Ceiling fan or air conditioner: Which is better?
Every summer we’re faced with the question – ceiling fan or air conditioner?
Which is the best way to keep us cool?
And perhaps just as importantly, how are we going to beat the heat without breaking the bank?
Well, the answer may be surprising to air conditioning enthusiasts who believe that ‘ceiling fans do nothing’.
While in one way they are right – ceiling fans don’t actually change the temperature of a room – they are severely underestimating the power of the humble fan to cool down a room.
But, if it’s not actually lowering the temperature of the room how on earth do ceiling fans cool you down?
Here’s an example…
It’s a hot summers day and you’re headed to the beach. You soak up the suns rays as you walk toward the sand.
However, as soon as you get down onto the beach your warm skin is covered in goosebumps. The wind is blowing and the air feels 10 degrees cooler.
You wrap the towel around you to keep warm and try to find a sheltered spot to warm up.
In this situation, the temperature has not changed at all. But the wind has made you feel as though the temperature has dropped significantly.
But how does this work?
The breeze from a ceiling fan disrupts the stagnant air surrounding your body which is what prevents heat loss.
The actual temperature of the air around you will not change from the fan, but due to the air disruption from the wind, it feels like it has.
But how could simply circulating warm air provide relief from heat if the air temperature isn’t changing?
Ceiling fans work to keep you cool in two different ways:
Convection: The process of losing heat due to the movement of air or water across the surface of the skin.
Evaporation: The process of liquid water evaporating from a surface, which decreases the surface temperature. When sweat evaporates from our skin, it usually leaves us feeling cool.
Essentially, ceiling fans have the same effect as the wind at the beach. It isn’t actually changing the temperature but it feels much colder.
This effect can be increased because while wind is dispersed over a huge area thus reducing it’s cooling effect, ceiling fans operate in a comparatively small room meaning the air movement (and resulting convection and evaporation) is increased.
Great! But why would I choose a fan over air conditioning?
Other than the fact that they are actually incredibly effective at cooling you down, they are also far cheaper to run.
Unlike an air conditioner, ceiling fans aren’t trying to change the actual temperature of the room. This means they are effective as soon as you turn them on. Once the air is moving the cooling effect will be felt.
Furthermore, as fans cool you down through the direct effect of moving the air around, it means that they only need to be on when you’re actually in the room.
Therefore, you can turn a fan off as soon as you leave a room and turn it on when you come back in and it will have the same immediate effect. Ceiling fans are also quite energy efficient as once they are on and spinning, they use very little energy to work.
In contrast, an air conditioner takes a while (and a lot of electricity) to get the room down to the desired temperature. This means, even if you are leaving the room for a little while, you’ll have to leave it on if you want the room to be the same temperature when you come back. Therefore, ceiling fans save energy and are more sustainable as you do not need to leave them on when you leave the room to maintain the cooling effect. This has the added bonus of cutting down on running costs.
Also not the best way to beat the heat in the long run as air conditioners use much more power to run than ceiling fans meaning they are less sustainable and you may be contributing to even hotter summer weather down the track!
Essentially, ceiling fans are better for the environment and will result in a cheaper electricity bill – all while keeping you comfortable and cool. How could you go wrong with that?
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