Ceiling fans can cut your electric bills year-round, but it’s important to understand how. If you install a ceiling fan and don’t adjust your thermostat settings accordingly, you may be more comfortable, but it actually increases your summertime electric bills.
The fan does not cool air or things—fans cool people, so they should be turned off when no one is in the room.
During the summer, ceiling fans cool the skin by creating a downward breeze, which should make you feel comfortable enough to turn up the air conditioner a few degrees. Look at the pitch of the blades to determine which rotation direction makes the air blow downward. Setting the thermostat higher saves much more electricity than the fan consumes.
In general, during the summer, run the ceiling fan on medium or high speed to create the cooling effect.
During the winter, flip the small switch on the fan housing to reverse the blade rotation. Run the fan on low speed so it creates a gentle upward breeze, which will force the warm air—which naturally rises—back down where it’s needed. Then you can set your furnace a few degrees lower to save energy.
Some ceiling fans have a built-in electric heater with a hand-held remote thermostat/control. It functions the same way as a standard ceiling fan during the summer. During the winter, it automatically reverses rotation when it is switched to the heating mode. The heater allows you to take advantage of zone heating by keeping other parts of your house cooler.
The size of a ceiling fan is rated by the diameter of the blades. This is more important during the summer when you want to feel the breeze. A sizing rule of thumb is to use a 29-36-inch fan for rooms up to 75 square feet, a 36-42-inch fan for up to 144 square feet, and a 50-54-inch fan for up to 400 square feet. For larger rooms, use two fans spaced about one-quarter of the way in from opposing walls.
The following companies offer ceiling fans: Broan, www.broan.com; Casablanca Fans, www.casablancafanco.com; Emerson Electric, www.emersonfans.com; Fanimation, www.fanimation.com; and Reiker, www.buyreiker.com.
Cost and quality go together
Price is often a good indication of the quality of a ceiling fan. Better ceiling fans typically have a greater pitch (twist) on the blades. This requires a more powerful motor, but it moves more air at a lower rotation speed. Lower speed results in less sound and less chance of annoying wobble.