12 volts fans for your boat that move the most air per amp of power. Which one last and which ones don't.

12-Volt Fans

When you think of outfitting the galley, you’re more likely to think of pans than fans.  But in hot weather, the fan will be one of your most treasured pieces of equipment.

You’ll probably want a few more for other areas of the boat, too — we had a total of 8 on board.  Well, I should say that we had 8 out in use, plus a couple more as spares.  Admittedly, we were in a hot climate — often 95+ with occasional days over 100 — as we cruised the Sea of Cortez in the summer.  We put 12-volt fans in the following locations:

  • v-berth (2)
  • saloon (2)
  • head (1)
  • galley (1)
  • quarterberth (1)
  • lazarette (1)

The previous owner had put a couple of Hella fans on board, and we added Caframos.  We immediately noticed a HUGE difference in the amount of airflow per amp, which is what I want to pass on here.

Caframo Two-Speed 12-Volt Fan

The Caframo fan pictured above puts out more air per amp used than any other fan.  I know that some other fans may spec out that they move more air, but there is a basic design difference that results in more “useful” air flow with this particular model.

The major difference is immediately apparent:  there’s no blade guard.  With no cage, all the air is directed on you.  Don’t worry about safety — the blades are finger-safe, even for children.  And yes, I’ve put a hand into one, more than once.  It doesn’t hurt any more than knocking on a door hurts — yes, you notice it, but the blade is soft and stops immediately.

An added bonus is that the fan is much easier to keep clean without a cage!

Manufacturer’s specs say that the fans draw 0.59 amps on high speed.  We almost never ran them on high, and they drew about 0.3 amps per our Link 2000.

The fan comes with a suction cup base, and also a screw-in base.  You can also buy an add-on clip base.  The suction cups just never worked for us and I don’t know of anyone who used them.  Where we wanted the fans permanently mounted (most of them), we used the included screw-in bases (you can still change the angle of the fan, so it’s not a totally fixed position).

Where we wanted to be able to easily move the fans — that would be the two in the saloon area, that we also used at the nav station and in the cockpit — we purchased the clip bases and used them.  They’re a bit of a pain to install the first time (holding down a spring and putting a nut on), but not as difficult as many chores on a boat.

The fans come with a 6-foot cord and cigarette-lighter style plug.  Where we permanently mounted the fans, we just cut the plug off and hard-wired the fans.  They have a High-Low-Off rocker switch on them, so hard wiring does not mean that they are on all the time.

On the clip-mounted movable fans, we used the cigarette lighter plugs and they worked well (if a fan suddenly fails, check the fuse in the plug before assuming the fan is shot).

As the fans age, you may notice some vibration and noise.  We found it was due to the blade becoming loose or very slightly out of balance.  Replacement blades are available for about $6 and it’s a 30-second job (no tools) to replace one.  We always kept a few in stock, both for age-related repairs and in case one of us (or something large) fell against a fan and broke the blade.

Out of all the fans we had, the two Caframo fans that we used the most died after about 5 years.  The others were still going strong when we sold Que Tal.  We replaced a few blades over the course of 6 years — I don’t remember exactly how many, but it did not seem excessive for the use they got.

Caframo says that the fans “create minimal electronic interference” and I’d agree with that — the only interference we noticed was with the SSB/ham radio, and it seemed like everything with a motor (the refrigerator, all fans etc.) interfered with it.  We just learned to turn the fans off when we were listening to the net or sending e-mail.  The fans did not interfere with the VHF, radar, autopilot or anything else.

NOTE that Caframo now makes a number of different styles of fans, some of which state they draw less than the fan I recommend (as is also the case with the Hella fans, for that matter).  However, they all have a cage over the fan blades instead of the soft, safe blades.  That cage makes a significant difference in the airflow that actually reaches you — and that’s what I really care about!

Further, I’ve talked to many people who have had a lot of problems with these other (more expensive) models. I don’t recommend them, but I do recommend (and own!) the two-bladed ones that I talk about here.

Sources for the ones that I recommend are the following:

12 volts fans for your boat that move the most air per amp of power. Which one last and which ones don't.

I'd like to know about...

Explore more

Want weekly tidbits of cruising information? Sign up for The Boat Galley's free weekly newsletter. You'll get the newest articles and podcasts as well as a few relevant older articles that you may have missed.

Do you find The Boat Galley useful? You can support the site when you buy from Amazon by using the links on this site or clicking below. No extra cost for you!

  • Theresa A. Page
    Posted at 10 January 2011 Reply

    Great post! I appreciate you investing the time to write such great material.

  • Anne Roberts on Facebook
    Posted at 21 April 2012 Reply

    Got 4 of these, greatest !

  • Georgina Moon on Facebook
    Posted at 21 April 2012 Reply

    Yep, we got three of them, shop sold out!

  • Candy Ann Williams on Facebook
    Posted at 21 April 2012 Reply

    Carolyn, I was looking at their ‘new’ version that said it was more powerful and quieter…are you familiar with it? I was going to order two like the ones you have posted…but now I don’t know. What do you think?

  • The Boat Galley on Facebook
    Posted at 21 April 2012 Reply

    Hi Candy Ann Williams — I think you’re referring to the “Bora” model that has a grill on it. Our experience with the Hella fans that have a grill but say they use fewer amps and move as much air is that we just never felt as much air moving (highly unscientific testing!). I don’t have any first hand experience with the Bora, but a friend of ours bought one a couple years ago to replace one like that in the photo, and told me she didn’t like it as well — again, no scientific testing, just a general feeling that not as much breeze was reaching her. Our experience is that the grills block a lot of air movement that the fan puts out.

  • Candy Ann Williams on Facebook
    Posted at 21 April 2012 Reply

    Thanks Carolyn. 🙂

  • Candy Ann Williams on Facebook
    Posted at 14 October 2012 Reply

    I have 2 and love them!

  • Bill Dixon
    Posted at 24 April 2014 Reply

    Boat must be damn near perfect if fans are at the top of the list.

  • Lupari Sue
    Posted at 24 April 2014 Reply

    Caframo fans are the best. So quiet and energy efficient and safe.

  • Sue Waudby
    Posted at 25 April 2014 Reply

    Glad you have good luck with them as we know several boats who have had problems with them lately. Our hellas have done very well for us.

  • Lupari Sue
    Posted at 25 April 2014 Reply

    Never haf trouble with Caframos except nlades need replacing every so often.

  • Bill Dixon
    Posted at 25 April 2014 Reply

    We’ve had our boat 5 years in SW Florida .Fans have not yet risen to the top of the list.

    • Rod Rodgers
      Posted at 29 May 2015 Reply

      Ok Bill. we get it. you have boat issues consistently.

  • Verena Kellner
    Posted at 26 April 2014 Reply

    I wish I had never bought our Caframo fans! After one year they started spraying black powder that I can’t get off the walls.

  • Helene
    Posted at 16 August 2014 Reply

    Thank you for providing such useful information. I’m beginning to refurbish a 40-year-old Irwin sailboat in south Florida (call me crazy) and fans were second on my list, right behind mosquito netting. So happy to have discovered The Boat Galley! Can’t wait to read more of your advice and adventures. Thank you! Caframo fans are on order 🙂

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 16 August 2014 Reply

      Congrats! If you’re troubled by no-see-ums, try getting some bridal veil material and using it to cover the hatches. It definitely cuts down on the airflow, but is small enough to keep the no-see-ums out.

  • Glorianne
    Posted at 15 September 2015 Reply

    I don’t know what I did wrong! I installed 2 Caframo fans. They don’t blow air out at all. When I put my hand behind the fan, I feel some air, but not a lot. I am very disappointed. Do you have any suggestions?

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 15 September 2015 Reply

      Test that you’ve got full 12 volts — if the blades are turning but slowly, voltage could be a problem. If that’s not an issue, I’d then think maybe a bad unit and get it replaced under warranty. I’ve only used the ones without a cage and they have always worked really, really well. I know some people with other models have had problems with some being dead out of the box.

    • Kevin Leonard
      Posted at 13 February 2017 Reply

      You have the positive & negative reversed, so the fan is sucking and not blowing. Reverse the connections, that should correct your issue.

  • Martha Towle
    Posted at 07 December 2015 Reply

    We are not having good luck with our Caframao Sirocco fans we installed 4 and 3 are not working well. The 4th is used less. They are 3 years old, we began having problems with them in the second year. When we turn them on they need tapping to get started and then just randomly turn off. We are not pleased with them at all. Our friends have 3 these fans and has replaced 2 and also regret purchasing these.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 07 December 2015 Reply

      I have only used the two-speed Caframo and they have worked very well for us. I’ve heard from others that some of the more expensive models — with more speeds and finger guards, etc. — don’t work as well.

  • Frank Collins
    Posted at 30 May 2016 Reply

    We have 5 all work great. If you have pets I noticed a slight grinding noise from the fan. I pulled the blade off and blew it out with our small 12volt raft inflator. Worked great and quiet after getting the dust and or fur out. Just ordered 3 more, at least 4 are kept on during the night running off our solar charged batteries. Highly recommend them.

  • Randy Hicks
    Posted at 29 July 2016 Reply

    Carolyn, We are new boat owners (Hunter 28.5) so this is probably a stupid question. How do you wire these to your batteries? Do you run the wires through the headliner to the electrical panel? I’m not much of an electrician but willing to give this a try to combat the heat here in Texas.

    Love your site. Thanks.


    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 29 July 2016 Reply

      Sometimes the wires run behind the headliner, other times under the floor or along the hull in lockers. When you start looking, you’ll find the existing ones. You really should run the wire from the electrical panel (on an existing breaker or perhaps a bus bar) and not directlty from the batteries. If you’re not familiar with 12 volt wiring, get a copy of Don Casey’s book — it’s great if you’re just learning. Nigel Calder is also good, but assumes that you already know quite a bit. Don Casey’s Sailboat Electrics Simplified on Amazon or Don Casey’s Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual (contains the electrics book in its entirety plus 5 other good reference books). We have the second and use it frequently!

  • Fazel
    Posted at 19 August 2016 Reply

    Please advise how to replace blades on Sirocco fan, bought the part, but how to disengage the frame?

Post A Comment