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Don't blow your money when buying a ceiling fan

Ceiling fans can provide your home with decorative flair and reduce your utility bill. Even the most power-hungry fan costs about $5 a month to use if you keep it on for 12 hours a day _ not bad for an appliance that can make a room feel 6 or 7 degrees cooler. The following tips will help you keep your cool as you shop for the perfect fan.

1. Don't buy the cheapest one. Ceiling fans ranging in price from $30 to $400 may look similar at first glance. Bear in mind that the lower-end fans often have inefficient motors and inadequate blades.

2. Size up the situation. Before you buy a fan, consider the size of the room you want to cool. A 52-inch fan is good for a room that's 225 square feet or larger, while a 42-inch fan is appropriate for rooms ranging in size from 144 to 225 square feet.

3. Focus on the motor. The most important part of a ceiling fan is its motor. High-end brands usually have the most energy-efficient, well-designed motors.

4. Ask about the capacitors. Unless you don't mind buzzing and humming sounds, don't buy a multispeed fan with only one capacitor inside its motor. A quality fan able to handle three speeds should have at least three capacitors.

5. Opt for the optimal angle. For a ceiling fan to move the right amount of air, its blades should be set at a 14-degree angle. Blades set at a 10-degree angle will simply slice the air, while blades at a 20-degree angle will meet so much wind resistance that the motor may burn out.

6. Install the fan correctly. Because it's much more complicated to install a ceiling fan than a ceiling light fixture, you might want to consider having your fan put in by a licensed electrician.

7. Avoid "huggers." Don't fit the fan too snugly to the ceiling; doing so will prevent it from doing its job because there won't be enough air between the fan and the ceiling for the fan to circulate.

8. Keep a safe distance. If your ceiling is 10 feet high, get a 12-inch down rod _ the pole from which your fan hangs. This will help you and your family avoid injuries.

9. Maintain proper control. Decide whether you want a fan with a standard pull chain or, for about $25 more, a wall switch. Other options, including timers and remote controls, can add another $200 to $300 to the cost of your fan.

10. Lower your utility bill. Armed with a good ceiling fan, you can raise your thermostat setting and save substantially on air-conditioning costs.

_ Compiled by Laura T. Coffey.

Sources: Money magazine (www.money.com); Consumer Reports (www.consumerreports.org)

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