Outdoor VS Indoor Ceiling Fans: Differences You Should Know

If you are in serach of a ceilng fan for your home you might have stumbed upon the terms indoor and outdoor fans. They are not two fancy terms used to categorise fans used in indoors and outdoors. Rather, there are significant differences between these two types of fans. It is important to know those differences before chosing the fan or you may end up losing your investment. Let’s see what the differences are;

The main difference between an outdoor and indoor ceiling fan is its ability to withstand moisture. Outdoor fans are constructed with moisture-resistant materials and sealings to withstand outdoor elements whereas indoor fans are suitable to be used only in dry, indoor areas.

There are more differences between them as listed in the table below;

Outdoor FansIndoor fans
UL Weather rated to be wet or dampAll fans are dry rated
Made of materials that can withstand moisture and windsConstructed for dry environments
Use a stronger motor to cool outdoor areas.Requires only a smaller motor for the same size of space indoors
Usually, have bigger bladesSmaller blades in comparison
It can be used indoors also.It can’t be used in outdoor spaces.
Require more CFM to cool an arearequire only a lower CFM to cool indoor areas
Comparatively fewer options to choose fromMore models to choose from
A quick comparison of indoor and outdoor ceiling fans
A ceiling fan indoors

Outdoor fans are weather rated for outdoors but indoor fans are not

Outdoor fans are specially constructed for outdoor use but indoor fans are not made so. The fans used outdoors should be able to withstand water and other corrosive elements they come in contact with. Indoor fans do not need such special construction since they do not come in contact with moisture.

Based on the above, ceiling fans are UL rated into three;

  • Dry rated
  • Damp rated
  • Wet rated

Dry rated fans

Dry-rated fans are regular indoor ceiling fans. They are made of a variety of materials, from plastic to wood. These materials cannot withstand moisture, and if used in an unsuitable location, the fans’ blades will start to rust. In addition, their motors and wirings are not sealed to prevent moisture entry. Dry-rated fans can be used only indoors.

The good thing about dry rated fans is that they are available in a variety of options. Since environmental constraints do not restrict the manufacturers, they are free to put their creativity into the fan designs. This gives you a wide range of indoor fan models to choose from.

Damp rated fans

Damp rated fans are designed to withstand moist air. In outdoor spaces and also indoors like bathrooms and kitchens, there is always the presence of moisture. Even though the fans do not come in direct contact with water in these places, they are affected by the moisture content in the air.

Damp rated fans are those which are constructed with mositure resistant materials. In addition, their motor and wirings are sealed to prevent the entry of moisture.

Even though damp rated fans are designed to withstand moisture they will get damaged on direct contact with water. These type of fans are suitable for outdoors spaces like covered patios, porches, garages and sheds. They are also used in indoor spaces like kitchen, bathroom, sauna, laundry room etc.

There aren’t as many damp rated fan models as dry rated ones because of their design constraints. However, there are models made of wood and many other materials leaving you plenty of models to choose from.

Wet rated fans

Wet rated ceiling fans are the ideal choice for open outdoor areas where the fan will come in contact with rain and snow. They are constructed with water-resistant materials like marine-grade steel and high-quality plastic. These materials do not corrode or bent in outdoor conditions. These types of fans are also designed to withstand windy environments.

Their motor and wirings are also perfectly sealed to prevent the entry of water and snow. Some of them also come with light kits which, also, are waterproof.

A good thing about wet-rated fans is they are effortless to clean. You can just flush the fan with a hose, but I don’t recommend using a pressure washer.

Dry RatedDamp RatedWet Rated
Suitable for dry areas like bedroomsSuitable for moist areas like porches and bathroomsSuitable for all locations, including wet outdoor spaces
Made of a variety of materialsMoisture-proof constructionWater-resistant construction
Not very wind-proofNot very wind-proofDesigned to withstand wind
Plenty of options to choose fromA large number of selectionsA limited number of models
A bit hard to cleanA bit hard to cleanEasier to clean
Dry rated vs damp rated vs wet rated ceiling fans

Outdoor fans require more airflow than indoor fans

For the same square foot area, outdoor fans need to move more air than indoors fans. This is because, since indoor fans are used in closed spaces, the air movement is conserved by the walls. But since outdoor areas are open, the fans used their need to move more air to create a breeze.

For this purpose, outdoor fans are built with stronger motor and wider blades. These two help to provide more CFM. For comparions, a typical indoor fan moves 3000 to 6000 CFM of air whereas for an outdoor fan that value ranges from 6000 to 10,000 CFM. So, an outdoor fan need to move alomost twice as air than an indoor fan!

Outdoor fans can be used indoors but indoor fans cannot be used outdoors

Outdoor fans can be used in indoor spaces as well. These moisture-proof fans have no problem working in a dry-rated area. There are many people who use an outdoor fan in their living and bedrooms. Most do this because they like the outdoor fan design. Some such fans are very good-looking and are compelling to buy. So if you come across an outdoor rated fan that is very compelling to buy, feel free to go ahead!

On the other hand, you cannot use indoor fans outdoors. Indoor fans are not constructed to withstand moisture and sunlight; these elements will damage the fan in no time. If used outdoors, you risk fire and safety hazards. The blades and their other metal components will catch rust. Moisture and water can leak into the motor and wiring of the fan causing fire hazards. Their blades can warp and burn under direct sunlight. All of these will make the fan useless in a couple of months, if not weeks.

Indoor fans are available in more options than outdoor ones

Due to the lack of design constraints, indoor fans can be made of various materials and in a variety of eye-pleasing aesthetics. This means that there are plenty of models in the market to choose from. However, outdoor fans, since they have to be made moisture-proof, do not have that luxury. Therefore, even though there are many options, the choices are limited when compared to indoor fans.

Can you put an indoor fan in a sunroom?

I see this question asked in many online forums. Sunrooms are rooms that have a glass ceiling. They are perfectly screened from the outside. So is it okay to use an indoor fan there?

Indoor fans shouldn’t be used in sunrooms as many such fans are not designed to withstand direct sunlight. Exposure to direct sunlight heats the blades of the fan and cause them to warp or burn depending on their construction.

A sunroom

As you can see, it is not moisture that is the villain, but sunlight. However, I agree that sunrooms can have a bit of moisture as well. So why take the risk, use an outdoor fan, whether wet or damp rated, instead.

That being said, some indoor fans may be suitable for sunrooms if their blades can take it. But this can’t be said generally, so the safest option is to use an outdoor fan in your sunroom.

Are outdoor fans better than indoor ones for indoor use?

Some people have the misconception that outdoor fans are a better choice for indoor use than indoor fans. As I said, this is a misconception. Indoor fans are more suitable for indoor use. This is because outdoor fans are more expensive compared to indoor ones. Also, indoor fans are easier to repair in comparison.

Should the downrod and blades be outdoor rated

For an outdoor fan, the downrod and the blades should be of the same weather rating as the fan. All fans come with downrods. But in some cases, you may need a longer or shorter downrod than the one provided. In such cases, make sure to buy one that has the same UL rating as the fan. If you install an indoor-rated downrod on an outdoor fan, it will rust in no time. This can cause the fan to wobble or fall.

This is also applicable if you are replacing the blades of the fan. I can’t think of a situation where you need to replace the blades with a different type. However, if anybody attempts such a thing, make sure to get the blades of the same weather rating.

Charles John

Experienced HVAC technician with 8 years of experience in the industry. Capable of handling all sorts of heating and cooling equipment as well as proficient in operational management, construction-related techniques such as preventative maintenance, electrical troubleshooting and AutoCAD

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