Cool joy: tripping the (ceiling) light fan-tastic

Joan Fieldstone

August 27, 2014

By: Joan Fieldstone, Home Improv Advocate

In: Heating and CoolingInterior Design

We've been having record-breaking heat the last couple of weeks where I live, and I am cooking in my home office on the second floor. When I bought this new-construction home three years ago in the early weeks of June, the first thing I did was have central A/C installed.

The house was set up for it already, but as the NATE-certified HVAC technician worked, he found that the wiring the builder had included for the A/C was, as he put it, adequate "for a lamp, not an A/C compressor." It cost me for new wiring, but the HVAC folks charged me $100 less than what the electrician who wired the house wanted to charge for replacing it. The electrician claimed the original work was done "to spec and code."

The cooling problem in the office is not with my A/C. If I turn the thermostat down to 75 degrees from 78, it's freezing in this room, but why jack up my utility bill more than my budget allows just to cool a single, 120-square foot room?

I had thought about getting a small floor fan to cool me off until I glanced up, saw a small, plastic cover in the center of the ceiling and recalled that the house, according to the builder, was "wired for fans." After the A/C installation/wiring debacle, I should have thought twice. I didn't. I headed immediately to The Home Depot to check out their ceiling fans and make a purchase. Heat can make you stupid.

As soon as I got home with my beautiful fan, I asked my BFF from next door if she could install it. I should have thought about that a little longer, too, before I let her unpack it. We have history with ceiling fan installation.

Ceiling fan fail

Last summer she surprised me by secretly buying me a fan I'd admired for the 20-foot-high ceiling in my great room. Why did she buy it? Because we had rented scaffolding to paint the two-story high walls, and it had to be returned the next day. I was in no hurry to buy the fan, a final sale item which I'd admired. BFF, on the other hand, thought it best to seize the opportunity while she could reach the ceiling.

She and my son, who are reasonably knowledgeable about electrical in their respective lines of work, came up with a scheme while I was out. They attempted to wire a rope light to the fan, twisting it around the ten-foot galvanized pole they had attached to the ceiling where the builder had prewired for a fan. This unusual lighting design was their idea of retro-futuristic-midcentury, but at the first attempt to turn it on, major fail. They tripped the circuit breakers, more reminiscent of the midcentury Northeast Blackout of 1965. This is why you hire licensed electricians to do wiring.

I spent a sleepless night listening to them fruitlessly discuss the pros and cons of one scheme after another and then try this or that to get the fan and light to work together before the scaffolding had to be returned the next morning.

Ceiling fan in living room

A year later the space-age fan is just a decoration with a twisted rope light dangling from the ceiling. No cool lighting, no cool breeze -- just a funky conversation piece until I rent scaffolding again -- a topic for a blog post of its own.

So getting back to the new fan: After unpacking the entire box and opening every bag of parts, BFF had to crawl into the attic in 100-degree heat -- nearly getting heat stroke -- to verify that my home office could actually accommodate a ceiling fan. Guess what…

Final ceiling fan fantasy

Not that I needed a ceiling fan in my master bedroom, but as luck (or, perhaps, my usual pessimistic subconscious) would have it, the transitional style of the fan I'd bought and the color of the fan blades fit exactly with all of my bedroom furniture, as well as with the brushed nickel light fixtures in the adjacent vanity area. It also turned out to be large enough to effectively move the volume of air in that room.

Dark brown ceiling fan

In truth, I am very grateful to my BFF, who had it hooked up in no time and only tripped the circuit breaker once. The fan works great -- quietly and efficiently. I can turn the thermostat way up and still sleep like a baby with the fan on "low." I guess you don't always realize how much you need or even want something in your home until you have it. Then you wonder how you ever lived without it.

Meanwhile, it's still hot in the office as I write this…


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