We can give you a quick answer, because it’s no contest: fans. Whether you’re talking about using just the blower fan of your HVAC system (“fan only mode”) or ceiling fans, these devices use only a small fraction of the amount of energy of turning on the air conditioner.
For example, a standard central air conditioner, like the one you probably have in your house, consumes between 3,000 and 3,500 watts of electricity per hour. That same AC when only the fan is running consumes 500 watts of electricity per hour. That’s an enormous difference! Ceiling fans use around the same amount, 500–750 watts per hour.
What Makes the AC Use So Much More Energy?
What is it about the air conditioner that causes it to use that much electricity? (In fact, unless you have an electric water heater, the AC is the appliance in your home that uses the most electricity. This is why an AC can sometimes trip a circuit breaker when it overheats.)
The source of an air conditioner’s energy consumption is the motor for the compressor. The compressor is the component in the air conditioner that allows the cooling to take place at all. Whenever your AC turns on, you’ll first hear the blower fan run, and then a deeper humming sound indicates the compressor motor kicking on. The compressor requires so much energy because it has to place the refrigerant under enough pressure that it becomes a high-pressure hot gas that will then move through the rest of the air conditioner and carry out heat exchange.
How Much Can Fans Substitute for an AC?
This is the big question, and probably the reason you wanted to know the different energy usage between the AC and fans. Fans have the power to make people feel cooler, but they don’t lower the actual temperature of the air the way an air conditioner does. An air conditioner is a literal “heat pump” that pulls heat from the air inside the house and then pumps it outdoors. A fan simply moves air around, but these currents create a wind-chill factor: the air currents push away the heat envelope around the human body, allowing the body to release more heat and feel cooler.
There’s no way that fans, regardless of whether they’re ceiling fans, a central blower fan, or desk fans, can equal the cooling ability of an AC. However, they can make enough of a difference that an air conditioner won’t need to work as often. Proper use of fans can maintain comfort in your house and cut down on the energy consumption that comes with running the air conditioner.
Running fans in a room can cause people in it to feel around 4°C cooler than the temperature of the room. We recommend setting your air conditioner to 25°C during the heat, which may seem too warm for some people, but running fans will make that temperature feel closer to 21°C, making it much easier to keep the thermostat raised up higher. In fact, you could raise it even more if the fans are helping enough. The AC will still have to come on, but not as often as without the fans.
Need help with your air conditioning in Comox, BC? All you have to do is contact Temprite Climate Solutions. For a job done right, call Temprite!