Fan Your Way to Lower Energy Bills

Ceiling fans can cool your energy bills.

| Aug. 7, 2008

The Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration estimates that the spot price for natural gas, used for electricity and heating fuels, will increase about 65 percent this winter. So, instead of worrying about gasoline prices, it’s time to start thinking about ways to save on heating and cooling, especially because they make up 45 percent of your home’s energy bill. While most everyone is looking for extra change under their couches, in their cars or just picking it up off the streets, the answer to saving money may be directly above your head, with a ceiling fan.

The Savings

First off, a ceiling fan works to move the air throughout the room, making it feel cooler. If you use a ceiling fan in cooler climates, it can actually make a house feel cool enough to prevent the need for an air conditioning unit. In hotter climates, a ceiling fan can make an air-conditioned room feel 4 degrees cooler, allowing you to raise your thermostat. By raising it just 2 degrees, you can save up to 14 percent on your energy bill throughout the year.

Remember to turn off the fan when no one is in the room. Ceiling fans make people feel cooler, but they won’t actually change the temperature of a room like an air conditioning unit would. So there’s no point in burning the (albeit small) energy used by a fan when the room is empty.

How it Works

During the summer, a ceiling fan should rotate counter-clockwise, which pushes the airflow in a downward direction and, therefore, creates a cool, wind-chill effect. If yours is rotating clockwise, you can change its direction by just flipping the fan’s slide switch, found on the motor housing at the body of the fan, as explained in Easy Energy-Saving Tip: Summer Ceiling Fan Setting.

Don’t forget to change it back, though, when the weather becomes cooler, because it can make a room feel warmer, too. When a fan is rotating in a clockwise direction, it forces warm air down from the top of a room to the bottom.

How to Find the Best Fan

First, think about the height of the ceiling that the fan will be hanging from. Make sure that there is at least 7 feet between the floor and the blades of the fan because, obviously, you don’t want anyone to bump their head on them. Once you know the height, think about how you want to attach your fan to the ceiling. If there’s enough room, buy a fan with a rod that allows the fan to have a hanging depth (the distance between the ceiling and the bottom of the fan) of about 10 inches, which will allow the fan to circulate air better. If your ceiling height doesn’t allow for this much room (usually ceilings below 9 feet won’t), then you’ll need a fan with a flush mount. 

Paul Barthle
8/13/2008 5:33:29 AM

I've often wondered if properly installed solar panels could reduce the heat gain through the roof beneath the panels? Living in South Florida, heat is only ahead of humidity in discomfort level. My house is CBS construction and needs more insulation, but I am also looking at bang for the buck as I add green features.

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