Does your ceiling fan really help?

Ceiling Fan

Ceiling Fan (Photo credit: Catie Rhodes)

Most houses have one but most people don’t use them.  One of your biggest energy draws is your AC/heat unit.  How do you keep that from running so much in the hot summer?  One way is to run your ceiling fan.  There are a few factors in this statement, one is the size of the room, the size of the fan, the height of the ceilings and lastly the type bulbs in the ceiling fans.

How does a ceiling fan work? Well here’s  the short easy version.  Blow on the back of your hand. Blow on it hard, how does the air feel? Now breath on the back of your hand with a deep breath, How does that air feel? The first should be cool and the second warm. Both came from the same place at about 98 degrees. So what’s the difference? The speed of the air. If you stand under your ceiling fan you feel cooler. It may still be 72 degrees in your house but you feel cooler. Running your ceiling fan will allow you to run your air conditioner 4 degrees higher or more. That means your AC unit is working less and in turn lowers your electric bill. So should you run your ceiling fans 24/7? NO. They don’t lower your air temp in your room so if you’re not in the room turn it off. When you’re in the room turn it on. It’s that easy. What ceiling fan should you use? I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter. They are all close enough alike so if you have one just run it. If you don’t, get one.

Now that sound easy and it is, but there are some things that come into play with a ceiling fan.  I’m going to go over a few.

  1. The size of the room.  If it’s a huge room and a small ceiling fan, then your probably not going to get enough benefit out of using it.
  2. The size of the fan.  If it’s a small room then a small fan will work just fine, but if it’s a big room then you are going to need a bigger fan.
  3. The height of the ceiling.  If the you have tall ceilings you may need a drop down rod on your fan or a fan with bigger blades and or a bigger motor.  A drop down rod (most fans come with one) is a good thing to use to put the fan closer to your living space.
  4. Type of bulbs in the fan.  If you are still into incandescent bulbs or high wattage bulbs then you may not be doing any good.  One 100 watt bulb can put out up to 350 degree’s of heat.  If your fan has 3 bulbs then you may be running hot air down to your living space.

Even if you run into some of the issues from above you can always run the fan and see if it helps.  If it doesn’t turn it off, if it does then bump your thermostat up some and use the fan to help keep you cool.

So what if you don’t have a ceiling fan?  Ceiling fans are relatively easy to install by yourself, BUT you are dealing with live electricity it’s always good to call a professional to install it for you.  Most contractors can do it for you pretty cheap.

Can a ceiling fan help in the winter?  Absolutely .  Every ceiling fan comes with a small switch on the side of the motor that will spin the blades in the opposite direction.  When the temp drops outside and its cold, flip the switch (while the fan is off) and run the ceiling fan backwards.  Turn the ceiling fan on but turn it on the slowest setting.  You don’t want the air coming down fast.  You just want it to pull the warm air down from the ceiling.  This works better if you have vaulted ceilings but it will work ok with a normal ceiling.

Now that we have the easy stuff out of the way lets talk numbers.  The typical ceiling fan runs at about 50-100 watts.  Your AC unit runs at about 2000-5000 watts now that’s a HUGE difference.  So when the electric company is charging you per kwh letting your AC unit rest and not run is great thing.  At my house, we are all comfortable with the thermostat set on 70-72 degrees.  When the ceiling fans are running we can comfortably run our thermostat at about 76 degrees.  We have noticed our AC unit doesn’t run as much as it did.  I hope this helps keep your bill down.  Just remember it will help more if you cut the fan off when your not in the room .


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