Ceiling Fans: What to Buy and How to Use Them Effectively
You can save a lot of money and energy by using ceiling fans intelligently. Ceiling fans can be used year-long to improve the efficiency of your cooling and heating system.
Here are some ceiling fan tips to increase comfort and reduce utility bills.
Forward (Counter-Clockwise) in Spring/Summer
Make sure your ceiling fan is spinning counter-clockwise in the spring and summer. This pushes air down to the living space below. While the fan doesn’t actually lower the temperature of the room, it makes you feel cooler due to the wind-chill effect.
That’s why weather reports often report wind chill in addition to the temperature because wind will make it feel a lot colder than what the thermometer reads.
Basically, as heat leaves our bodies, it forms a thin layer of warm air which acts as an insulation layer. When it is windy, this warm insulation layer is blown away and replaced with the colder surrounding air. Therefore, we feel cooler when there is wind even when there is no actual change in temperature. The faster the heat from our bodies is blown away, the colder we feel. It’s science.
Use this to your advantage by keeping the thermostat higher and just using fans to feel colder. According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, ceiling fans allow you to raise the thermostat about 4 degrees without any noticeable impact on comfort.
Since you can save around 3-5% on cooling costs for every degree you raise the thermostat, this can amount to significant savings (Energy Star).
Imagine being able to keep the thermostat 4 degrees higher all summer and how much money that would save. Ceiling fans can easily pay for themselves in just on cooling season.
Reverse (Clockwise) in Fall/Winter
You hardly ever see ceiling fans operating in the fall and winter time, but they are actually helpful all year. Do you see that small black switch on the side of the ceiling fan base? By flipping that little black switch, you can reverse the direction of the ceiling fan to cause the blades to spin clockwise.
By changing the direction of the blades, the air will be pushed upward instead of downward. Since heat rises and gathers near the ceiling, the updraft will push the warmer air down toward the living spaces below. The air flows down the walls and back to the floor.
Redistributing the warm air will increase comfort and save up to 15% on heating costs. Used in combination with your heating system, you can lower the thermostat temperature and reduce the cycling on and off of your heating equipment.
It’s easy to tell whether your ceiling fan is creating an updraft or downdraft. Simply stand beneath the ceiling fan when it is on. If you feel air blowing, it’s in cooling mode. If you don’t feel any air while the blades are spinning, it’s in heating mode.
How to Choose an Effective Ceiling Fan
The larger your ceiling fan blades, the more effective they are. But be careful about blades with ridges, bumps, or any kind of texture. Smooth blades tend to be the quietest.
You can get a sense of how good the fan distributes air by looking up the cubic feet per minute (CFM) number on the manufacturer’s specification page. The higher the number, the greater the air movement. But don’t worry about small differences. There probably won’t be any noticeable difference between 5,000 CFM and 5,600 CFM.
Fans with the greatest CFM make more noise but this is due to airflow, wind, and fluttering, not motor noise or wobbly blades.
Here are some tips for choosing the most effective ceiling fan:
- Look for a higher CFM number for greater airflow.
- Look for the Energy Star label.
- Choose the right size for your room size.
- Pick a ceiling fan that matches the interior design.
- Check the wet/damp rating if installing outdoor fan.
- Check manufacturer instructions for proper light bulbs. (Not all bulbs will fit your ceiling fan.)
- 8-9 feet above the ground is usually best for ceiling fans. Use a downrod if your ceiling are high.
- Clean fan blades twice a year (or more). (Use an old pillow case to keep dust and dirt from flying around). Don’t apply heavy pressure.
- Speak with a professional to avoid problems!
Things get much more expensive and frustrating when you try to cut corners. That’s why you should speak with a professional before choosing and installing a ceiling fan, whether inside or out. For instance, ceiling fans should be a certain height from the floor and ceiling to be most effective; they should suit your style; and if the fan is outside, it should be completely water and moisture resistant.
Ceiling fans with lights get even more complicated. Electrical work should always be left to the professionals. Speak with a certified electrician at Hickerson Brothers Electric before choosing and installing your ceiling fan and you’ll be cool and comfortable before you know it.