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.