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Hunter Classic Ceiling Fan

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The secret dread of interior designers, the stuff of nightmares for electricians and that which is better than cold beer on a hot, sweaty afternoon, ceiling fans might well be installed in every room on earth if they didn’t make so much noise. Unfortunately, stamped out of thin steel and assembled with a few ill-fitting sheet-metal screws, they’re usually audible over a force-nine gale.

It wasn’t always thus – a century ago, when metal stamping was in its infancy, ceiling fans were made of sterner stuff. A good one was formed of cast iron. Those ancient cast iron fans were far too heavy to wobble, squeak, vibrate or do much of anything but spin quietly.

Remarkably, cast-iron ceiling fans are still made today, although you’re unlikely to find them at WalMart. The Hunter Classic fan is largely unchanged from its design of the turn of the twentieth century – save for somewhat more modern electrical elements and a lot more personal injury warnings in its installation instructions. It looks funky and retro, and more to the point, it’s dead quiet.

There isn’t a scrap of pressed metal anywhere in this fan – the fan housing, the blade brackets and even the ceiling skirt are all cast iron. As you might expect, this imbues the Hunter Classic fan with a certain gravity.

We have quite a few of these things spinning overhead – the eldest of them is almost two decades old. Aside from dusting and a periodic oil check, they’re effectively maintenance free. This compares favorably to low-cost pressed steel fans, which usually nuke their bearings and get too loud to converse under after four or five years.

Needless to say, the unconventional nature of Hunter Classic fans carries with it a few issues. The most notable of these is weight. A Hunter Classic fan weighs about forty pounds. Installing one is best done early in the day, and with assistance.

Unlike conventional fans, which can be bolted to an electrical box that’s been lightly nailed to a ceiling joist, a Hunter Classic fan requires some serious support. You’ll need a solid two by four nailed between adjacent joists, honking great bolts through the box into this brace and something above your ceiling upon which to anchor the fan’s safety cable. None of it’s rocket science – but attic access isn’t optional when you’re hanging one of these monsters.

Unless you press iron three times a week, it will take two people to lift a Hunter Classic fan into place and secure it to your ceiling. The fan includes a clever metal hook to rest the motor housing on while it’s being wired up, but you’ll still want some help.

One of the things that makes the Hunter Classic fan so quiet and so long-lived – it comes with a lifetime warrantee – is its internal oil bath lubrication. The bearing chamber of the fan is hollow, and once you get it hung you’ll need to fill it with the ten-weight oil included with the fan. In theory, once a Hunter Fan has been filled with oil, you can ignore this aspect of its operation ‘til the end of time. Some of ours have required annual top-ups – it’s unclear where the oil went.

The other unconventional aspect of installing a Hunter Classic fan is in balancing its blades. It comes with 52-inch blades, and at its top speed, they spin quickly enough to cause the fan to perform an inverted modern dance routine if one blade is minutely lighter than its cousins. Balancing these blades is a mildly complex procedure if it proves necessary, involving small sheets of lead to serve as weights and plastic alligator clips to hold them in place while you figure out which blade is acting up.

In fairness, we’ve had several of these fans grab the ceiling and subsequently prove to be perfectly balanced right out of the box.

If you do encounter balancing issues, be sure to check for warped blades before you open the package of lead weights. The blades are wooden, and they can twist a bit, causing one blade to exhibit more wind resistance than the rest of the set. When we encountered a warped blade on one of our older fans and called Hunter to see if we could buy a replacement set, we were told that the fan has a lifetime warrantee, and as such, you can’t buy parts for it. They sent up a new set of blades for free.

The worth of Hunter Classic ceiling fans is best appreciated by how quickly you can forget they’re there. Quiet, demanding no further attention and kind of cool if you do glance up, these are ceiling fans as ceiling fans should be. Long after lesser fans have been recycled into soup tins, they’ll still be spinning.

Finally, it’s probably worth noting that these things exhibit a peculiar range of prices – we bought most of ours from large online retailers for under two hundred dollars each. We’ve seen them locally for two or three times this price – be sure to shop around.

Comments (2)

Brian HicksSeptember 11th, 2009 at 12:07 am

This is a well written article about my favorite ceiling fan.

I collect Hunter originals as a hobby and I have quite a few of them.

I have found that the oil usually needs to be topped up once every 3-4 years in some fans, and others it needs to be topped up every year, why there is this difference, I do not know but some fans just seem to use oil. Could also be an oil formulation difference through the years. The fans from the early days of Hunter typically need to be topped up once a year.

Fans that are older (more than 20 years) can usually benefit from a rebuild. Yes, a rebuild. A rebuild basically consists of a tear down and re-assembly which consists of cleaning the bearing surfaces, cleaning the oil cup, replacing the Reverse Switch, as well as the removal of Dust off of the armature and the windings. Do this service every 20 years and your fans will most indeed outlast you and you WILL pass the fans down to your family members. If Antique Hunter Ceiling Fans have been running for 80+ years with neglect, how long will these modern fans run with maintenance?

Just my thoughts…

TIMApril 23rd, 2010 at 4:49 am

My parents have had hunter classic ceiling fans for as long as i can remember and i’m 40, so when i built my house i put one in my den with 12′ ceilings it moves a ton of air and is extremly quite. I wish all things were made of this high quality. I did not have to balance it at all it was perfect right out of the box

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