A Ceiling Fan Trick for Saving on the Electric Bill in the Summer

I’ve saved hundreds of dollars on electricity in the last couple of years. During the summer in Los Angeles, the biggest dollar gobbler on our household electric bill is air conditioning. My wife and I need a cool bedroom at night or we don’t sleep well — 75 ̊or lower. I learned a trick with a bedroom ceiling fan that really saves on electricity.

Ordinarily, a ceiling fan lowers the temperature a couple of degrees. When it’s 82 ̊at bedtime, that helps a little, but we still have to run the A/C. In earlier summers, we just turned on the air conditioning and set the thermostat for 75 ̊. All night long, the compressor on the roof turned on and off, and was on about half the time. It’s a 4-ton air conditioner, so every hour it costs us 50₵ (http://www.tampaelectric.com/data/files/applianceusage.pdf). If it’s on for 4 hours, that’s $2 a night or $60 a month. That’s just for nights, let alone hot summer days.

Some homes have even larger air conditioners. Depending on the size of yours, air conditioning will run you 18-67₵ per hour for electricity. That’s $22-$80 a month if it’s on four hours a night.

I got wise the last two summers. In L.A., most nights, the temperature drops below 75 ̊. If we’re not using the A/C upstairs where the bedroom is, as soon as it’s cooler outside than in, I open a few windows. I don’t run the A/C at the same time that the windows are open for obvious reasons. I don’t want to make it hard on myself, so I open only four upstairs windows that slide easily. One is a tiny window in the bedroom. I also open doors so that air can circulate from the open windows into the bedroom. Then, I turn on the ceiling fan in our bedroom, just enough to get the air moving throughout the upstairs. That draws in cooler air through from outside. I leave the windows open and the ceiling fan on low the rest of the night.

I still set the thermostat on the air conditioning to 75 ̊ and sometimes when I first go to bed, it comes on. But usually only briefly. This ensures that the bedroom is down to 75 ̊or lower all night long.

Except during bad heat waves, the temperature is usually down to about 70 ̊ in the upstairs by 7 a.m. Then, first thing in the morning, I close all the windows and turn off the A/C. Closing the windows keeps the house cool into late afternoon. So, we’re actually saving on electricity during the day, too. (It helps a lot that we have a huge ash tree shading our roof.)

You might wonder how much running a ceiling fan is going to cost for maybe 10 hours each night? One thin dime. It’s 1₵ an hour — probably even less as I run the fan at the lowest speed. If I used an electric fan in my home office during the day instead of the A/C, that would run 2₵ an hour. Or if I wanted to splurge and use a whole house fan, that would run 4₵ an hour. Compare that with 18-67₵ for air conditioning.

My strategy will work for you if you live in a part of the country where it cools down at night during the summer. You should have screens on the windows to keep out mosquitos and other bugs. If worse comes to worse, you can buy screens that you can put in place each night between the jamb and the sill. Your hardware store should carry something like that.

Of course, you’ll also need a ceiling fan in your bedroom. We’re lucky — our house was built in the ’70s, when ceiling fans were the rage in L.A. But they’re not a big ticket item. You should be able to find a high quality ceiling fan at a lighting store or on the Internet for as little as $35. They run more if you want one with light bulbs and, of course, you can spend a few hundred for a special look. They come in all different colors and styles. Hunter and Casablanca are among the better brands. Installation runs about $100 though occasionally more if your ceiling isn’t built to easily take a fan and a new electrical junction box is needed. Ceiling fans almost never break. They’re pretty much like the Eveready Bunny.

If you haven’t already tried this strategy for saving on your electric bill and decide to try it (it’s not rocket science!), let me know how it goes.

For more information about ceiling fans and a photo, click here. If you’re in L.A. and would like a ceiling fan installed, please give us a call at (800) 990-9400 from 8-5. We’ll be happy to help you save electricity, money, and the planet.

Kim Hopkins
CEO, The Electric Connection