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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Are Fans a Good Idea?

Are Fans a Good Idea?

No doubt about it, when the temperature reaches the kinds of highs we’ve seen in some parts of North America over the last few weeks, air conditioning feels more like a necessity than a luxury.

But what about on cooler days, when the temperatures are still warm, but not quite as brutal as we’ve seen this summer? Or in regions that see only a few uncomfortably hot days per year, and where central air conditioning isn’t as widespread? Is it worth it to turn off the air conditioner in favor of fans? Are fans any cheaper to run or better for the environment than air conditioners?

Yes, yes, and yes.

A typical fan costs only about 1¢ per hour to run, while a room-sized air conditioner costs between 10¢ and 20¢ per hour. A central air conditioning unit can cost anywhere from 60¢ to more than $1 per hour to run, depending on the size and efficiency of the unit. Even with a whole army of fans running around the clock, the financial and environmental costs of fans are much lower than that of air conditioners.

For those without air conditioning, the effectiveness of fans can be increased by learning smarter ways to employ them, such as using window fans to suck in cooler air at night, then closing the windows and blinds during the daytime to maintain the temperature. Ceiling fans, especially, can be an excellent choice for making stifling rooms more comfortable, but even the smallest fans, if well-placed, can make rooms feel 5-10 degrees cooler than they really are.

Even for people who have central air, or a couple of window units, it’s clear that opting for fans on days that are hot, but not unbearably so, can be a good strategy for reducing energy usage and saving money.

7 comments

1 Linda { 07.12.14 at 6:55 am }

I was very happy to see this article. I live in RI and we have some very stifling humid summers. I wait as long as possible to have my window unit put in but its usually up and running by the week of the 4th of July….not this year. Once I start the a/c I find I’m dependent on it the rest of the summer, even though its off while I’m at work all day. Not only is it expensive to run, I miss out on some of the beautiful breezes that come my way, and I often feel like I’m missing out on summer altogether with my house all closed up all the time. This year I’ve opted to get through the summer with fans….I have a good quality fan set up in my living room and bedroom and run the ceiling fan in the kitchen. So far, so good! I’m really enjoying having summer in my home, staying manageably cool, and using that extra electricity money on other things!

2 Amy Gibson { 07.11.14 at 4:59 pm }

What about swamp coolers like in the dry desert of southern California

3 Amy L. Campbell { 07.30.11 at 12:21 pm }

As an extra tip, if you set a pan of ice cubes in front of the fan it’ll cool off the air a bit faster.

4 JLorae { 07.30.11 at 11:46 am }

When I lived in my 450 sq ft studio, w/a 1/2 wall between the living room and the bedroom, and a wall unit/ac-heater, and only running the two ceiling fans 24-7, it only cost $25 a month in the summer. In the winter, by reversing the ceiling fan, after having the wall unit on for a little while, the bill was only $50 a month. The ceiling fan is much cheaper, and stays just as cool as an ac.

5 steve { 07.29.11 at 7:41 am }

my experience is yes, my dog Molly on hot days will nap in front of the fan, one of my three cats, Bonnie will sleep on a chair situated a few feet away from the fan, than stretch as the air moves over her.

6 Yvonne { 07.28.11 at 9:18 am }

Since humans are animals it follows logically that if humans benefit from fans other animals do likewise. However, does our article hold true for hand-held fans?

7 Gerlinde Austin { 07.27.11 at 3:14 pm }

Do animals benefit from fans?
Thank you.

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