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Ask the HVAC Expert: Do Ceiling Fans Reduce AC Costs?

The average HVAC system runs up a power bill of 6 to 88 cents an hour. On the high end, that adds up to a monthly electricity rate of $211—not a number to sniff at. So most homeowners have, at one time or another, tried to come up with a power-saving strategy. Ceiling fans make a frequent appearance for obvious reasons. They cost a minimal 1 cent an hour in power, but how effectively can they mitigate your HVAC costs? Let’s find out.

The Numbers

A standard air conditioner costs 36 cents an hour to ceiling fans’ 1 cent. Small as the latter number is, it’ll still raise your costs if it doesn’t help your HVAC system achieve your indoor climate settings. Homeowners often make the mistake of thinking that their fans will help their air conditioners to cool their rooms. That isn’t the case. They improve your comfort by adding wind chill to the equation, but they don’t reduce your room temperature. In other words, your HVAC system will need to work as hard as it always has, no matter how powerful your fan is.

That doesn’t tell the whole story, though. With a ceiling fan on hand, you can comfortably raise your air conditioner’s temperature setting without breaking a sweat. The sheer size of your HVAC system’s power consumption means that even the slightest reduction in usage will reflect on your pocket. Ceiling fans typically could save you about 5% on cooling costs. Their effect on your budget will be even more significant if you turn off your air conditioner in favor of using your fan on easy weather days.

The Department of Energy recommends an AC thermostat setting of 78 degrees Fahrenheit. That temperature strikes a good balance by helping you cool down without running up your monthly costs too much. However, most homes prefer setting their thermostat at 70 to 72 degrees. If your someone who prefers cooler air but still wants to save on your bills, turn your fan on. The wind chill from the fan will make that 78-degree setting much easier to handle comfortably.

Creating the Perfect Strategy

The fan/HVAC combination is only as effective as your strategy. To bring those bills down, you’ll need to develop intelligent habits:

  • Don’t bother installing fans in rarely-used rooms because they won’t cool your room well enough to reduce your air conditioner’s energy usage.
  • Don’t leave your fans running in empty rooms.
  • Don’t turn your fan on thoughtlessly every time you turn on the lights. Better yet, don’t choose a fan that turns on every time you flip a light switch.
  • Don’t mount your fan less than 24 inches from the ceiling. From that point, it won’t move much air, so it’s best to rely on a professional installation.

Lazy habits will make your perfect cooling combo even more expensive than an HVAC system alone, so this combination requires you to be practical.

Choosing the Right Fan

Not all fans deliver enough wind chill for sweaty weather. Your unit is only as effective as its size and speed. A standard fan affects a 6-foot area. Higher-end products can manage an impressive 10-foot area, safely reaching every corner of your living space. That’s why it makes sense to choose the best product within your budget.

Of course, energy efficiency is also a key trait to hunt down. A good ENERGY STAR certified fan earns a score of 50 and provides median energy performance, but those with a score over 75 are powerful, budget-conscious tools. Spending more on upfront costs will probably reduce your long-term costs exponentially.

Ultimately, ceiling fans can reduce your cooling costs, but only if you use them correctly. With an intelligent strategy and excellent buying smarts, you can bring those utility bills down to a manageable level.



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