Can An Indoor Ceiling Fan Be Used Outdoors? Why (Not)?

Do you have a patio, porch, sunroom, garage, or deck with partial or complete exposure to the elements? It can get hot there and ceiling fan is an effective way to get a little breeze but do you need an indoor or outdoor model for your situation? Here’s what you need to know.

You should not use indoor ceiling fans, outdoors. If you are looking for a ceiling fan to use outside or which is otherwise exposed to water, make sure it is damp or wet-rated. These are fans that are made to withstand the elements, like water and heat.

You should only use dry-rated ceiling fans in areas not typically exposed to moisture, such as living rooms, bedrooms, dining rooms, and kitchens, provided they are adequately ventilated. This article will explore these three ratings, what they mean, and how to use them when shopping for an outdoor-use ceiling fan.

Why Can’t an Indoor Fan Be Used Outdoors?

Using a dry-rated fan in exposed or outdoor areas is not recommended and could even be dangerous. At best, a dry-rated fan risks heat and water damage, rust, and wear—and likely will not last too long. At worst, exposed electronics not suited for outdoor use could pose a severe fire hazard

Safety organization Underwriters Laboratories, or UL, created a three-level rating system for ceiling fans that specify their level of exposure resistance: Dry, Damp, and Wet. While all three types can be used indoors, dry-rated fans should only be used in an indoor environment with very little to no exposure to moisture. 

Dry-rated fans are made from furniture-quality wood and focus on style, design, and convenience over durability and strength. They are sometimes equipped with multiple lights and will often have advanced electronic features like a wireless remote or even smart capabilities. 

These fans are ideal for enclosed spaces like foyers, dens, bedrooms, and living rooms. You can also use them in kitchens and basements, provided they are finished and sealed. You will want to investigate damp and wet-rated fans for areas that see occasional or prolonged exposure to the elements, especially water.

What Kind of Ceiling Fans Should Be Used Outdoors?

Damp and wet-rated ceiling fans should be used outdoors for areas that are fully or partially exposed to the elements. Damp and wet-rated fans can also be used in indoor rooms like bathrooms, unfinished basements, and some kitchens, depending on how well-ventilated they are.

Damp-Rated Fans

Damp-rated fans are the middle ground between dry and wet-rated. They are best for enclosed spaces that are exposed to light moisture. These spaces include unfinished basements, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and garages, but the fans can also be used in partially outdoor areas like patios and screened porches.

Damp-rated fans are not as focused on design and convenience, but you may have a few styles and features from which to choose. The material will not be as high-quality as a dry-rated fan, but the efficiency, durability, and cooling power will make up for it.

Suggested: Do I need an outdoor rated ceiling fan for a covered patio?

Wet-Rated Fans

Wet-rated fans are heavy-duty and meant for full exposure to heat, cold, rain, snow, and more. They can withstand direct contact with the elements without the risk of fire or damage, as they are fully waterproof to protect the internal components. 

You can use these fans indoors as well, but you likely will not find any that match your interior décor! They are constructed from heavy industrial materials like plastic and metal. They also will not have any fancy bells or whistles.

However, you will find that wet-rated fans are easily the sturdiest and most durable option for fully outdoor locations like open decks and patios, gazebos, and porches. They are also the easiest to clean and can even be sprayed down with a water hose. They also feature the strongest internal components and should keep you nice and cool in the hot summer months. Wet-rated fans are the best option for outdoor use.

Suggested: Can outdoor ceiling fans be exposed to rain?

Tips for Installing a Fan Outdoors

Have you chosen your fan? Are you ready to get out and install it? Not so fast! While we recommend consulting the instruction manual included with your fan for specific, detailed instructions, there are a few preparatory steps to make before getting started!

Sort Out the Electrical Wiring

If only it were as easy as mounting the fan to the ceiling and turning it on! You will need to connect your fan to your house’s electrical wiring for it to operate. Before doing any electrical work, be sure to shut off the power to the house. If you’re uncomfortable with this, get in touch with an electrician!

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Consider a Downrod

A ceiling fan downrod can be attached from the motor to the fan housing, extending the length between the ceiling and the fan’s blades. There are many advantages to this, including increased stability, less wobble, and more efficient airflow. 

The downrod’s length will depend on your fan and the height of your ceiling. However, keep in mind that there should ideally be 10 inches between the ceiling and the fan blades.

Make Sure the Fan Spins Counterclockwise

Ensure that you are installing the fan and blades in the right direction: when the fan turns counterclockwise, air will be pushed down towards you, ensuring maximum cooling power. A fan that spins clockwise will still improve the airflow and keep you cool, but not nearly as efficiently. 

Along those same lines, consult the fan’s instruction manual to confirm that you are attaching the blades in the right direction. This will also ensure the air is pushed towards you instead of pulled away.


Finding a fan suitable for outdoor use isn’t as easy as picking the first one you see, or even the one that matches the color or style of your home. You’ll need to make sure that you choose a fan rated for damp or wet environments. Hopefully, this article has given you the knowledge necessary to make an informed decision on what ceiling fan to install on your outdoor porch or patio.


Matt moved to a location where the climate is hot and humid year round 8 years ago and got a bit obsessed with ceiling fans as an alternative or supplement to air-conditioning. He just wants the optimal ceiling fan and to get it to work the best for the specific situation. And now you can follow what he learned on

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