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Exploring the history of the humble ceiling fan

Published: November 28, 2018 Last Updated: December 07, 2020

Cheap to run and a godsend in the long hot summer months, many of us rely on the humble ceiling fan to keep us nice and cool. Even today, with air conditioning pretty much everywhere, sales of ceiling fans haven’t really slowed. So to celebrate this fairly simple contraption, let’s take a glimpse into its history.

The first ceiling fans were thought to originate in India back in the early part of the 17th century. Known as ‘Punkha’s’ they were installed in the residences and palaces of the well-to-do. Initially they were a cloth covered frame or a large palm frond that was attached to the ceiling. This was operated using a series of pulleys by a ‘punkah Wallah’ commonly a boy servant who controlled it with his hands and feet.

Hunter fan company

It wasn’t until 1886 when technology intervened and the world’s first water driven ceiling fan was produced Made by John and James Hunter in up-state New York, their design cleverly used water to power belts which in turn drove large blades or turbines. Before long their invention was being transported to India, Africa and The Far East and turned their shotgun manufacturing business into a manufacturer of ceiling fans within a few years. Initially called the Hunter Fan Co they went on to become Hunter which is now the largest and most well-known producer of ceiling fans in the world.

World’s first electrically powered ceiling fan

The following year in 1887 Philip Diehl created the world’s first electrically powered ceiling fan when he took the motor off a Singer sewing machine and used it to power a fan blade. He patented his design and the electric ceiling fan was born.

Not for home use

The first electric fans weren’t used in the home as electrical current was thought too precious to be wasted on cooling us down. Instead they were installed in factories, hotels and restaurants to keep employees and guests cool. However by the 1920’s ceiling fans were becoming more sophisticated and more widespread. They started to contained add-on’s such as lighting. As such they were an expensive item which only the rich and famous could realistically afford.

By the late 1940’s however this all changed. People were earning more money and in addition fans were being mass produced, thus bringing prices down. This meant for the first time they became affordable to the average home owner. As such they began to appear in more and more homes.

By the 1950’s however the popularity of ceiling fans seemed short-lived as air conditioning took over, but by the 1970’s around the time of the energy crisis, fans were known to be cheap to run and as such were back in fashion.

Ceiling fans are still popular today

Today ceiling fans are used in conjunction with air conditioning and are still as popular today as they once were. Now, according to ‘Store’ a US based magazine which surveys retail activity, over 14 million units are sold annually in the US alone. That’s a lot of ceiling fans in anyone’s books!

They’re not the perfect solution and some can be quite loud and noisy, but in terms of keeping the nation cool in their time of need, there’s nothing else like them.

If you have a new ceiling fan and need help installing it, then contact Static Electrics Brisbane.With a team of highly experienced technicians we can get your fan up and running both safely and efficiently in no time at all. Call us today on 0429 139 039 and put us to the test.

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