Use Ceiling Fans to Use Air Conditioners Less


At this point, it’s fairly common knowledge that a fan (ceiling, floor, or otherwise) is an efficient alternative to constantly running the air conditioner.  In fact, placing fans in hotter rooms or more heavily trafficked areas will allow you to comfortably raise your thermostat a couple of degrees higher.  A shift of even two or three degrees is enough to have a significant impact on your monthly cooling bill this summer.

Two Major Benefits of Ceiling Fans

  1. Evaporative cooling is the principle way that fans cool things.  Circulated air does not, by itself, cool down a room.  Sitting under a fan won’t actually make the room cooler, but it will feel cooler than it actually is.  This is because everything on Earth is coated in a very thin film of water.  That water is in a constant state of evaporation, pulling heat from the surrounding surface and using that energy to evaporate into the air.So, as the water evaporates, it leaves the surface (your skin) slightly cooler than a moment before.  But water needs to be able to move into the air, and air that has already been saturated with water is more difficult to be absorbed by – this is why everything feels hotter when it’s humid outside.  Circulating the air through a room helps to refresh the room with drier air, making it easier to absorb evaporating water.  So while it won’t make sense to run a fan in a room with no one present, keeping a fan on to stay cool when you’re there is completely effective.
  2. Circulation has another added benefit in that it helps to regulate the overall temperature of the home.  In fact, whole-house fans work on this principle of air circulation.  Pulling in cooler, and sometimes drier, outdoor air will help to cool off occupants inside.  But, it will also regulate temperature inside the home by preventing the formation of hot and cold pockets throughout the home.  Circulating air prevents heat and cold from pooling along the ceiling or the floor.

The Problem with Fans

There are a couple of problems with ceiling fans:

  1. Dust and humidity control.  Fans cannot be filtered (for the most part) and unlike your central cooling system, there isn’t a main filter that all air is circulated through.  If you open the windows to let in fresh air from outside, dust, pollen, and other contaminants are going to freely float everywhere, eventually landing on fan blades and casings. Do not forget to dust your ceiling fans.  Of course, a regular dusting can stir up enough dust to simply make the problem worse.  The best way to clean the blades on a ceiling fan is to use a pillowcase.  Simply slide the pillowcase over the fan blade and then slowly wipe away the dust as you pull the pillowcase off.  This makes the case both the duster and the storage bin to keep you from stirring up dust.
  2. The second problem is the humidity.  Fans have no way of dealing with high humidity in a room.  If you aren’t using your air conditioner, then humidity can build up in a room because there’s nothing to dry out the air.  It is probably worth your time to consider purchasing a dehumidifier to pair with your ceiling fan, especially if there’s rain in the forecast.

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