Fan vs air conditioner: which is the best cooling technology for you?
When it’s between April and October, everyone is looking for a way to cool their house without breaking their bank accounts.
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For this reason, the air conditioner vs fan debate comes up a lot.
Figuring out the most effective way to beat the heat can be challenging.
Well, many times, people care mainly about the cost of cooling, which is validly important.
However, does the cheap option offer good air quality?
What more does it offer than cool air?
What are the pros and drawbacks of using a fan or an air conditioner to cool the house?
Come with us as we unveil the cooling principles of these two cooling technologies.
Working principle: How do Fans Cool a Hot Room?
Note: Ceiling fans, portable fans and whole-house fans all have the same work principle: evaporative cooling.
Through evaporation, moisture from your skin surface evaporates into the surrounding air. This moisture carries with it heat, leaving your body feeling cool.
Note: Through moisture evaporation, your fan helps you feel cool, but it does not lower the indoor temperatures.
Therefore, a fan is used to cool the room’s targeted occupants, not the room.
To cool more effectively during summer, use your ceiling fan counterclockwise. The fan directs the air more towards you, cooling you more effectively.
In winters, have your ceiling fans spinning in a clockwise direction. This way, it draws cool air from you, making you feel warmer(1).
How Much Electricity Does a Fan Use Compared to Air Conditioning?
One of the most crucial reasons people consider fans over air conditioning is that fans use less energy. When you compare your fan to a central air conditioner or a typical window unit, you will find that fans use way less power.
Fans use between a fourth to a hundredth of the electric power used by average AC units.
Running the AC versus Fan Cost Figures Over a Month
Now saying that a fan is cheaper than an air conditioner is not enough.
You sure want to know how cheap is cheaper?
You also want to know the estimates in terms of figures, so we ran the math for you.
If you run your units for half a day in summer, the costs will come down to approximately:
- $60 for a window AC unit per month,
- $130 for a central AC unit per month,
- $1.20 per ceiling fan per month
Therefore, installing a fan and using it instead can save you up to $120 per month!(2)
Is It Cheaper To Run a Whole-House Fan or AC?
You have seen that running a single fan is way cheaper than running central air conditioners.
How about if you want to cool the entire house? How much does running a whole house fan cost compared to an AC?
Note: A fan works nearby. You will most likely not feel the cooling effect when several feet away from the fan.
Here are statistics for operating a fan compared to different AC units, according to National Renewable Energy Laboratory:
- A two-ton air conditioner costs approximately 20 cents per hour to operate. You can expect to spend approximately $250 for the entire cooling season.
- An 18,000 BTU window AC unit costs slightly cheaper, say 17 cents per hour.
- A whole house fan costs 5 cents per hour to operate.
From this, it is clear that the cost of operating a whole house is significantly less. They are an energy-efficient option, making it more desirable to any homeowner.
However, could there be more to fans than the lower cost? Since they are cheaper, does that mean you should ditch your air conditioner and install fans?
Read on to find the two sides of using fans as your cooling gadget.
When to use a fan and when to not use a fan
Let us put this precisely; fans are not appropriate for every situation.
They are highly recommended to lower the effects of cooling on the environment.
One time you should avoid using a fan is when things heat up.
A fan speeds up the rate at which moisture evaporates from your skin. This also increases the rate of electrolyte imbalance and dehydration. For this reason, you should only use a fan when temperatures are below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Beyond that, you want to stick to other modes of cooling.
Remember: Increasing sweat evaporation and hot air circulation can increase the risk of heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion.
Also, fans do not lower the humidity levels in the air. High humidity can make you feel hotter, further impeding the effects.
Fan vs Air Conditioner: Bananas vs Oranges
First, directly comparing an air conditioner and fans is like comparing oranges to bananas. They are entirely different things, and it isn’t easy to point out which is the best.
Fans and air conditioners perform entirely different tasks. A fan quickly passes air over your skin. This, in turn, makes sweat evaporate faster from yours. This makes you feel cooler without lowering the temperature of the room.
On the other hand, an air conditioner lowers the house’s temperature. It absorbs heat from the air and releases it to the outside. Check the transfer of the heat from the inside to the outside on our evaporator coils vs condenser coils guide.
It isn’t easy to point out which is the winner as they do not perform the same function. We, however, review the pros and cons of each side to help you understand which suits your cooling needs at which times.
Pros of using a fan
- Costs: Fans have a lower upfront and operating cost. You will also spend much less on maintenance and operating costs. The costs can go as low as 1% of the costs of an air conditioner.
- Eco-friendly: Fans do not produce harmful gasses. The only effect fans have on the environment is the gasses produced when generating electricity. Besides that, the carbon footprint of fans is almost negligible.
- More straightforward installation process: The installation process of a fan is simple and not lengthy. On the contrary, installing a mini split or central air conditioner is usually lengthy and complex.
- Simple maintenance procedures: you do not need regular heating and cooling services procedures to maintain your fan.
Cons of Fans
- Minimal cooling: You cannot compare the cooling extent of an air conditioner to that of a fan. Air conditioners provide cooler air in the house and over a wide area. You will have to use multiple fans to achieve something remotely close to what an air conditioner does.
- Work well in moderate heat: Fans work well only when the temperatures are below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. If it is hotter than that, fans will barely work. Furthermore, if the room is under direct sunlight, the effects of a fan are further reduced.
- Safety hazard: The blades of a fan can be a safety hazard, especially if it is a table or pedestal fan.
- No fresh air: Fans do not have filters to eliminate pollutants and contaminants from the air.
- No dehumidification function: Fans lack with this feature. You, therefore, want to avoid them if you live in a highly humid area.
Pros of Air Conditioner
- Best for cooling large spaces: The best option is an air conditioner if you want to cool large spaces, especially those with over 95 degrees and high humidity.
- A greater extent of cooling: Air conditioners result in more cold air than any other cooling technology. Therefore, go for air conditioners to cool down your house to a reasonable temperature.
- Air conditioners double as dehumidifiers: During the evaporator stage of the cycle, the coils of air conditioners absorb humidity. This is more beneficial in areas with high humidity.
- Air conditioners have filters: With the air filters, air conditioners do not offer just cold air. They go beyond and capture debris, dust particles and pollutants. This is much better for everyone. However, you sure do not want to miss out on this if you have people with asthma and respiratory problems in your house.
Cons of an Air Conditioner
- Costs: the initial, operating and home AC maintenance costs are high. They can be up to 100 times the cost of ceiling fans.
- Initial planning: Central air conditioners need to be planned for when constructing a house. It becomes more challenging to install them in an already existing house. You can install ceiling fans any time you want to. No prior planning and design are needed.
- Harmful gasses: air conditioners contain refrigerants used to absorb heat from the air. The refrigerant gasses can potentially harm people in your household and the environment, especially the ozone layer.
- Regular maintenance: Air conditioners require regular maintenance to keep running. The air conditioner installation process is also complex and lengthy.
Our Fan vs Air Conditioner Judgment: Save Money by Using Both
As you have seen, a ceiling fan cannot do some crucial things an air conditioner does. The truth goes for air conditioners, too; they cannot give some things ceiling fans give.
How about using both a fan and air conditioning unit to achieve an energy-efficient combo?
A fan evaporates sweat making you feel cooler. With this, you can set your air conditioner at a higher temperature. This can save you loads of money.
Note: Raising your thermostat by just a degree will save you around 4% of your total air conditioning energy use(3). For instance, if your air conditioning costs $180 each every summer month when you have your thermostat at 71 degrees, raising the thermostat to 78 can lower your bills to $125
And you can only raise your thermostat to this level if you have a ceiling fan supplementing your air conditioning unit.
Key takeaways: Air conditioner vs Fan
Use a fan if:
- the temperatures are less than 95 degrees Fahrenheit
- you can sit close to the fan
- It’s not very humid.
- you want to use the electricity,
Use an air conditioner if:
- temperatures are over 95 degrees Fahrenheit
- It’s highly humid
- You’re looking to cool a large area
- You can afford a higher electrical bill
Fan vs Air Conditioner Frequently Asked Questions
We answer some common frequently asked questions on AC vs fan. We hope these questions help you choose an option that makes you feel comfortable in your house.
Is it better to use a ceiling fan or an air conditioner?
It depends. It is better to use a fan when it is a small space. If it is ample space, you will most likely not feel the effect of a fan. Also, above 95 degrees Fahrenheit, the efficiency of a fan begins to go down. Therefore, if the temperatures heat 96 degrees, it is better to use an AC to cool the house.
Does a fan cool the air?
A fan does not cool the air. It only quickens the rate at which sweat evaporates from the skin surface. The quick evaporation process makes you feel cooler. You have to know that a fan does not alter the temperature of a room.
Is It Cheaper to Run Fans Than Air Conditioning
Yes, it is way cheaper to run fans than air conditioners. Incorporating a fan into your cooling practice if you want to lower your cooling bills. It will tremendously help lower your cooling costs.
Do fans make rooms hotter?
Running your ceiling fan clockwise can keep you warm during winter. However, a fan does not change the temperature of the room. The fan makes you feel warmer. You, however, need to have your fan at the lowest setting to enjoy this benefit.
Final Thoughts on Fan vs AC
Big up for coming this far!
We trust that you now understand the fan vs air conditioner debate dynamics. A fan is a great way to make you feel cooler in a small space and when the temperatures are not scorching.
If the temperatures are below 95, and you can position yourself directly to enjoy the air at high speed, you can significantly lower your electric bill.
However, if you have a larger space to cool and the outside atmosphere is over 95 degrees, you have no ideal option but to use an air conditioner if you want to feel comfortable.
The most cost-effective option will be to supplement your air conditioner with a fan. Using a fan will help you raise the thermostat setting, thus lowering the electricity consumed. For adequate cooling, use your fan and let your AC unit chip in when needed.
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