how much electricity does a fan use compared to air conditioning

How Much Electricity Does a Fan Use Compared to Air Conditioning?

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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Cooling solutions come in handy in the hot months. No one wants to sit in a hot house without air conditioning or fans. Not to mention, beating the heat is a good idea, but only on an effective cooling solution. An electric fan or air conditioning unit is one of the best options for an overheated home. But how do you ensure that your electric bill isn’t high? How much electricity does a fan use compared to air conditioning? Let’s find out.

How Much Electricity Does a Fan Use Compared to Air Conditioning?

If you’re looking for a whole house fan and wondering how much electricity it uses, you’re in the right place. Running a whole house or tower fan costs considerably less than running a central ac unit. It’s also cheaper to leave a ceiling fan running than an air conditioning unit. Ultimately, having the best ceiling fan is cheaper.

Understandably, everyone is concerned about their electric bill. Therefore, it’s practical to want to find the best cooling method. The fan always has the upper hand when it comes to electricity use. A ceiling fan uses 30-50 watts of electricity on a low setting. On the other hand, air conditioning units use at least 3500 watts of electricity. Of course, the obvious choice will be a ceiling fan.

Energy consumption of a ceiling fan

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As expected, the energy consumption and wattage use are higher in air conditioning units compared to ceiling fans. The electricity consumed by a fan is based on the design and speed setting. When used with air conditioners, ceiling fans can reduce your electricity costs by ensuring your air conditioner isn’t on full-time.

In most homes, owners with a ceiling fan can expect it to consume at least 100 watts of electricity and between 1-5 cents per hour. Additionally, even if you need around 200 hours of cooling a year, a standing fan will cost you around $1, while a central AC will cost you over $160. Furthermore, most air conditioners require maintenance, which is another cost. Fans don’t require maintenance.

Ceiling Fans Vs. Air Conditioning

1) How They Work

Ceiling fans work by pushing air past your skin, consequently removing heat around you. Remember, with ceiling fans, you can only feel cool when you are there to be cooled. Therefore, to maximize energy and money savings, you will need to remember to turn off ceiling fans when you aren’t in the room. If you want to cool a room using a fan, you also need to ensure the windows are open to draw cooler air into your house.

How they work

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AC units work by warming indoor air. Hot air is blown across a cold cooling coil full of refrigerant, which allows it to be cooled. Additionally, the heat from indoor air is immersed directly into the refrigerant as the refrigerant changes form from liquid to gas. Furthermore, the cooled air is then allocated back to the house, cooling an entire room. Therefore, the outcome is a continuous cycle of heat and humidity being eradicated from the indoor air, cool air being released into the home, and heat and humidity being pulled out.

2) Effectiveness

Air conditioning and ceiling fans can adequately cool a room in moderate heat. However, when it comes to the hot and sticky summer months, you might want to consider cooling power. A fan works by moving air through the house, but it comes without any cooling power. Therefore, even if you have multiple fans running simultaneously, they will only be circulating hot air.


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Central air conditioning, or even a good window ac unit, has a powerful cooling effect. They remove the heat from the surrounding air and promote air circulation, leaving a cooling sensation in extreme heat. When it comes down to effectiveness, an air conditioner is your best bet, especially since it’s an excellent appliance when it’s extremely hot.

3) Running Costs

The running costs for fans and air conditioners depend on the type, size, running speed, and temperature setting. A window ac unit typically uses 1.2 kilowatts and costs 14 cents per hour. Additionally, it can increase your electric bill by $50 per month. Conversely, a central AC unit consumes more energy at 3 kilowatts per hour, which generally converts into 36 cents per hour. Depending on the hours of use, your unit will use more electricity.

Running costs

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Ceiling fans have power ratings of 55 to 100 and the lowest operating wattage. Their energy usage on a low setting is about 3.6 watts, and 31.1 watts on a high setting. Portable fans can be used for cooler air and have a fan wattage is roughly 42 to 100 watts. On an average day, they consume about 17 watts per hour running on a low setting and 42.5 watts on high. 

4) Price


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Fans and air conditioners come in different makes, models, and sizes. The same applies to the price tag. For central AC units, expect to pay at least $5000-$9000 for the initial installation. Additionally, a whole house fan costs between $500-$2000 depending on the type and size you go for. Of course, cheaper makes, such as box fans, could set you back between $29-$250. Needless to say, fans are easier on the budget compared to air conditioners.

Additionally, to consider a fan, you should look at the following conditions:

  • It’s less than 95 degrees Fahrenheit
  • You want to use less electricity
  • It’s not very humid
  • You are in a position that’s close to the fan

5) Additional Features

Additional features

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While fans might be the best option in terms of electricity usage, you should also know some fans are accompanied by all the bells and whistles. You can get a fan with or without lighting capabilities, quiet operation, natural breeze settings, and ionizers.

Some ACs also come with a smart function and even solar-powered capabilities, with lower operating costs and a great cooling process.

Frequently Asked Questions About Electricity Consumption of a Fan Compared to Air Conditioning

i) Is it cheaper to run an air conditioner or a fan?

Fans are relatively cheaper to run compared to all types of air conditioners and can always used in place of air conditioners or simultaneously with them to save money on your bills. If you own any type of ceiling fan, you can use it in conjunction with your AC. Most fans will use around 1% of the total electricity consumed by air conditioners.

ii) Is running a fan all night expensive?

If you’re deliberately trying to minimize the energy bills at home, have no doubt that even operating a fan all night is usually inexpensive and is sure to cost less than cranking up the AC.

iii) How much electricity does a fan use per hour?

Ceiling fans consume the least amount of electricity at 0.0311 kWh per hour at maximum speed. The electric consumption of a box fan is 0.073 kWh per hour at the maximum speed. On the other hand, a gadget like a tower fan will use 0.0565 kWh per hour while running on its maximum setting.

iv) Can I run a fan and AC together?

Your air conditioner provides cooling and reduces humidity, and your ceiling fans create a nice breeze. This combination is a great way to overcome the scorching summer heat and humidity and also increase indoor comfort.

v) Which fan consumes more electricity?

On average, a table fan may consume anywhere between 30-60 watts of power, while a ceiling fan can consume 70-90 watts or more, Depending on its size and speed settings. This means a ceiling fan may consume more electricity than a table fan, resulting in higher energy bills.

The Bottom Line

Ceiling fans or whole-house fans can circulate air and significantly reduce a home’s temperature for a fraction of the cost of a central air conditioner. A ceiling fan can also help you through the hot summer months without drastically increasing your energy consumption. Furthermore, you will still be comfortable and save money in the long run.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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