It's the same dilemma every summer: do you sit around in the heat and sweat away the season, or do you crank up the air conditioner and pay a fortune in electricity bills? Fortunately, you don't have to make a zero-sum choice between your comfort and your pocketbook. With some strategic placement of good old fashioned fans, you can reduce or even eliminate the need to run the air conditioner all day long.

Read on for some tips on how to save money by using fans this summer.

Do Fans Actually Cool Down a Room?

If your windows are closed, no, fans alone cannot cool down a room. The only way a fan can be used to change the temperature of a space is if it is pushing out hot air or pulling in cool air from open windows when it is cooler outside than it is inside.

While it can be difficult to get a fan to change the temperature of a room, it can change the temperature of your body by increasing evaporation on your skin and by helping to dissipate body heat. This is known by people in the weather industry as “wind chill”. It describes how the air feels cooler than it is because of how wind and moving air affect body temperature. Fans can also make a space feel cooler by eliminating hot spots in areas with poor air circulation.

Turn Off Fans in Enclosed Spaces When You Leave the Room

Many homeowners choose to leave fans on when they leave a room in an effort to keep the space cool. This, however, can be a waste of money and energy, as fans cannot change a room's temperature. To save money, turn your fans off when you leave a room unless you are creating a cross-breeze using open windows!

How to Use Ceiling Fans & Floor Fans to Save Money

According to the Energy Department, air conditioners gulp up around 5 percent of all electricity produced in the United States, costing consumers about $5 billion each year.

Fans aren't free, of course, as they also run on electricity. However, their consumption is far lower than that of an air conditioning unit, and they can work almost as well with a little know-how! While fans don't cool the air the way AC does, they do create a nice breeze and circulate the air around the room.

You can use ceiling fans or floor fans or both to complement or replace your air conditioning:

  • Ceiling Fans: If you're buying a new fan, get one with blades angled at least 12 degrees to improve its air-circulating power. Make sure the fan is set to the summer setting, which is usually counterclockwise — this pushes the air directly downward to make a comfortable breeze. The real key with ceiling fans is only to use them when someone is in the room – otherwise, they're just pushing air around with no one there to benefit. If you're of the technical bent, you can get occupancy sensors to create your own smart fan that turns itself on when someone enters the room.
  • Floor Fans: The best technique with floor fans is to use several to create a cross-breeze through your home. If the AC is off, open up the windows and have one fan suck in air from one side of your home and another fan push it out the other. Again, they don't do any good if there is no one around to benefit from that breeze, so turn them off when you leave the room!

How Much Energy Does a Ceiling Fan Use?

Just how much energy can you expect your ceiling fans to use? The range can be anywhere from 42 watts for small 30-inch fans to 100 watts an hour for giant 72-inch fans. However, the average ceiling fan uses approximately 75 watts an hour.

The Cost of Running AC Versus a Fan

The more affordable option is clear when comparing the cost of running an air conditioner versus a fan. As stated, the average fan uses 75 watts per hour, a small central AC unit uses 1300 watts per hour, and a larger central AC unit uses 3000 watts per hour. (Approximations based on units with a 16 SEER rating).

For further context, at the U.S. average of 15 cents per kilowatt hour, you would spend about $4 running a fan for 12 hours a day for an entire month during the summer. With a small central AC, you would spend $71 a month; with a large central AC, you would spend $164.

Should You Run AC and a Ceiling Fan at the Same Time?

According to the Department of Energy, running a ceiling fan with your AC at the same time can help you save money! Because a fan can make a room feel cooler, you can raise your thermostat setting by at least 4 degrees without sacrificing comfort.

How to Use Different Fans as an Alternative to Air Conditioning

A wide variety of fans can increase the comfort of your home and reduce energy costs when used correctly. Let’s explore some options:

How to Save Money with a Whole House Fan

Cooling Rating: 9.5/10

One of the major advantages of whole house fans is their ability to save you money on energy costs. When temperatures drop, whole-house fans can effectively replace the need for air conditioning by harnessing the cool outdoor air during the evening or at night. These fans draw in the cooler air and expel the hot indoor air through the attic and vents, creating a refreshing breeze throughout your home.

This natural cooling method can drastically reduce your reliance on air conditioning during milder weather, leading to significant energy savings. With whole-house fans, you can enjoy a comfortable living environment while keeping your utility bills in check, making them a smart and economical choice for cooling your home.

How to Save Money with Window Fans

Cooling Rating: 9/10

Window fans operate similarly to whole-house fans by actively altering the room's temperature through the intake of cooler air. Designed to fit into an open window frame, these fans can be strategically positioned to either draw in fresh outdoor air or expel stagnant indoor air. Typically equipped with two to three fans, these devices push hot air out with one fan and pull cool air in with another. Not only are window fans relatively affordable, but they are also easy to install, making them an accessible option for enhancing ventilation and cooling in a room.

Creating a cross breeze to achieve a cooling effect doesn't necessarily require a specially designed window frame fan. You can generate a similar result by setting up a fan to push air out through one window and another fan to pull air in through another window. This setup facilitates the circulation of cooler air and the creation of a refreshing cross breeze within the room.

Whether using a specialized window fan or setting up regular fans on separate windows, you can easily harness the power of cross breezes to enjoy a cooler and more comfortable environment in your room at a lower cost!

How to Save Money with Pedestal Fans

Cooling Rating: 8/10

With their adjustable stands and tilting fan heads, pedestal fans offer flexibility and convenience in positioning and directing airflow. One of their unique advantages is their suitability for rooms with obstructions like a couch. This adaptability allows you to overcome obstacles and optimize cooling without relying solely on air conditioning.

By strategically placing a pedestal fan in areas where airflow may be restricted, you can create a comfortable environment and potentially save money on energy bills. These fans are an effective and cost-efficient cooling solution for larger spaces such as living rooms, bedrooms, and offices.

How to Save Money with Box Fans

Cooling Rating: 8/10

Box fans are versatile and affordable cooling options that can help save you money. These portable fans have a square or rectangular fan head enclosed in a box-like structure. They can be placed on the floor, mounted on a window, or used with a stand, making them flexible in their usage. Box fans are great to use in larger areas or to create a breeze in workshops or garages.

A unique advantage of box fans is their compatibility as an alternative to specially-designed window fans. Many box fans are sized to fit within a window frame, making them a convenient option.

By utilizing box fans in window setups or other placements, you can achieve effective cooling and potentially reduce the need for air conditioning. This can lead to significant energy savings and lower utility bills.

How to Save Money with Tower Fans

Cooling Rating: 7/10

These fans oscillate from side to side, distributing air throughout the room. With multiple speed settings and additional features like ionizers or remote controls, tower fans offer customizable airflow options. Thanks to their compact design, they are particularly suitable for smaller rooms or areas with limited floor space.

One of the advantages of tower fans is their energy efficiency. They are designed with modern technology to maximize airflow while minimizing power consumption. By utilizing the fan's adjustable speed and airflow direction, you can create a comfortable and cool environment tailored to your preferences while optimizing energy usage.

How to Save Money with Ceiling Fans

Cooling Rating: 8/10 (with AC)

Cooling Rating: 6/10 (without AC)

Ceiling fans are stylish fixtures that provide an energy-efficient way to save money on cooling expenses. When set to run counterclockwise, they create a cooling breeze by pushing air downward, offering a wind-chill effect that makes the room feel cooler. Using ceiling fans in conjunction with air conditioning can enhance cooling efficiency and reduce reliance on energy-intensive cooling systems. This allows you to set the air conditioner at a higher temperature, resulting in energy savings and lower electricity bills.

Even on their own, ceiling fans provide a cost-effective cooling solution during mild weather or when air conditioning is not needed. Their energy-efficient operation allows for comfortable airflow while minimizing energy consumption. By incorporating ceiling fans into your cooling strategy, you can enjoy both comfort and significant savings on cooling expenses, making them a smart choice for budget-conscious individuals.

Go the Extra Mile

To go the extra mile to keep cool over the summer while reducing your reliance on the air conditioner, close the curtains or put a shade over any window that gets direct sunlight during the daytime so you aren't absorbing all that solar energy into your home. Keep the lights off inside when possible and limit the use of all heat-generating appliances, like the stove and clothes dryer. If you do use AC, make sure that your home is fully insulated so you aren't leaking precious cool air into the great outdoors.

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