Ceiling fans are more than decorative fixtures that require an occasional dusting; they provide a great opportunity to save energy while making your home more comfortable. In fact, ceiling fans can help you save up to 12 percent or more on your summer cooling costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
How do ceiling fans save energy?
Ceiling fans save energy by reducing the need for air conditioning. While they do not lower the temperature in your home, they do make it feel more comfortable. Have you ever noticed how a breeze helps to cool you off on a hot day, even when the mercury does not move? Ceiling fans do the same thing; they create air circulation that makes your skin feel cooler, even when the room temperature remains the same.
Ceiling fans provide an energy-efficient supplement to air conditioning systems in the occupied parts of your home. According to the DOE, running a ceiling fan allows you to raise the temperature on your thermostat by 4°F with no reduction in comfort. As a general rule, for every degree of temperature set forward, you will reduce your air conditioning costs by 3 percent over a 24-hour period. Therefore, if you run your ceiling fans and raise the thermostat from 74°F to 78°F (as the DOE recommends), you can save 12 percent on your cooling costs.
Ceiling fans do use energy, and running them will add to your utility bill. Are they actually worth it? A typical ceiling fan uses less than 100 watts of electricity—about the same amount of energy as a light bulb—while a central air conditioning system uses about 5,000 watts. Since the average home spends about $350 a year for air conditioning, ceiling fans present an energy-efficient alternative to help reduce those costs.
Most ceiling fans circulate in two directions. The direction you choose will depend on the pitch (angle) of the blades, and the season. In summer, you will want to direct the airflow down. Test the fan by turning it on and standing directly below it; you should feel a cool breeze. In winter, reverse the direction of the fan to draw the airflow up. This will help to circulate warm air near the ceiling, forcing it down into the room.
Getting the most from your ceiling fans
To optimize energy savings, ceiling fans should be installed in the areas of your home that are occupied most frequently, such as the family room, bedrooms and the dining room. For optimal performance, ceiling fans should be 7 to 9 feet above the floor and 10 to 12 inches from the ceiling. Fans that are positioned too close to the ceiling operate less efficiently. Locate ceiling fans as close as possible to the center of the room with blades at least 18 inches away from the nearest wall.
When purchasing a new ceiling fan, select a model that is ENERGY STAR rated. ENERGY STAR qualified fans feature improved motor and blade designs, and are more than 50 percent more energy efficient than standard models, saving you up to $165 in operating costs over the life of the fan.