Ceiling fans serve many functions today, even with the increased use of air conditioners. Ceiling fans offer ventilation to help cool a room in summer, or warm the same room in winter … as long as you remember to change the direction the blades rotate. With many choices available today, ceiling fans are also a popular decorating feature in many living spaces, often combined with ceiling lighting.
Maybe you don't have any ceiling fans in your existing home? Growing up in the northeast where it doesn't get uncomfortably hot, ceiling fans haven't been common … until recently with the new focus on energy efficiency. The question then is how much does a ceiling fan cost to run versus air conditioning?
Fans vs Air Conditioning, a Cost Comparison
In a typical house, air conditioning uses more electricity than anything else, typically 16% of your total electric bill. In warmer climates, your air conditioning use can increase up to 60 to 70% of your summer electric bill, so it pays to research alternative ways to cool your home.
Let's start by looking at relative cost comparisons. As the cost of electricity varies based on where you live, the information is provided in terms of watts used per hour of operation for fans and air conditioners … and for fun, an average refrigerator.
Hopefully the “picture is worth a thousand words” makes this message really easy to understand. We don't expect you to forego the benefits of air conditioning but we do want you to consider adding fans to your home. Think about the times when consider turning on the air conditioner but don't because you realize it's costly, or maybe you want to head downstairs to the controls in the family room.
What Fans Will and Won't Do
Ceiling fans do not lower the temperature like air conditioning.
Ceiling fans do not remove humidity from the air, they don't work like air conditioners.
Ceiling fans cause the air in a room to be circulated … and this makes people feel four degrees cooler in the summer.
So now you're wondering why I'm talking about fans?
Ceiling fans make you feel cooler by creating a wind chill effect similar to wind chill on a cold winter day, where the wind makes it feel colder than the air's temperature. When a fan causes the air to circulate, the fan makes it easier for the air to evaporate sweat on your skin, and sweat is how your body eliminates heat … so the more evaporation, the cooler you feel.
Why Fan Rotation Matters
You want to buy ceiling fans that have a switch to reverse the rotation direction, and you need to switch directions twice a year. The biggest expense if you don't already have ceiling fans in the rooms where you want them, is the installation.
- During the summer, your ceiling fan needs to run counter-clockwise to provide cooling breezes by pulling cool air from the floor up to the ceiling.
- In the winter, you should switch the fan to run clockwise to circulate the warm air rising to the ceiling, back down to the floor where it will make you more comfortable.
Installing a Ceiling Fan
Older homes often don't have ceiling light fixtures so you'll need to run electricity through the walls to the ceiling where you want the fan — this requires a licensed electrician, and the cost will likely exceed the cost of the fan. If you've got an existing light fixture, the power is there and you can swap the fan for the light fixture although you may need to add some extra support when the ceiling fan weighs more than the light fixture.
Watch for articles on other types of fans – whole house fans, swamp coolers, etc!