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When it comes down to it, nothing beats the cooling power of a well-running air conditioner. However, when it’s time to pay the bills, we pay the price for our comfort.
With the cost of cooling our home making up the bulk of our electricity bill in the summer, surely there must be a better way! Summer’s heat is too much for a fan to handle alone, but can fans be used to take some of the load off the AC and lower our bills?
While a fan might seem like a stepping stone in the technological progression towards air conditioners, it shouldn’t be left behind. Fans and air conditioners cool us down in different ways. Used together, they can cool us down better while using a lot less electricity!
Read on to find out how using a fan can make staying cool a breeze!
Fan Vs. Air Conditioner
Fans and air conditioners fill separate roles in the household. While fans can cool you down, only an air conditioner can cool down the air itself.
When heat leaves our body, the moisture evaporates (turning from liquid to vapor). Anytime a liquid changes state extra heat is removed, and the person feels colder on that spot. This process is called “the enthalpy of vaporization“
However, at a certain point, it becomes too hot for a fan to help much. As the heat climbs into the eighties and nineties (Fahrenheit), the air can’t take much heat from us, even with the fan’s help. As it goes over 95℉, it can actually make us hotter. Fans are great, but they can’t be our only tool.
Because it just moves air, a fan will never cool down a room by itself. Unless used in conjunction with an AC, cold outside air, or some other source of cool air, it only helps you cool down. The myth that leaving a fan on all night can cause hypothermia is just that: a myth.
Air conditioners actually make the air colder. Using a special gas called a refrigerant, they leech heat from the air inside and release it back outside. Just like your refrigerator, they give off heat, but they release it outside of the house.
Air conditioners also remove humidity from the air in the process. The lack of moisture in the air helps you to feel cooler and cool down better. Wet air simply has too much water in it for your sweat to evaporate your heat away! Between its cooling power and its dehumidifying, an air conditioner can really help you beat the heat.
Why Not Just Use the AC?
If your air conditioner makes it colder and helps you feel cooler, does that mean it’s time to ditch the fan? Not at all! Not only can using a fan save you on your energy bills and extend the life of your AC, but you can improve your comfort with one as well!
Probably the most important reason to use both a fan and an air conditioner is just to make your air conditioner work even better. You’ve probably heard the phrase “hot air rises.” Well cold air sinks! The cold air your AC pushes out of its vents gathers in an invisible pool on your floor. Fans can help move that air around to where we need it most.
Air conditioners are expensive to run. Assuming your AC is in good working order and correctly sized for your home, it can still make up half of your electricity bill! That can be hundreds of dollars for a modestly sized house in a mild summer. That’s a daunting price, but shifting some of the workload to a fan can cut a good chunk out of it.
Using a fan won’t only lower your electricity bill, but it will help keep your AC working better and longer. While running your AC isn’t exactly bad for it, giving it heavier workloads wears it out faster than if it had an easier job. If a fan can be used to lessen the need for the AC, you can set it to a higher temp and maybe even run it a little less often. That really adds up over the summer!
How to Use a Fan to Improve an Air Conditioner
The first and most important step to up your cool without raising the bills is just to get air moving around. Any type of fan can do this, though ceiling fans can be particularly effective. Just having them on can push that pool of cold air lying on the floor up and around your house, making the AC that much more efficient.
Circulating air doesn’t only help the cold air get around more easily, but it helps keep air moving across your skin too. While the now-circulating air will be cooler on your body already, the breeze will whisk more of your heat away. This can let you turn the AC 3-5℉ higher while still feeling cooler. Since every degree higher is an energy savings of about 3%, this can cut a tenth off your bills!
Be mindful of where you set up your fan. If your thermostat is right in front of a vent, it might be in a cold spot. Because of this, it will think your house is colder than it is and shut off. By blowing that air away, you can get a more even cool. On the other hand, if you’ve got a part of the house you aren’t using, you don’t need to make sure it keeps as cool. Shut the doors and save your electricity!
You can also use a fan to cut down the hours you need to run your AC. If it gets cool at night, you can put a fan in the window to pull in that cold air (or push out that hot air). Close the windows in the morning when it starts to heat up, and your house will not only be chilled out, but aired out. That’s a real luxury in the hot summer.
Can You Blow Cool Air into the Next Room?
Putting a fan in a doorway is a great way to move air from one room to the next. Doorways function as bottlenecks, slowing the flow of air, and so a fan is a great way to solve this.
A word of warning: when blowing air into another room, make sure your air conditioner can handle the burden. A central air system properly sized for your house will never have a problem with this, but a window air conditioner can only do so much.
A window unit capable of cooling 300 square feet in a 275 square foot bedroom probably works great. If you try to use a fan to have it cool a 400 square foot living space as well, you’re suddenly asking it to do over twice the work it’s rated for. While it might cool down both rooms somewhat, you’re probably never going to get the temperature you want and you’ll definitely overwork your AC.
How to Get the Most out of Your Air Conditioner
A fan is a great trick to have up your sleeve when fighting the heat of summer. Used with your air conditioner, you can improve your cool and extend the unit’s life. This isn’t the only way to keep your AC running as cheaply, effectively, and healthily as possible. Here’s a few tips:
- Don’t be too cool: Everyone wants to keep as cool as possible in the summer but dropping the temperature even one degree takes a lot of power. See how high you can set your thermostat, turning it up one degree at a time. Especially with a fan, you might be surprised.
- Cool it with the off switch: It takes a lot of power to cool a room down. It takes a lot less power to keep it cool. If you need to run a quick errand, it’s best not to shut down the AC, but just to put it on low. This also saves a lot of wear and tear. Feel free to turn off those extra fans, though.
- Get your annual check up: The best way to keep your AC working well is to make sure it doesn’t stop working well. Get a tune up every spring (and check the filters at least twice that often). A professional is a big help here. Unlike a fan, there’s a lot that needs to be maintained in an air conditioner.
For more tips and tricks, head to our article on getting the most out of your air conditioner.
Wise use of fans can cut down on the burden your AC bears immensely. Circulating air cools everything down, and moving air feels colder. Best of all, fans are much easier to deal with than air conditioners. If you haven’t already, make a fan plan!
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