Should You Install a Fan or an Air Conditioner? Here’s How to Decide

Amy Pawlukiewicz
Written by Amy Pawlukiewicz
Updated May 5, 2022
Woman sitting on a yellow sofa is reading a book
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  • Central air conditioners usually cost between $3,800 and $7,500.

  • Professionals generally charge between $150 and $360 to install a fan.

  • A/C units are better in climates that reach over 95 degrees.

  • Around 90% of homes in the U.S. have either a central or window A/C system.

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If you live in a climate where it gets hot in the summer, you've probably faced a dilemma: you're excited about the warm-weather perks, but you’re not looking forward to feeling hot in your home. If you’re trying to decide between installing air conditioning or using fans to stay cool, we’ve got you covered. Here’s what to know about A/C units versus ceiling or floor fans, so you can make the best choice for your home.

Air Conditioner Pros and Cons

Living room with central air conditioner
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Air conditioners are a popular choice in the U.S., with around 90% of homes having central or window A/C units, according to


Using an air conditioner as a cooling source comes with several advantages. 

  • Large areas: If you have a large area that you need to cool, like a great room or an open floor plan, an air conditioner will be the only appliance that can cool it down. 

  • Dehumidifiers: Air conditioners have the added advantage of serving as dehumidifiers, as the moisture is sucked out of the air during the evaporator cycle and condensed into water. 

  • Ultra-High Temperatures: For areas with very high temperatures, 95 degrees and above, only an air conditioner can effectively cool the air.


Air conditioners also have a few negatives associated with them.

  • Cost: The cost of installing a new A/C unit is between $3,800 and $7,500, significantly higher than a fan—or multiple fans, for that matter. Running your air conditioner will hit your wallet as well—where a central A/C unit costs around $130 on your electric bill each month, a ceiling or floor fan costs less than $2. So the operating costs of an A/C unit can be up to 100 times higher than running a fan.

  • Planning: If you’re installing central air conditioning in a home, you’ll have to hire a local air conditioner installer to put in ductwork, cut into walls, and possibly install the base on the roof. Pro tip: central A/C is most easily installed during a homes initial construction.

  • Health: To cool the air, A/C units need to use refrigerant, a chemical. The older the air conditioning unit, the worse the chemicals are for the ozone layer.

  • Maintenance: To keep your A/C unit in peak condition, you'll need an HVAC company to come in annually to perform maintenance. The typical AC service cost will range anywhere from $75 to $200.

Fan Pros and Cons

Open plan living area with ceiling fans and ocean view
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Ceiling and floor fans come with their pros and cons as well.


There are several benefits that you can enjoy by choosing a fan to keep you cool.

  • Cost: The cost to install a ceiling fan usually comes in at between $150 and $360, which is only a fraction of the cost of a central A/C unit. Also, running your ceiling fan will result in lower utility bills than running an A/C unit. 

  • Eco-friendly: Fans don't need coolants to cool the air. That means less impact on the ozone layer and better air quality for you and your family.

  • Portability: If you're using floor fans, you can take them from room to room to keep cool wherever you go.

  • Ease of Installation: Installing a ceiling fan is a pretty quick and easy process. It's not super invasive, and you just need a ceiling fan installer near you to set up the wiring.


On the other side of the coin, fans have drawbacks as well.

  • Less cooling power: Fans don't use any sort of refrigerant, so they have less cooling power than an air conditioning unit. You may need to install several or set up a few around your house to achieve even a fraction of the cooling of a central AC unit. They also only work when it's moderately hot because they move air around instead of cooling it.

  • More humidity: Fans can't remove humidity from the air, so if you need that, you'll have to buy a dehumidifier as well.

  • Safety: With floor fans, the blades can be a safety issue, especially if you have smaller children in the house.

  • No filter: Air conditioners come with filters that sift contaminants out of the air. Fans don't have these filters, so they just blow dust and pollutants around your home.

Air Conditioners vs. Fans

Both air conditioners and fans are effective ways of cooling your home. Here's a breakdown of some of their qualities to help you make the best choice for you and your family.


With an air conditioner, you'll either have a window unit or a portable unit inside or a large central unit outside your house. While A/C units are effective, they're not the prettiest to look at. However, with ceiling fans, there are tons of options out there, allowing you to style your room however you like.

Winner: Ceiling fans


There are a lot of options for both fans and air conditioners. With fans, you can get a ceiling fan with or without a light, a standing fan, a box fan, or a window fan; with air conditioning units, you can choose from window models, portable models, and central air units. Both fans and A/C units come in various sizes to suit rooms of all sizes.

Winner: Tie


Fans and air conditioners come in a wide range of options, and with those options comes a wide range of prices. However, fans, on the whole, are less expensive than air conditioning units, whether those are window, portable, or whole-home models. In addition, you'll save big on utility bills by using fans instead of an A/C unit.

Winner: Fans


In moderate heat, both fans and air conditioners will do an adequate job of cooling the air in your home. However, the air conditioner wins in high heat climates, especially when it climbs over 90 degrees. Fans move air without actually cooling it, so they provide a hot breeze and not much else in sweltering weather. Air conditioners actually cool the air, leaving your home at a more comfortable temperature.

Winner: Air conditioners

Ease of Installation/DIY-ability

Floor fans, box fans, and standing fans are all plug-and-play. Window A/C units and portable A/C units can be easily DIY-ed while they require a bit more installation work. However, installing a ceiling fan or installing central air involves the help of a professional. 

Winner: Fans


Ceiling fans, once installed, are easily maintained with some light dusting and cleaning of the blades and light. Central A/C units should be inspected at least once a year to ensure that they're in working order and require you to hire an HVAC company to do so. The cost of an A/C unit tune-up usually runs between $75 and $200

Winner: Fans

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