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Dear Jim: I think that adding a ceiling fan or two would improve our comfort and save a few bucks on our electric bills. I want unique-looking fans instead of the standard "big box" variety. What is best? -- Carrie V.

Dear Carrie: Adding a few stylish ceiling fans will do more than just save a few bucks on your utility bills. By increasing the comfort level with ceiling fans, you can set the air conditioner thermostat two or three degrees higher. In many homes, this can save over $100 in the summer alone.

Although all ceiling fans look great hanging in big box home centers or lighting showrooms, there are significant differences in quality. A cheap one will quickly begin to wobble and hum after you install it. This is particularly noticeable on medium or high speeds most often used in the summer.

Other than price, the pitch of the fan blades is a good indicator of quality. Steeply pitched blades (up to 22 degrees) move more air at a slower fan speed. This requires a heavier, more powerful motor. With this massive motor running at a slower speed, hum and wobble are diminished.

Another feature to evaluate quality and effectiveness, for both summer and winter use, is the range of speeds. A larger range is better as is a very slow low speed (down to 25 rpm). In the winter, you will use the lowest speed. Three speed settings are adequate, but some offer four or five.

For use in a room that gets chilly in the winter, install a ceiling fan with an optional built-in ceramic heater.

Hand-held programmable controls are convenient. You can program the speed to automatically change as the room temperature changes.

When installing a ceiling fan, the distance from the floor is important for comfort. For a typical room height, use the short downrod packaged with the fan. For 10-foot ceilings, use a one-foot downrod. For 12-foot ceilings, use a two-foot downrod and for 15-foot ceilings, use a five-foot downrod.

Write for (instantly download -- Update Bulletin No. 487 -- buyer's guide of 11 manufacturers of high-quality, standard and air cleaner ceiling fans. Please include $3 and a business-size, self-addressed stamped envelope.

James Dulley, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244.

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