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You don’t have to deal with an astronomic energy bill just to keep your house comfortable in the summer. By using ceiling fans to efficiently cool your home, you’ll be able to save energy and money while staying cool and comfortable. And with our comprehensive guide, you’ll learn how to switch to ceiling fans without breaking a sweat!
There are few topics so heavily debated in the world of energy efficiency as the eternal question of ceiling fans versus air conditioning. Everyone seems to have a differing opinion. If you’re like us here at WattDoesItUse, you just want the truth. Which system will allow you to conserve energy while saving money, preferably without roasting to death in the summer?
If you’re on the edge of your seat and have to know the answer now, spoiler alert! Using ceiling fans is slightly more efficient than relying solely on an air conditioning unit to keep your home cool. If you aren’t using your fan or AC at the proper times or with the proper setting, that has a major impact on your expenditures.
Of course, the exact margin for cost and energy savings depends heavily on a few key factors. For example, your specific ceiling fan and AC unit in question as well as the external temperatures and internal temperature that you choose to keep your home at. For some homes, the best solution is likely to strategically use a combination of the two.
If you feel like you’ve been struggling to find an unbiased, balanced assessment in the “A/C v. ceiling fan” debate, you’re in luck! We’ve sifted through the data so you don’t have to get bogged down in the controversy.
In this post, we arm you with the facts about air conditioning, ceiling fans, and their relative cost requirements. And then we jump right to actionable insights with a buying guide that will help you determine exactly what to look for if your goal is to save energy and money with ceiling fans.
Ceiling Fans vs. Air Conditioning: The Great Debate
Americans are kind of obsessed with air conditioning. Over 90 percent of American households have air conditioning, more than almost any other country worldwide. It isn’t like our country is any warmer than other parts of the world. But over 5 percent of all the electricity produced in the US is utilized by air conditioners. And that figure is only projected to increase in the next 30 years. So maybe it’s time to cool it on the AC use.
Sounds great in theory, right? If you’re used to sleeping at a cool 66℉ at night regardless of the season, this may seem like an impossible change to make. But have you ever stopped to consider what your air conditioning habit may be costing you? Shockingly, the cost of running your AC comprises just shy of 20 percent of your home’s electricity bill.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), around two-thirds of homes worldwide will have air conditioning by 2050. This will dramatically increase global energy consumption. This issue is exaggerated when considering the fact that most consumers aren’t purchasing efficient systems. In fact, the average efficiency of air conditioners sold today is less than half of what is available on the shelves.
But there is still hope: air conditioner manufacturers halved A/C units’ energy requirements over the past three decades. And the IEA’s study found that investing in energy-efficient air conditioners could cut future energy demand in another half.
An even better alternative? Increasing your reliance on ceiling fans. Why? They require far less energy to operate, so using ceiling fans saves you money while reducing your energy consumption.
Cost and Energy Savings from Ceiling Fans
According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), ventilation is the “least expensive and most energy-efficient way to cool a home.” One of the top ventilation methods recommended by the U.S. DOE is ceiling fans.
Check out this breakdown of the power consumption and cost for several cooling devices in an hour of operation:
|Central Air Unit||3 kilowatts||$0.36|
|Window AC Unit||1.2 kilowatts||$0.14|
|Ceiling Fan||30 watts||$0.003|
Clearly, reducing your AC use will have you money in the long term. And ceiling fans are a powerful way of doing that without sacrificing your comfort. This is clear when looking at the cost per hour of the central air unit versus ceiling fan in the table above. There is over a $0.35 incremental hourly savings by switching to a ceiling fan. You would need to have 35 ceiling fans turned on in your home to equal the cost of operating your central air unit for one hour!
10 percent of global energy consumption is directly attributed to air conditioners. As mentioned above, an average central air unit consumes 3 kilowatts of power compared to 30 watts used by a ceiling fan over the same period of time. This isn’t even considering outdated or broken AC units, which cannot possibly function at an efficient level and represent major energy drains in the home.
When selecting a ceiling fan, be sure to find one that is ENERGY STAR rated. Fans that have earned the ENERGY STAR label are an average of 20 percent more efficient than standard fans.
Are Ceiling Fans Worth the Investment?
This is a complex question that depends heavily on your individual situation. There are certainly cost and energy savings to be had. But there are several factors that will determine how significant those benefits are. Key factors are:
- The age and efficiency of your current air conditioner
- The age and efficiency of your current ceiling fans
- The layout of your home
- The climate zone you live in
- How cool you prefer to keep your home
Generally speaking, if you a) have a brand new, top-of-the-line energy efficient air conditioner; b) live in a very extreme climate; or c) would only purchase the most expensive ceiling fans; it may take years to see any cost savings from your ceiling fans. (Although you can sleep deep knowing you are helping the environment along the way!)
If you don’t fall into one of those three scenarios, you can definitely expect to save money and energy with ceiling fans. This is based on the fact that you can raise the temperature on your thermostat by several degrees without sacrificing cool temps in your home, as long as you run your ceiling fan simultaneously.
Depending on where you live, you may also be able to increase your ventilation by shutting off your AC and opening your windows. This will bring in fresh cool air, which you can then use your ceiling fans to circulate. Of course, this doesn’t work well everywhere (sorry, Southerners!).
Using Fans and AC in Conjunction
Feeling wary of letting go of your A/C safety blanket? Good news: there are still benefits from running both systems simultaneously, although this doesn’t mean running your air conditioner as usual.
According to a study from the U.S. DOE, you can raise your thermostat by up to 4 degrees while running ceiling fans without feeling any significant temperature change. Depending on the size and layout of your house, you may be able to raise it even more than that.
This is especially true for apartments and smaller homes. If you notice that the room you are in is only a few degrees too warm for your liking, simply switch on a ceiling fan instead of going to the thermostat. This will prevent you from wasting the massive amounts of energy needed to power the air conditioner and cool the entire home, but you will still feel cooler. Regardless of the exact temperature of your thermostat, you should try to maximize your cost savings by using the most efficient air conditioner and ceiling fan possible.
Best Energy-Efficient Ceiling Fans
We’ve made it easy to pick an efficient ceiling fan with our product comparison guide. The ceiling fans listed here are all ENERGYSTAR certified, meaning they meet certain energy efficiency requirements set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The ENERGYSTAR EnergyGuide is a useful label that will tell you how much energy each ceiling fan uses when compared to similar appliances. It will also provide other pertinent buying information such as estimated annual operating costs. By choosing an ENERGYSTAR certified appliance, you will have a much better idea of just how much money and energy you will save over time.
Best All-Around: Minka-Aire Light Wave 54” Ceiling Fan with LED Light
Technical features aside, this fan is just downright gorgeous! The distressed koa wood and unique, aerodynamic blades would make an attractive feature in any room. But that isn’t why this fan gets our best all-around vote. The Minka-Aire Light Wave pairs smart device technology featured in some of the larger, pricier fans with the energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the more affordable models. This fan comes with an integrated, dimmable LED light kit as well as a remote control with three speed options. Plus, the annual operating cost is just $11/year!
Best Smart Home Option: Fanimation MAD8531 Ceiling Fan
This is a ceiling fan fit for the 21st century. With wi-fi and bluetooth compatibility, optimizing your fan to run efficiently couldn’t be easier. The Fanimation line offers a variety of customizable 5 and 6 blade options, all with smart technology features we love. This includes timer functions, “home-and-away” and “fresh air” settings, and more. You also have the option to purchase an LED light kit that is compatible with the fan so you can efficiently cool and light the same room. Available in several different finishes, this smart fan is priced very reasonably compared to other comparable devices.
Best Budget Option: Home Decorators Collection Kensgrove 54” Ceiling Fan
If you’re looking for energy efficiency on a budget, Home Decorators Collection is for you. The Kensgrove model is a 54” fan with an integrated dimmable LED light kit. It features 9 speed settings and comes with a remote control. We particularly love that the blades are damp-rated for use in covered outdoor locations. Perfect for use in a covered porch, patio, or other humid area.
Best For Large Spaces: BAF Haiku 60” Smart Ceiling Fan
This fan definitely comes at a higher price tag. But if you need to ventilate and cool a large area, Big Ass Fans (BAF) has the product for you. Their Haiku fan is “tall ceiling” adaptable and capable of effectively cooling areas up to 400 square feet with ceiling heights of up to 13 feet.
You obviously might not be able to reach the fan to change the settings if you have it mounted that high—no problem! You can control the fan using its remote control, the free Haiku mobile app, or by pairing it with Alexa/Google devices. This fan also comes with a unique feature: it is able to “learn” your preferences and make minor adjustments based on the humidity, temperature, and motion within the room. That means it can keep you comfortable while saving additional energy and money! Definitely worth the upfront investment, in our opinion.
How to Optimize Your Ceiling Fan’s Efficiency
Did you decide to spring for the most efficient ceiling fan out there? Perhaps you need to make do with your current fixtures for now. Either way, there are a few clever tricks that will help you ramp up the degree to which you save energy and money with ceiling fans. These are all tips you can try out today, and we’d love to hear how they work for your particular home in the comments below!
Did you know that you can change the direction in which your fan blades rotate? And that, in fact, you should change that direction with the seasons? In almost every ceiling fan, there is a small switch on the side that allows you to make this change. And there’s a reason it’s there.
In order to keep your fan running efficiently, you should use the switch to change your fan blade’s direction seasonally. In warmer months, your fan blades should run counter-clockwise in order to force air downwards. This will allow you to get more out of the “wind chill” effect, making you cooler.
When it’s cold out, the opposite is true. You’ll want to switch your fan blades to run clockwise, forcing the warm air that has risen to the top of the room back down and warming the entire room. Making this simple switch will help you save energy and money with ceiling fans while maintaining the perfect temperature in your home.
Buying the first energy-efficient fan you come across might be a mistake if it’s the wrong size for your room. The height at which your fan hangs actually makes a big difference in its effectiveness. Most standard rooms in the average American home are 9 feet tall. For maximum efficiency, make sure your fan sits at least 7 feet from the floor and 1 foot below the ceiling. This will enable the blades to optimally circulate air.
Don’t Fan an Empty Room
Ceiling fans work by circulating air within the room to create a “wind chill” effect, moving air across your skin and cooling you down. Therefore, ceiling fans technically do not cool the air temperature itself. When you aren’t in the room, the fan isn’t creating a wind chill effect because your skin isn’t there to feel it! It can still be a great resource to circulate a room’s air to keep it feeling fresh. But consider turning the fan off when you leave a room as an additional way to save energy and money with ceiling fans.
With Ceiling Fans, Cost and Energy Savings are a Breeze
Though air conditioners have come a long way in recent years, they still represent a major component of global energy consumption. By relying more heavily on ceiling fans, you can substantially reduce your energy bill and power consumption while keeping your home cool and comfortable all summer long.Looking for other ways to save money on your energy bill? Planning to make some energy-efficient upgrades to your home? Be sure to check out WattDoesItUse for the most updated information about power consumption, energy-efficient appliances, and other money-saving tips. And sign up for the WDIU newsletter for tips and tricks straight to your inbox on the first of every month