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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.

What’s the Difference between Indoor & Outdoor Fans?

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.

Dry vs Damp vs Wet 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.

Best Outdoor Ceiling Fans by Location

Screened Porch

An outdoor wet rated ceiling fan that is very popular among people deciding for a location that comes in contact with water is the 42" Minka-Aire Sundance. The oil-rubbed bronze finish and the all-weather dark oak combine beautifully to make this fixture for your porch, patio, courtyard, or gazebo. The ability to withstand the natural elements, the small blade diameter at 42", and the high CFM rating, at 3,428, and high efficiency, at 65.6, made this choice a no brainer. The 4.9 user review rating was only a bonus to backup what we already know about this quality ceiling fan.

Front Porch

The best damp rated outdoor ceiling fan is an easy decision when the 48" Hunter Sea Wind is an option. The white ceiling fan blade against the white motor housing really brings the traditional Hunter style and craftsmanship into this fixture. The simplicity, reliability, popularity, and most importantly the UL damp listing rockets this ceiling fan to the top of our list. The flush mount ability is an added benefit for consumers considering the Hunter Sea Wind.

Covered Deck

The 52" Ellington Knightsbridge’s unique aesthetic pleasure creates a beautiful centerpiece for any room. The elegant glass keeping the bright lights available combined high the CFM rating keeps this fixture in the #1 spot for covered decks.


There aren’t any fans that are better fit for a sunroom than the 54" Hunter Key Biscayne. The combination of the damp UL rating, high CFM rating, and maritime styling makes this fan the very best for your outdoor sunroom.


Although the blade span on the 48" Westinghouse Oasis is on the smaller side, the airflow efficiency ensures a great draft is made under your gazebo. This elegant wet rated ceiling fan features wonderful coastal styling with fan blades that resemble tropical leafs. The lighting design resembles an old-style lantern with a great efficiency rating to land this fan as #1.


The 54" Minka-Aire Java Kocoa is by far the best ceiling fan to use with a pergola. Although the wet rating is most important, the sleek, modern, and compact design is an important factor for having this fixture as #1. The high product airflow, low electricity use, and high airflow rating influenced this decision also.


The value of the 52" Minka-Aire Traditional Concept supersedes other fans that are similar. We have decided it is the best ceiling fan to be installed in a lanai. The UL listed wet rating, traditional design, attached light kit, and included remote create the best value for outside your home.


The large 60" Emerson Loft is perfect for installing in any veranda. The finishes allow a variety of adaptability for any design, style, or décor that is already in place. The theme surrounding your veranda can be complete with this simple, large, and efficient ceiling fan.


Are you looking for the best garage ceiling fan? The 54" Hunter Bayview is the finest choice for installation in your garage and workshop. The decorative blades are reversible and resemble palm leaves. Although it is available in dark and light finishes, we prefer the darker Provencal Gold for a workshop that only requires additional air circulation.

Pool House

The decorative 54" Casablanca Charthouse with decorative fan blades resembling palm leaves is perfect for a warm pool house. The high CFM ratings and efficient operation creates the perfect combination for a warm outdoor space. The wet rating and wide blade span creates a cool comfortable environment for all of your guests in the pool house.

Florida Room

The 52" Hunter Bridgeport is the best damp rated ceiling fan to install in your Florida room. The all-weather blades make the large fixture easy to clean and maintain while remaining practical and decorative. The bronze housing coupled with the oak-looking fan blades creates a comfortable atmosphere for your family and friends.


The small 30" Quorum Estate Patio is perfect for any bathroom. The short blade span is made up with a 6th blade and great efficiency rating. The wet rating makes this ceiling fan great for circulating air around a tiny bathroom full of steam.


Are you looking for the perfect ceiling fan for your carport? The 52" Savoy House Nomad wet rated fixture is the ideal match. The color availability, large blade span, and airflow efficiency sets that fan apart from the rest. This is the fixture you need to cool your warm carport.

Can Indoor Fans Be Used Outdoors?

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.

How to Install an Outdoor Ceiling Fan

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.

More Helpful Resources

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
Odella Welch
What is the estimated cost for the wet rated fans?
August 10, 2016 at 6:30 pm
Del Mar Fans & Lighting
Hi Odella, Wet rated ceiling fans come in all types and finishes from a number of manufacturers allowing the price point to vary depending on your budget. I hope this is helpful.
August 11, 2016 at 9:13 am