Our Philippine House Project – Ceiling Fans.
Fans have been an essential part of life and keeping cool in the tropics for hundreds of years and they still are unless you are willing to spend a fortune on electric bills to run air conditioning 24/7.
We were enamored with the idea of ceiling fans, maybe because they were stylish. After all, slowly revolving Casablanca-style ceiling fans are a fixture in every movie about the tropics.
When we first moved to the Philippines in 2006 we lived in rented apartments. We bought three portable floor fans. We used these until we moved into our new house in 2010. We looked forward to getting rid of the floor fans which we were constantly tripping over.
We did not do a great deal of research before buying our ceiling fans. We should have done more. The ceiling fans available in Iloilo were made by Hunter, Westinghouse and then various less expensive fans. The Hunter and Westinghouse fans were similar with a traditional faux old-fashioned design having five wooden blades. Some were hugely gaudy and festooned with lights. The Hunter fans seemed to be the top quality available; at least they were the most expensive and appeared to be well made. The Westinghouse fans seemed to imitate the Hunter designs, but at a lower price.
We saw a 10% off sale on Hunter fans and bought five fans, all the same. Two were in stock and three more had to be shipped from Manila. We selected an old-fashioned but subdued design in white called the Builder’s Select, Hunter model 24957. They cost P7,650 each or about $170.00 (US) at the time. A similar 120 volt fan is available from Hunter in the U.S. for about $90 including tax and shipping. Unfortunately, this is pretty much the story on shopping for imported goods in the Philippines. Other Hunter fans cost as much as P20,000 each.
We did not do a great deal of research before buying our ceiling fans. We should have done more. The ceiling fans available in Iloilo were made by Hunter, Westinghouse and then various less expensive commercial fans. The Hunter and Westinghouse fans were similar with a traditional faux old-fashioned design having five wooden blades. Some were hugely gaudy and festooned with lights. The Hunter fans seemed to be the top quality available, at least they were the most expensive and appeared to be well made. The Westinghouse fans seemed to imitate the Hunter designs, but at a lower price.
Unfortunately, most of their fan offerings are 120 volt only. This means buying fans in the U.S. and shipping them here in balikbayan boxes is really not feasible.
If it not for our problems with our Hunter fans, if we were doing our shopping all over again, I’d take a look at the Hunter Osprey which is available in the Philippines. The Osprey is an all metal fan in a modern design. It offers high airflow, high electrical efficiency fan at a modest price. It moves more air with less electricity than the traditional Victorian-look fans which are so popular and which we bought. For example the Hunter Savoy uses 70W and moves 14,500 cubic meters per hour. The Osprey uses 80W and moves 20,000 m3h. The 56″ Osprey is best suited to large rooms with high ceilings. See http://www.hansenwholesale.com/ceilingfans/hunter/model.asp?ProdNo=28496 Westinghouse makes a similar industrial ceiling fan at a lower price.
Installing the fans.
Hunter fans come with good quality mounting accessories intended for mounting to wood joists or to concrete. Our Hardiflex ceilings are supported by welded angle bars. Anticipating the ceiling fans, we put a heavier (2″ x 2″) angle bar in the center of each room. The Hunter mounting bracket is bolted to the angle bar making for a very secure mounting. If mounted as-is, the fan would be about one foot below the ceiling. Since our ceiling are 10′ high, the fan would be too high above the floor for good air circulation. Hunter sells “down rods” in various lengths to bring the fan further down. Of course these are not easily available. Fortunately these down roads are just 1/2″ iron plumbing pipe so we were able to buy 1/2″ x 12″ pipes (nipples) and use these to lower the fan an additional foot. The pipe was painted white to match the fan. The length of the supplied wiring harness was just long enough to allow the 12″ extension. The mounted fan is about eight feet above the floor.
There are various options for controlling the fans; wireless remotes and wall mounted speed and reverse controls (at extra cost), but we just wired ours to a regular wall switch. We felt we would never want to reverse the airflow to flow upward as one might do in cold climates, nor would we use the lower speeds. When we turn our fans on they are in the downdraft rotation mode on high speed.
Our Hunters are mid-range fans in terms of price, airflow and electrical efficiency. The Hunter fans (made in China) seemed sturdy and well made. They have a number of features intended to reduce wobble and vibration. They have a heavy steel motor casing, cast blade carriers, painted plywood blades and generally sturdy parts, but we do have a problem with the screws holding the blade mounting brackets to the motor assembly gradually loosening and making the fans noisy. We have had to repeatedly tighten the screws on the fan in our bedroom. We are concerned that eventually we may strip the threads. Thanks to a reader suggestion (below) we gave Loctite thread sealant a try.
April 7, 2013. We were unable to find Loctite in Iloilo so we did our usual shopping on eBay and found someone in Singapore offering Loctite with free shipping to the Philippines. We had to pay $16.00 plus about P75 customs duty. I applied it liberally to the screws holding the blades to the motor assembly, tightened them up as much as I dared and let the Loctite set for 24 hours. So far is good. The fans are back to quiet operation.
The availability of parts and service should be a consideration when deciding on purchasing ceiling fans (or any other expensive items). I was able to easily order parts for a $30 3-D brand floor fan but not so for a $170 Hunter ceiling fan. Also keep in mind that taking down a ceiling fan for diagnosis and repair is a much bigger job that taking a floor or stand fan in to be repaired.
Four of our five Hunter fans failed in the first three years of use. We contacted Hunter by email and never received a response. After giving up on Hunter itself, we went back to the retailer we purchased the fans from, Handyman Hardware at Robinson’s Mall in Iloilo City. First we had to prove that we bought the fans from Handyman. Fortunately, I had scanned the sales receipt. Otherwise, we’d be out of luck. Like many merchants, Handyman used a thermal-type register receipt, just like to old thermal fax paper. These can fade to invisibility in a short time leaving the purchaser with no way to prove the place or date of purchase. Hence we scan such receipts and save them online.
Fortunately, they had the exact same fan in stock. It has a lifetime motor warranty graphic right on the box which I was able to use as part of my case. The manager asked me to bring in the while fan motor. We already knew that the problem was not in the motor because we own five of the same model of fan. When we tried the switch module from one of our other fans, it instantly solved the problem. We convinced him to send just the switch module to Manila. He asked that we pay P200 ($5.00) for the shipping. We did so and in a couple of weeks we received a message that our part was in. When we picked the switch module up, it appeared that they had just given us a replacement module, rather than repairing ours. In any case we were grateful for this good service from Handyman and the Hunter distributor in Manila. There was no cost for the repairs beyond the P200 shipping fee. Now three more of the Hunter ceiling fans have failed and been repaired in the same way. The repaired fans are running well after six years.
Just in case it might be of use to others, this is the address of the repair facility to which Handyman shipped our part. From what we can garner online, NKD International Trading is a Philippine distributor for Black and Decker, Stanley, DeWalt and evidently Hunter Fans.
NKD Int’l c/o Mr. Michael
#10 Conseco St. San Francisco Del Monte
Quezon City (Metro Manila)
We have air conditioning in two of our bedrooms, but still fans run almost continuously. Supplementary fans are much more effective at circulating the cool air than are the fans in the air conditioning units. Using fans plus air conditioning allows us to to set our air conditioners at a higher temperature. Reportedly, each one degree Celsius of additional cooling uses 15% more energy.