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The Ceiling Fan I Always Get

It’d be a lie to claim that there’s one Best Ceiling Fan out there among literally thousands of models, because there are at least a half-dozen manufacturers making plenty of perfectly good fans that will last you a decade or even longer. However, there is one model that I’ve personally bought four times to use in two different homes, and I’m about to buy another for my new place: the Westinghouse Comet 52-Inch. It delivers on the key criteria you should expect of any good fan: silent and steady operation, plenty of air movement, and quality parts and hardware. Subjectively, it meets two personal requirements: It usually costs less than $100, and the unobtrusive five-blade design practically disappears into your decor. I unfortunately can’t recommend any runner-up models because this is the only fan I ever buy.

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Our pick
Westinghouse Comet 52-Inch Five-Blade
Silent, powerful, affordable, and understated, the Comet has everything I want in a fan. I’ll have another, please.

Table of contents

Why you should trust me

I once took apart a fan motor while researching a ceiling-fan feature for Popular Mechanics, and on that same project, I interviewed product managers and PR reps from every major fan manufacturer in the US. We charted the exact recommended blade diameter per square footage of a room, tried to determine the ideal blade count, and dug deep to find the true sweet spot of a fan’s cubic feet per minute (CFM) of air movement. It was a major investigation!

Before that story, I’d installed at least two ceiling fans, and since then, I’ve installed six more, usually with the help of friends and pro electricians. Having seen so many fans in action in different rooms, and revisited my own research and reporting since then, I realized something: Many of the stats and facts I found, while accurate in the strictest sense, don’t mean much for the average fan buyer. The truth is, it’s a lot easier to find a decent fan than I once believed. The Westinghouse Comet always works for me, and if you don’t like it, there’s probably another one out there that’ll work fine for you, too. Here’s what I’ve learned, and I hope it helps you choose.

How I picked

Between the selections at Home Depot, Lowe’s, and specialty retailers like Hansen Wholesale and CeilingFan.com, you have literally thousands of models to choose from. I’ll explain how I settled on the Westinghouse by summarizing what I’ve heard over the past several years while researching this topic.

First, avoid the cheapest, budget-model fans you can find at big-box stores. Specifically, to be safe, skip the lowest-priced options from Hampton Bay and Harbor Breeze. These brands generally don’t have the level of quality or customer support you will get from a better manufacturer: Hunter/Casablanca, Fanimation, Minka, Kichler, Westinghouse, Emerson, Big Ass Fans, and Modern Fan Co., to name a few. I’m not saying that all fans from big-box stores are bad, or that all the fans from more fan-focused manufacturers are good. But you’ll at least have a better shot at success if you can go for a top seller from one of the big brands.

For size, just go large. Look at models with a 52-inch blade diameter. Other editorial stories (like my old one) will tell you how to size the fan to the room, and that shorter blades are better suited for an area with less square footage. Forget it; just go with this size, which is popular and is often the largest you’ll find at an affordable price. Bigger blades tend to have more control over the wind speed, a larger motor that’s sized appropriately to the fan, and hopefully a good shot at running silently and lasting a long time. I once installed a Westinghouse Comet 52-Inch in a kid’s room that was about 10 feet by 8 feet, which is serious overkill by conventional standards. It looked kinda big for the space if you really stopped and stared at it, but it never really caught my eye after the day it was installed, and nobody ever said anything when we sold the place the following year. It comes in a few neutral shades, from pure white to pure black (or a “wood grain” option on the opposite side of the blades), so you can easily find a way to make it blend in with or contrast the ceiling.

I went with the Westinghouse (model 7801665) in particular because it had positive Amazon reviews and it was inexpensive. Most people don’t want to invest in a fan. Retailers we’ve talked to say almost everybody spends less than $100. Sure, you can pay more—you can drop a thousand bucks on a fan if you really want to—but come on, there are more fun things to spend your money on. Beyond price and reputation, it’s pretty attractive, for a ceiling fan. That’s mostly because you don’t notice it. Let’s be honest, ceiling fans are some notoriously ugly home fixtures. I’ve talked to architects who refused to install them and real estate agents who removed them for photos and open houses. (That’s a little extreme IMO.)

This is in no way saying the Westinghouse is the only decent fan out there, but it’s worth noting that I’ve bought and installed four of them and all of them have been perfect. That said, I’d bet there are probably 50-plus ceiling fans for sale in the US right now that would meet our objective requirements just as well as the Westinghouse does. Silent operation, no vibration, maintenance-free durability, ability to revolve—that’s not asking too much of a basic electric motor, which most engineers would consider a mature technology. If you find another fan out there that has stellar reviews, a reliable brand name, and a style you like, then you will probably be happy with it.

On the other hand, there are a lot of bad fans out there. Even fans from within the same manufacturer can vary in quality, with parts sourced from different places, which is one reason I’ve been sticking with a fan that works. To hear it from our Chicago electrician, who helped me install a total of six ceiling fans in two places, most of the fans people buy—the typical under-$100 big-box models—are not quite as good as this Westinghouse out of the box. He said he was impressed with its not-crappy hardware, solid-feeling motor, and overall ease of assembly. If I’d dropped $300 or more on a high-end Hunter or Kichler or whatever, he hopefully would have been impressed with that too. I really think he just has to install cheap fans most of the time.

Our Chicago electrician said he was impressed with its not-crappy hardware.

Here’s what I mean by cheap: We tried to go with a smaller fan for two of the bedrooms in our last place, because, as you’d read in Popular Mechanics, 52 inches is supposedly only good for larger square-footage spaces. The difference was noticeable when you compared them room by room. The smaller ones hummed at every speed. Not a crazy amount, but not the total silence we got from the Comet. Beyond that, the smaller fans didn’t move as much air at the lower speeds, so they had to run faster, probably consume a fraction more electricity, and make a slightly louder hum. By most measurements, they worked fine. You felt a breeze. But in a direct comparison against the 52-inch, I wondered why we had bothered going smaller and paying a little less.

The ceiling fan I always get

ceiling-fan-westinghouse-comet-52-pr-shot

The Westinghouse Comet 52-Inch is quiet, cheap, looks fine, and moves plenty of air. What more could you want?

Our pick
Westinghouse Comet 52-Inch Five-Blade
Silent, powerful, affordable, and understated, the Comet has everything I want in a fan. I’ll have another, please.

The Westinghouse Comet 52-Inch moves plenty of air, doesn’t make a sound, and comes with decent hardware and customer support. Its domed light and five blades have an understated style that you probably won’t notice, and it usually costs less than $100, putting it in the affordable realm for a quality ceiling fan. I’ve installed four, and they’ve all worked perfectly; I’m about to buy a fifth—fingers crossed it’s also great!

Also great
Lutron Maestro 7-Speed Combination Fan and Light Control
This dual switch gives you more speed settings than most fans offer, dims the fan’s light, and controls each separately from the wall (not a pull chain).

Speaking of also great, the Lutron Maestro dimmer switch is an awesome addition to this or any fan. It gives you seven speed settings, which really makes the fan a lot more versatile at the lower speeds. It also gives you independent control of the fan and light so you can remove the dangling pull chains.

So, back to the fan’s air movement. One of the rooms we installed the Comet in was a giant 16- by 20-foot master bedroom. Oh, how we miss that bedroom! Its square footage was on the upper limits of the 52-inch fan’s supposed capacity, but we almost never turned it past the medium speed settings, even in the dead of summer. It just moved plenty of air throughout that big room at the lower speeds. That might make you think its level of power was overkill for a small bedroom like the 8-by-10 kid’s room I mentioned, but really, it wasn’t. The lower speed was perfectly comfortable—and that was before we’d even discovered that Lutron dimmer, which would have helped us dial in the speed even better.

Manufacturers measure a fan’s airflow as cubic feet per minute (CFM), an objective measurement, but I’ve found subjectively that there’s something just a bit nicer about the way the breeze feels coming off a wider-diameter fan on a slow speed versus a smaller fan that has to work harder and spin faster to get the same churn going in the room. The narrower fan feels more like a sharp, focused beam of air, and the bigger one is more like a gentle waft. This one’s CFM is rated up to 5,199 at its top speed, which is on the high end of average, and a more intense gust than most people would want running for more than a minute or two. For reference, all of these fans were installed from high-ish ceilings at about 8 feet off the floor, within the 7- to 10-foot range of floor-to-blade distance that manufacturers generally recommend.

On the matter of noise, the Comet 52-Inch is absolutely silent. The smaller fans we installed had a distinct high-pitched hum (which I might never have noticed if the electrician hadn’t pointed it out to me after the installation, saying, “Man, you hear that fan? That noise’d drive me CRAZY!”) On warm days when I turned on the smaller and larger fans in succession, I just shook my head at the little ones’ noise. Again, there are probably quite a few good fans out there that can operate silently at any speed, and there are even some really bad ones that can tick or click or make a wah-wah sound after some use. All I can say is the Comet was quiet from the start and and has been for more than a year of use.

As for hardware, I have to defer to my electrician, who has seen a lot more of it than I have and who pronounced it “not bad.” With electrical hardware, I feel like it either works as expected, or it’s too cheap—the machine screws aren’t threaded well, the wires are substandard, or the connections just don’t feel solid. I wouldn’t expect to find much boutique super-duty artisanal electrical hardware in most high-end ceiling fan boxes. The Westinghouse Comet stuff is decent and shouldn’t need to be swapped out during the installation.

In regard to customer support, my point is really to distinguish the more prominent manufacturers (like Westinghouse) from the big-box store brands. In that sense, I mean you can get support specific to your product, whereas at a big-box store you may not. Sure, you can usually return any product to a big box, so you’re not out of luck if something goes wrong right away. But it’s a little more likely that a Westinghouse (or Hunter, Fanimation, Minka Aire, Modern Fan, Big Ass Fans, Kichler) can actually send you a replacement part if needed, answer an unusual question if something odd is happening, or maybe even replace an older product if something goes wrong later.

Regarding style, the Comet has a pretty neutral, understated look. We’ve always used the black fan blades; the reverse side is a wood-look laminate (it also comes in white/wood and cream/wood, and a more expensive espresso finish). That’s all the style we wanted: felt but not seen.

Like most fans, the Comet has a light. The light incorporates two bulbs under a single glass-dome shade, giving you a range of light levels, and it has standard screw-in sockets (candelabra size, unfortunately), but you’ll still have plenty for LED bulbs, which are usually dimmable and always efficient. Yes, ceiling fan lights are notoriously harsh and you should probably avoid being seen naked under them if at all possible. However, predictable overhead lighting is useful, particularly for drunk guests stumbling off to an unfamiliar bedroom. And, people browsing through an open house when you’re trying to sell your place will find one less thing to be distracted by if there’s a light on the wall right where they expect it.

The Comet also has five blades. I’m pretty sure my ceiling fan reporting has attempted to determine an ideal number of blades on a fan, but it’s really not something you need to focus on. There is no magic number of ceiling fan blades. The bigger-diameter ones can all move plenty of air. Just get the style you like.

There is no magic number of ceiling fan blades.

Last, there’s price. A ceiling fan is one of those things that, even if I had unlimited money, I’d still want to spend as little as possible on to get something satisfying. The Comet usually costs less than $100, which is about as low as I’d reasonably expect to go, especially considering some of the higher-end fans out there can go for $300, easy. If you like a style at that price and you can afford it, I hope it’s as satisfying as the Westinghouse. I unfortunately can’t offer any comparison for you there. Maybe you should just buy three Comets instead.

The competition

The competition in this category consists of the more than 1,800 ceiling fans currently for sale on Home Depot’s site, and however many hundreds more Home Depot doesn’t sell. Many of them are probably fine. Some may be horrible. I’ll never know. The Comet is my once and future fan. If you don’t like it for some reason, I suggest you refer to the general buying guidelines in the How I picked section, and I wish you luck! If you like the way a fan looks, and it’s big enough, and made by a decent manufacturer, you’ll probably be fine. Bottom line: Don’t sweat this purchase. (Get it?) We’ll give you more to worry about in our other guides.

One thing our guides typically include is a runner-up in case you can’t find the item we suggest. Because of the nature of how I arrived at this conclusion, I unfortunately don’t have any other picks to offer here. But I know there are other ceiling fans out there that will do the job. If you’ve bought fans that have worked well for you—and especially if you’ve had success with a particular model multiple times—please let us know!

(Photo by Westinghouse.)

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Sources

  1. Harry Sawyers, What's Inside Your Ceiling Fan?, Popular Mechanics, July 20, 2011

Originally published: June 6, 2016

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