How to Calculate the CFM of a Fan

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Updated July 21, 2022

If you are new to the world of indoor cooling appliances, you may wonder how to calculate the CFM of a fan. The best fans, after all, always include a CFM rating, in addition to other useful metrics. So, what is CFM, what are the benefits of buying a fan with an above-average CFM, and how to calculate the best CFM rating for your needs? Keep reading to find out.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • CFM stands for cubic feet per minute, and this metric describes how many feet of air, or air exchanges, a fan pushes through a room.
  • Before buying any new fan, take a look at the CFM rating to decide if the fan is powerful enough to produce an adequate volume of air.
  • Choosing a fan with a good CFM rating ensures increased comfort and decreased reliance on your HVAC system.

How to Figure Out the CFM of a Fan

CFM, or cubic feet per minute, is a metric that measures how effective a fan is at moving air throughout a space at its highest speed or power level. This is an important metric when shopping for the best ventilation fans, for instance. Also, if shopping for a whole-house fan, the CFM rating determines how quickly the fan moves air throughout the entire home.

Insider Tip

No matter the CFM, make sure to clean the blades regularly to ensure proper balance and efficient operation.

So do you calculate a fan’s CFM rating? This is a process best left to professionals, even if you learned how to bypass a ceiling fan switch. You can, however, figure out an adequate CFM for your room or home, which comes in handy after learning how to install a ceiling fan.

Here are some decent CFM ratings for various-sized spaces.

  • Under 200 square feet: 2,000 to 3,000 CFM
  • 200 to 300 square feet: 3,000 to 4,000 CFM (kitchen or standard bedroom)
  • 300 to 450 square feet: 4,000 to 6,000 CFM (large bedroom or living room)
  • Over 450 square feet: 5,000 to 9,000 CFM

Benefits of Using a Fan That Meets Your CFM Needs

There are a number of significant benefits to purchasing and using a fan that meets or excels your CFM airflow needs.

  • Increased comfort – A dinky fan with a low CFM rating will make for some discomfort during those nasty summer months.
  • Better air circulation – Properly circulating air does more than just cool you off or provide a nice stiff breeze. Air needs to circulate to get harmful toxins out of the home and to filter the air. A powerful fan helps with this.
  • Eases HVAC strain – If your fan is powerful and up to snuff with your needs, running it will take a heavy load away from your HVAC system. In turn, this leads to fewer maintenance visits to fix your air conditioner or heater.

STAT: Commercial spaces that have rooms far larger than 450 square feet should consider installing multiple fans in order to achieve the fan CFM required to keep guests cool. (source)

How to Calculate the CFM of a Fan FAQs

How to determine what size bathroom fan you need?

Bathroom exhaust fans are tricky, as the size is impacted by how much room you have. In other words, choose your bathroom exhaust fan size not by CFM but by how many feet wide it is and if it fits into your space.

How frequently do I need to exchange air?

When it comes to air exchanges per hour, it really depends on the size of your space and any applicable building codes required by law. Two to three times per hour is typically adequate.

What is a fan, and how does it work?

A fan is an appliance that pushes a volume of air through your home, allowing for proper ventilation and increased comfort. Fans work by pushing so many cubic feet of air via fan blades each hour. These are called air exchanges.
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