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The ceiling fan has become increasingly popular in recent years, and it is not quite the simple device it appears to be. A well-designed ceiling fan does more than just add a classier atmosphere and simply stir the air above your head. Savings in utility costs and an increase in your own personal comfort can result from use of a fan.

To understand fully how a ceiling fan operates, we must first look at the parts that constitute it. Begining at the top, nearest the ceiling, the first part is the mounting bracket and covering canopy. The mounting bracket connects the fan to the ceiling electrical outlet; the canopy covers the bracket and wires and makes the fan look better. The second part and key to the fan's operation is the motor, its housing, and the fan blades. The electric motor normally weighs about 14 pounds and uses 75 watts of power at its highest speed. Since the fan often is mounted in inaccessible places, the motor will usually have permanently lubricated bearings that require no maintenance. Covering the motor assembly is the motor housing. The design of the housing varies from embossed brass to painted sheet metal. Regardless of design, however, the fan housing also serves to dampen noise and to keep dirt out of the motor. Mounted on the lower, outer edge of the rotating motor are the fan blades, made of wood or plastic. Usually four blades, with a diameter of 30 to 52 inches, provide enough force to move the air, although fans installed in small areas sometimes have six blades. The crucial factor in blade mounting is the pitch of the blade, the angle it is turned from absolutely flat horizontal. The most common pitch for a good fan is 12 degrees, although some larger ones have a pitch of 14 degrees. Any pitch less than 8 degrees will not move enough air to make the fan worthwhile. Such a low pitch is the mark of a cheap fan that will merely look good and have little positive effect on cooling. The third important part of the fan is made up of the directional and speed switches, and their housing. Although it's merely a simple slide switch, the directional switch makes the fan an energy-saving device, for it changes the flow of air during warm and cold weather. The pull-chain switch controls the speed of the fan's operation. Most fans have three speeds, from about 95 revolutions per minute to about 350 rpm. Simply pulling the chain moves the switch through the three speeds one after the other-low, medium, high. Now you know the basic operation of a ceiling fan along with its parts, it's time to grab a tall glass of iced tea, pull your pull-chain switch and experience the coolness.