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Tricks of the Trade

How to increase HVAC energy efficiency using ceiling fans

Kate Wise

by Kate Wise


When temperatures rise, so do cooling costs. In fact, American homeowners pay about $29 billion annually in air conditioning expenses according to Energy Saver. For facility maintenance and property managers, indoor cooling expenses are something that should be considered when implementing a building’s HVAC system. Fortunately, ceiling fans are a secret weapon in the battle against inflated air conditioning bills. Learn how to incorporate ceiling fans with your facility’s air conditioning system to help your building occupants keep energy bills low when temperatures rise.

Ceiling fans and air conditioning: What you need to know

The primary reason why ceiling fans save energy is simple: By moving air, ceiling fans create a wind chill effect in which the air feels cooler to the skin than the actual temperature. This means thermostats can be turned up to a warmer setting and the air in the room will still feel like it is being cooled. When properly installed, ceiling fans allow building occupants to turn up their thermostats about four degrees warmer than the normal setting without sacrificing comfort. The closer a thermostat’s setting is to the outdoor temperature, the less frequent the air conditioner will run. In turn, this saves money by reducing energy consumption.

Bonus tip: On average, ceiling fans with an ENERGY STAR label are 20% more efficient at moving air than those without the label according to Energy Saver. Opting for ceiling fans with this label will give your building occupants even greater energy savings.

Ceiling fan tips for lowering cooling costs

Proper ceiling fan installation and use are key parts of achieving energy savings. Follow these tips reported by the U.S. Department of Energy to help your building occupants keep their energy bills as low as possible.

  • Consider room size and placement.

    The correct placement of the fan will help to maximize airflow.

    • Fans should be installed so that the blades are no higher than nine feet from the floor, but no closer than eight inches from the ceiling. For tall ceilings, install the fan with an extension rod to lower the height of the fan.

    • The diameter of the fan should correlate to the square footage of a room. For rooms measuring 225 square feet and smaller, a 44 inch diameter fan will provide effective cooling. Rooms larger than 225 square feet will require a larger fan. For rooms measuring more than 18 feet in length, multiple fans will be required and should be spaced evenly between six to 10 feet apart.

    Bonus tip:
    The more blades a ceiling fan has does not correlate to how much air it moves. Instead, focus on the pitch of the blades when making your selection. Blades that have a sharper pitch will increase air circulation in a room.

  • Use the right installation equipment.

    A fan that is installed with the wrong electrical and mounting equipment work less effectively, and can also present a safety hazard. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper fan installation. Be aware that not all outlet boxes are made to be used with ceiling fans, so double check that the outlet box you are using is appropriate for ceiling fan installation.

  • Set the fan’s motor to spin counterclockwise.

    Setting a fan’s motor to spin counterclockwise will push the air down, which is what creates the wind chill and makes the room feel cooler. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to determine how to set the motor’s direction.

  • Make it easy to turn on and off.

    Ceiling fans increase energy efficiency by making people in a room feel cooler, not by cooling the air in a room itself. Leaving a ceiling fan on when nobody is in a room is a waste of energy. Install wall-mount or remote controlled ceiling fan switches with multiple speed settings to allow building occupants to easily control the indoor climate and turn off the fan when they leave a room.

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Kate Wise
Kate Wise

Kate is a 17-year veteran within the facilities maintenance MRO industry with extensive knowledge and experience managing LED, traditional lighting, ballasts and battery categories.