Ceiling Fans: With Proper Use, They Can Save You on A/C Costs

Ceiling fans are more than a low-cost cooling option for milder summer days or a substitute for air conditioning. When run in combination with your air conditioning, fans can help you stay more comfortable for less money. With the hot summers around the Houston and Galveston area, using a ceiling fan can make a real difference in your overall energy bills.

Just switching on any old ceiling fan won’t get the job done, though. To get the most out of your fans, you’ll need to choose the right models, install them correctly, and use them the right way.

How Fans Help

Fans don’t lower a room’s air temperature. Instead, they cool by moving air across your skin, increasing evaporation and creating a wind-chill effect. Because ceiling fans create a breeze through the whole room and move more air, they cool more effectively than pedestal or tabletop fans.

Running a ceiling fan with your air conditioning will let you raise your A/C thermostat by around four degrees and still feel just as cool. Every degree your raise your thermostat reduces the amount of energy you use for cooling by 3 to 5 percent. A ceiling fan uses around the same amount of energy as a light bulb, so the cost of running one won’t negate your air conditioning energy savings.

Find the Right Ceiling Fans For Your Home

When choosing a ceiling fan, size should be your first consideration. Experts from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend the following sizes:

  • For a room of up to 25 square feet, a 29- to 36-inch diameter fan is enough.
  • A 76 to 144 sq. ft. room requires a 36- to 42-inch fan.
  • A 144 to 225 sq. ft. room requires a 44-inch fan.
  • A 225 to 400 sq. ft. room requires a 50- to 54-inch fan

A room larger than 400 square feet will be more effectively cooled with two or more fans, especially if the room is longer than 18 feet.

The larger the fan, the more air it moves and the stronger the breeze it creates. Smaller fans cool well within around 5 feet. Larger models can cool well up to 10 feet away.

Bigger isn’t always better, though. In offices and other rooms with papers that may be blown around, opt for a fan at the smaller end of the recommended size range. For example, to cool a 100 sq. ft. room with minimal breeze, choose a 36-inch fan.

If you prefer a quiet home, look for a fan with a low sone rating. One sone is approximately the amount of noise made by a quiet refrigerator.

When you’ve decided on the size and style you want, start shopping around for Energy Star-qualified fans. These use an average of 20 percent less energy than standard fans.

Where to Place Your Fans

Only rooms with ceilings of 8 feet high or higher should be fitted with ceiling fans. Ideally, the blades should be 7 to 9 feet above the floor and 10 to 12 inches below the ceiling. To allow for good airflow and for safety reasons, make sure the blades are at least 18 inches from the walls.

Most ceiling fans weigh between 25 and 50 pounds, so correct mounting is essential to prevent the fan from wobbling or falling. The fan should be installed in the center of the room and anchored to a ceiling joist. If there’s no joist where you want the fan, use a mounting bracket specifically designed for ceiling fans.

If you have a two-story home, consider installing a fan at the top of your stairwell. A fan here helps pull rising hot air down from the upper level to the lower level where your air conditioner can cool it.

Use Your Fan to Save on Air Conditioning

Most fans have a switch on the housing that lets you change the direction the blades turn. To cool your home in summer, set the blades to turn counterclockwise as seen from below. This is the default setting for most ceiling fans. The clockwise direction is meant to help evenly distribute warm air from your furnace in winter.

Because fans cool people, not the air, turn your fan off when you leave the room for more than a few minutes just as you would the lights.

For more ideas on lowering your energy bills or for help with choosing, installing or maintaining your heating and cooling equipment, please contact us at Davis Air Conditioning & Heating in the Houston, Angleton, Ft. Bend, and Sugar Land areas.

Image Provided by Shutterstock.com

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