Does Using a Ceiling Fan Actually Help Save on Energy Costs?

Allie Ogletree
Written by Allie Ogletree
Updated November 10, 2021
Pretty white and pink bedroom with modern ceiling fan
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Highlights

  • Ceiling fans can help lower costs both when it’s hot and when it’s cold.

  • You must run your ceiling fan with the AC to get the most out of your fan.

  • Turning off fans when you’re not home helps save energy and money.

  • Invest in an appropriate-sized Energy Star fan to increase its effectiveness.

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It’s the age-old question: do ceiling fans save energy? The news is in, and when used appropriately, ceiling fans actually can help save on energy costs. If your head’s spinning just trying to figure out how to recruit your fan to save money, here’s what you need to know.

How Does a Ceiling Fan Work?

Ceiling fans use electricity to generate air. While they don’t cool the room by changing the temperature of the air, they promote circulation, cooling your skin through a wind-chill effect. 

Leaving a ceiling fan running while you’re gone for an extended period of time will only waste electricity. However, some experts say airing out your home helps to limit humidity and prevent mold. To save money, you’ll need to operate your fan strategically.

Yes, Ceiling Fans Save Money in the Winter, Too

In the summer, your fans should be set counterclockwise to conserve energy. Ceiling fans also work to lower energy usage in the winter, too. Your fan’s spinning motion helps push hot air that has risen back down toward the ground. With all of that warm air in motion, your heating system won’t have to work so hard to keep your home warm. 

To save energy, keep your ceiling fans on the lowest settings, and switch your fan to a clockwise rotation come winter.

How to Save Energy with Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fan hanging from coffered ceiling
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Air conditioning is a major consumer of electricity in the US—much more than a simple ceiling fan. Using these two units simultaneously can have a noticeable impact on your electric bills. 

According to the US Energy Information Administration, AC units account for an average of 12% of all home energy consumption. The cost to run an AC unit falls around 36 cents per hour of operation. Ceiling fans, however, costs roughly a penny per hour of operation. With these little details in mind, the trick to saving money is using your ceiling fans more than your central air.

The Dos

To make the most of your ceiling fan and central air, here are some ceiling fan hacks you can try:

  • Do Raise Your Thermostat Settings: If you use a ceiling fan and air conditioning unit simultaneously, you can raise your thermostat setting by 4 degrees F without a change in comfort.

  • Do run fans when occupying a room: Turn fans on only when you are home and using the room.

  • Do reverse ceiling fan rotation in the winter: Switching the fan to a clockwise rotation helps push warm air downward, so you’ll save money by dropping your thermostat to find your ideal room temperature.

  • Do select the right mounting system: Make sure your ceiling fan height is at least eight feet off the ground, as fans work best when blades are a foot from the ceiling and seven to nine feet from the floor.

  • Do install Energy Star ceiling fans: Energy Star states that energy star-certified fans circulate air with 60% more efficiency than non-certified models on average.

  • Do choose a larger fan: If possible, opt for a larger ceiling fan, as they move more air and cool at a lower speed setting than smaller fans.

  • Do repair your ceiling fans: The cost to repair a ceiling fan falls around $139 on average, but it is worth it to have operational fans in your home for safety and optimum efficiency.

  • Do clean dusty fans before use: If it’s been a while since you’ve used your fan, be sure to clean ceiling fans first to avoid a dust storm above your head.

The Don’ts

While ceiling fans can help keep your home cool by circulating air, there are some things to avoid when trying to cut back your energy bills:

  • Don’t run your ceiling fan all day: Turn your fans off when away from home and on when you return. For homeowners with smart home automation, set a time for your fans to turn on automatically.

  • Don’t keep the fan on without the AC: Running only your fan on is a surefire way to increase the temperature in your house because fans, like other appliances, generate small amounts of heat.

  • Don’t leave your fans on high in cool weather: Your fans need to be on a low setting to pull any cold air up and push warm air back down.

  • Don’t choose the wrong fan size: Install a fan that’s suited to the size of the room and centrally located to maximize savings. For example, a standard 36-inch fan extends approximately six feet from its center and may not suit a large room.

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