Instead of air conditioning, use fans

Written by terrapass


Ceiling fans can be a useful helper or substitute for air conditioning even at the peak of summer. But as the temperatures of August become a memory, now might be a good time to turn off the A/C altogether and instead rely on an open window or ceiling fan.

**How this helps**

Your air conditioner is one of the biggest energy guzzlers in the house, and it consumes electricity at the worst time of day. Finding alternate means of cooling can have a big impact on your carbon footprint.

**More information**

The Energy Star web site has great information on how to select a ceiling fan.

**Related tips**

* Install an attic fan to draw hot air out of your house.
* Shade windows that get a lot of sun to keep temperatures lower.

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  1. Amy from NY

    Great advice about the fan – however, one step further for those of you who can swing it logistically – I grew up in a home without air conditioning and on the nights when you just couldn’t breathe, we would turn on our attic fan which was rather large – probably 4 feet square -and installed in the exterior wall of our house. Within minutes it drew much of the hot air that was stuck in the house out, and through our open windows brought in fresh, cooler air in the form of a gentle breeze. All without that directly overhead wind that an in room ceiling fan creates – (often giving me a stiff neck!) Drawbacks at the time were that it was somewhat loud, though I am sure that since the early 1900’s which is when this unit was from, materials and motors have improved. Also, the metal fan cover was obviously visible on the outside of the house. Perhaps others have heard of this being used in more modern construction- I am an interior designer and have not run across this installation on any of my projects, and often wondered why architects and builders don’t try this anymore. Clients want to save money and that can come through investing inefficient – sometimes low-tech- systems from the start.

  2. Interior Light

    You are right. We found that when we opened the windows and turned some fans on throughout the house that the air circulation cooled the house of just as much as air conditioning would have. This is a great way to save a lot of money!

  3. Tom Harrison

    Ceiling fans rock. We have one in our bedroom, and one in the kitchen. We have a room A/C, but didn’t even install it in the bedroom this year, since the ceiling fan is much quieter, very effective, and uses far, far less electricity.
    We do also have a “whole house” fan that sucks cool evening air through the house and out through the attic.
    And, this year we installed outdoor “cooleroo” shades on several of our south facing windows.
    During the really hot days of the summer, we would come home and fine our house pleasant and comfortable. We turned on our A/C for perhaps 16 hours total this summer.
    And, after reading our electricity bills from the summer, we used much, much less electricity than when we ran the A/C to cool down.
    One other observation: we spent one (hot) weekend at my sister-in-law’s house. They had wonderful accommodations, a quiet and comfortable room and bed, and central A/C. The room was dry and cool … yet I was still hot and uncomfortable. My body has become accustomed to having a cool, breeze from the ceiling fan. Nothing is better, except for these wonderfully cool late summer evenings.
    A ceiling fan is probably one of the least expensive quality-of-life improvements you can make in a house that is in an area like New York or Boston, that gets hot, but not Houston-hot.

  4. Janet

    A modern solution to the attic fan Amy mentioned above (our home had that too!) is a solar powered attic fan. No electricity, and you can get roof mount or gable mount (like the old style fans were). They run about $300 at Menards Home Center, Lowes, etc… I rarely use my AC anymore. 🙂

  5. Sue | Air Conditioning

    In summer I find that having my windows and patio doors open allow a breeze to flow through my apartment, but on the days when there is no breeze, I do have to use my fan and it uses less electricity then having a air conditioner even though it would be great to have one of those.

  6. Marie Dickens

    Dear Janet,
    The Houston house I grew up in had an attic fan — the big square thing mounted at the top of the drop-down attic stairs. We had no AC back then and the noise was outweighed by the cooling breeze the fan created in the house.
    I am finding that most people now (at least in the northern VA area) call the spinning attic ventilator fan that fits through the roof and pulls hot air outside, an ‘attic fan.’
    This confuses things, as I want to get a ventilator fan to remove hot air so that I can run the fans (ceiling and portable oscillating ones) less. I do not want an attic fan like I grew up with, as there is no place to put it in this small townhouse.
    I’m wondering which type you are referring to in your post. If it is the big square one that pulls the warm house air through the attic and outside via the roof, must it be installed at the head of the drop-down attic stairs and the drop-down door left open when in use? That’s how we used to have to use it.
    Your help is much appreciated. Thank you.
    PS – Please put “Answer to attic fan question” in the subject line so I won’t delete your email as spam. Thanks.