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Mention ceiling fans and most people think of the legendary movie "Casablanca." As Rick and Ilsa contemplate their unrequited love and the war-torn globe, the fan turns lazily overhead.

To this day, ceiling fans conjure romantic images. Many people buy them simply for looks."For most homebuyers, it's cosmetic. It's just a trendy thing to do," said Sandy contractor Garn G. Christensen, who uses ceiling fans extensively in new home construction. "Most homeowners probably don't understand what a benefit ceiling fans can be."

Although it is difficult to quantify their benefit, J.R. Clawson, general manager of Galaxie Lighting Inc., said ceiling fans make homes more livable 365 days a year.

Clawson would not quantify the amount of energy savings derived from the use of ceiling fans. Sales literature puts the number at 30 percent savings in cooling bills, but Clawson said he doubts the savings would be that great.

"Let's say it's a difference you can feel," Clawson said.

In the heat of the summer, the forward motion of the fan pushes the air toward the floor and creates a constant breeze. Some ceiling fans are capable of moving more air than air conditioners or swamp coolers.

Reversing the fan's direction in the winter forces the warm air downward, distributing the heat throughout the room without creating a breeze.

"There's a lot of air that gets trapped up there. In the summer, you're trying to retain all your cold air and force it down. In the winter, all your heat rises and you want to move it down," Clawson said.

Although most people associate fans with summer weather, Galaxie Lighting sells more fans in cold weather.

"I know it seems amazing, but we sell more fans in November than we do in the spring," Clawson said.

He attributes the brisk sales to two phenomena: The fans help circulate warm air to help keep homes warmer in the cold months, and a lot of interior finishing of construction work is performed in the fall and early winter.

Christensen has installed 10 to 15 ceiling fans in each of the luxury homes he has built in Utah. He said he believes the use of the fans will continue to increase because of architectural styles that require some means of moving air about vaulted lofts and cathedral ceilings.

"Fans make sense because of the architectural styles. Plus, people want them," Christensen said.

Clawson said ceiling fans have long been popular in the South but didn't gain popularity in Utah until the early 1980s. "I think it was theJimmy Carter years, solar energy and awareness about energy conservation that brought them out West," he said.

But today's ceiling fans are far more sophisticated than the loping fans that whirled above Rick's Place or the parlors in Southern manors. Most fans are also wired for lighting fixtures, which can be operated independently of the fans.

Other models feature remote control units that automatically adjust the fan speed as the room temperature changes. As temperatures drop during the night, the fan slows to keep the room comfortable. If the room becomes too cool, the fan shuts itself off.

In the winter, the computerized remote control performs a converse action, altering the fan speed and direction to push hot air down from the ceiling.

Ceiling fans range in cost from less than $50 to about $370 for the remote-control fans. Lights cost extra.

The fans are available in a wide variety of colors and textures including wood, chrome and cane to match nearly any decor. Since they also are wired for lighting, more decorating options are available.

Then there's the question of picking a number of fan blades. Galaxie Lighting offers fans with four, five and six blades each. But the number of blades makes little difference in the amount of air that's moved by the fans themselves. It's strictly a question of aesthetics, Clawson said.

"That doesn't seem to make a lot of difference. It's not so much that but the length of the blade and blade pitch," Clawson said.

The fan blades range in length from 29 to 52 inches each. Blade pitch refers to the degree of slope or inclination of the fan blades. The greater the pitch, the greater the air movement. Most of the fans Gal-axie sells have a 12- or 13-degree blade pitch, which are designed for maximum air movement.

Buying a fan all boils down to a question of personal preference. Some people buy the fans for utilitarian reasons - a fan to help heat or cool their weekend cabins. Others buy strictly for cosmetic reasons.

You get what you pay for when you buy a fan, Clawson advises. "If you're buying just for looks, you might as well buy an inexpensive fan," he said.