Drives and Motors

If you have done any kind of shopping for a new ceiling fan, then you already know the vast number of types. Today, styles and designs of ceiling fans are tremendous. This means that you will find anything you want for size, color, style, or design. However, remember that you also need to consider efficiency. For instance, you will also find many ceiling fans for the energy conscious. We wanted to provide you with some options of major styles, along with characteristics to help you get started.

The next several sections contain information on the drives and motors that power ceiling fans. Some of these types are more common than others. It is often helpful to be familiar with the different types of drive systems when you are looking to purchase a ceiling fan. These are some of the most important parts of the fan and deserve careful attention.

Belt Drive

Early fan designs were made with a water-powered system of belts that worked to turn the blades. To provide a more stylish look, the belt drive system was created, which included an electric motor instead of water.

Cast Iron

Of all ceiling fans in existence, the majority are made from cast iron. These ceiling fans were first introduced to the public back in 1950, being made through the mid-1980s. As you can imagine, this material makes the fan heavy and they require occasional oiling. However, the cast iron ceiling fan is also extremely durable, making them last as long as 80 years.

Hunter fans are perfect examples of cast iron ceiling fans, which originally used a shaded pole motor, then changed to the permanent split-capacitor motor. The design of this fan has virtually remained unchanged for a long time even though some technological tweaks and upgrades have been made.

Direct Drive

The motor in this fan design has a stationary inner core, as well as a shell designed to revolve around the core. The blade attachment is also different from modern fan designs in that they attach to the shell. Of all fan motors, the direct drive is the least expensive but overall, they are prone to noise and failure.

Friction Drive

Interestingly, this type of fan motor did not do well in the market. Although the fan was designed to consume less power, the design was often loud and unreliable. Using a low-torque motor design and flywheel, the result was a heavy device that operated at low speed.

Gear Drive

Similar to the friction drive motor but also not as common, this type of fan motor used a rubber wheel on the shaft of the motor by way of friction that was used to turn the flywheel. The design also included a gear located on the end of the shaft to help rotate the gear teeth.

Skeletal Motors

For a high quality direct drive motor, you should look at the skeletal options. Typically, these motors are used on the more expensive fans, providing better operation and a nicer appearance. Additionally, those produced with an open skeletal design create better ventilation that allows the fan to last longer.


With the spinner fan, a direct drive motor is used but without the stationary cover known as the motor housing. Because of this, most spinner fans have an industrial look, rather than a stylish appearance preferred by homeowners.

Tack Motor

This type of ceiling fan started production in the 1970s as a energy conscious solution. Although the motor is powerful, it is also efficient. Because of this, ceiling fans falling within this category were and still are affordable. This fan uses flywheel, which was made from reinforced rubber or metal, could be mounted on the motor housing or below the motor, becoming known as the dropped flywheel design. The downside of this design is that if the flywheel is made from rubber, it will begin to deteriorate over time, eventually failing.