand the harsh exterior elements that interior¬†fans often can't handle. Here's the difference:

How to choose your correct UL listed outdoor ceiling fan

Indoor: Dry Rated Fans

  • Blades are typically made with quality furniture grade woods.
  • Offer a much larger variety of sizes, colors and designs.
  • Usually have more electronic features and control options.

Outdoor: Wet or Damp Rated Fans

  • Blades are made with special ABS plastic and are known as All-Weather blades.
  • Built with galvanized tubular steel and powder-coated paint finishes that stop corrosion and rust.
  • Motor casing has a waterproof seal protecting it from moisture.

What Happens if You Use an Indoor Fan Outside?

No. Indoor dry rated fans are not designed to withstand the outdoors because even a small amount of moisture getting into the motor will lead to the fixture dying much faster than it should. Worst case scenario: Using a dry fan in a damp or wet location could lead to dangerous situations. Some of the things that could happen when dry rated ceiling fans are used in wet or even damp environments include the following.

  • Burned. The hardware of your fan could begin to rust creating the potential for exposed wiring and electrical fires leaving burned ceilings, fans, outlets and more.
  • Melted. Your blades could begin to warp or melt due to heat/moisture and become uneven causing poor circulation, noise or a wobble to begin.
  • Rusted. The finish of your ceiling fan could begin to rust, tarnish and fade, leaving you with a dull lackluster ceiling fan.

Bottom line, water and exposed electrical elements never work well together. That's why the protected UL Damp or Wet ceiling fan is what you need outside. Why waste your hard earned money on the wrong ceiling fan? Keep your home safe by installing the proper rated ceiling fan in the right location. UL Wet or Damp ceiling fans in outdoor locations will last so much longer.

What Is The Difference Between Dry, Wet, & Damp Rated Ceiling Fans?

All ceiling fans have Underwriters Laboratories (UL) rating to help you determine which to buy based on the location the ceiling fan will be installed. Dry rated fans should always be used indoors and away from moisture. Wet or dry rated fans can be used indoors or outdoors; the difference surrounds how much moisture the fixture may be exposed to.

UL Dry Rating

UL Dry rated ceiling fans are great for indoors. When steering clear of all moisture, these fans will have long and healthy lives. However, it’s never a good idea to place these fans outdoors. The exposure to the elements will ruin a dry rated ceiling fan quickly. If you can keep these fans away from all forms of moisture, they will provide long lasting cooling for your home or office.

Suggested locations for a dry rated fixtures include:

  • Bedrooms
  • Kitchens
  • Dining Rooms
  • Foyers

UL Damp Rating

UL Damp rated ceiling fans are ideal for covered outdoor locations that have no direct exposure to water, rain, or snow. These outdoor fans can handle moisture and damp areas like a pro, but like getting directly rained on. Use these fans in the in-between places of your home or facility to keep the air circulating and cooling.

Suggested locations for a damp rated ceiling fans include:

  • Bathrooms
  • Garages
  • Covered Patios
  • Screened Porches

UL Wet Rating

UL Wet rated ceiling fans can handle it all. You could spray these fans with a hose to clean them and they will still hold up great. They can handle ice, snow and intense rain. Wet rated ceiling fans also work well against the harsh salty breezes from the ocean. This is the fan you want around while your’re outside trying to enjoy the day without so much summer heat.

Suggested locations for a wet rated ceiling fans include:

  • Exposed Decks
  • Verandas or Lanais outside a seaside home
  • Gazebos
  • Cabanas

Now that you know what type of ceiling fan to buy, you may want to check out our How to Buy a Ceiling Fan Guide to ensure you purchase the perfect ceiling fan. If you are unsure of how big your fan should be for your room size, you might want to view our What Ceiling Fan Size Do I Need Guide to determine which size you need based on the dimensions of your space.

Installing Exterior Ceiling Fans

Installing outdoor ceiling fans is as easy as installing indoor ceiling fans. You should read the owner's manual to familiarize yourself with the detailed directions; however, here's a brief overview. Prior to installing an exterior ceiling fan, make sure the power is turned off at the circuit breaker box. Then, confirm all the necessary parts and tools are included in the original packaging. You may pre-assemble the downrod and fan blades to save time. Next, follow the instructions below:

  1. Install the mounting bracket to the junction box
  2. Hang the ceiling fan body from the bracket
  3. Connect the wires as follows: green ground wires, white neutral wires, and black power wires
  4. Attach the blades to the motor housing snuggly
  5. Fasten all screws tightly

Lastly, turn the power back on and test the new exterior ceiling fan at the highest speed. Look for wobbling and listen for noises that indicate additional balancing in necessary.

Jake Gibson
Bobbie, you make a great point about how an inside fan, used outside, could cause an electrical fire due to exposed wiring from the rust. My wife and I are hoping to install some new ceiling fans at our house. If we do buy some, we'll want to make sure we hire a licensed, experienced, and reputable electrician to do the work. We do not have the tools, time, or experience to do something like this ourselves. http://www.verlindenswa.com.au
July 15, 2016 at 7:38 pm