Does a Ceiling Fan Use Less Electricity at a Lower Speed?

ceiling fan

Are you wondering if your ceiling fan uses less electricity at lower speeds? In this article, we’ll try to tackle this question and offer some nuances and insight on saving energy. We all want to save as much cash as we can during the summer months while still staying cool. Let’s figure this one out. 

You will save power in modern ceiling fans with newer regulators by operating the fan at a slower speed. Newer regulators are more efficient. If you have an older ceiling fan with an old regulator (it will have vents to dissipate heat), then lower speeds won’t necessarily result in less energy, as these regulators use a resistance system instead of a controlled power supply. 

If that was a little confusing, don’t worry. We’ll break it all down in the next sections. Also, we’ll talk about how much energy a ceiling fan actually uses and give you some tips for saving money on your summer electricity bill. 

Two Types of Ceiling Fans 

When wondering about the amount of energy consumed by a ceiling fan, we need to understand the type of ceiling fan. Newer ceiling fans have advanced controls that allow them to regulate the amount of energy drawn into the system based on the output required. Essentially, it’s an only take what you need type system. 

Then, there’s the older model of ceiling fans, which uses a different type of regulator. Unlike the newer ceiling fans, which only pull the power they need to operate the fan at any given speed, the older fans use a similar amount of power for all settings. If that’s the case, how do they go slower and faster? Let’s use an analogy. 

Analogy to Understand Ceiling Fan Regulators

Imagine two cars. Both are traveling down the road at sixty miles per hour, and both want to slow down to forty miles per hour. Car A decides to let off the gas and allow the car to slow down. Car B doesn’t let off the gas; instead, they push on the breaks. Now, both cars are traveling forty miles per hour; however, car A is using less gas, while car B is using the brakes. Make sense?

While this isn’t a perfect analogy for the electric systems (as they are truly different types of energy and their processes are very different), it’s the same basic principle. 

As you might expect, Car B would generate a lot of heat (and wear out the brakes fast!). Interestingly, the old-style regulators for ceiling fans, which use a resistor system, have vents to dissipate the heat they create from capturing and wasting some of the energy. As you might imagine, these old-style regulators and ceiling fans are less energy-efficient than newer systems. 

With that said, the new systems do cost more. So, which ceiling fan do you have? Let’s talk about their differences in the net section (then we’ll talk more about the specific costs of using a ceiling fan). 

How to Tell the Difference Between an Old Ceiling Fan Regulator and a New One 

Let’s talk about the specifics of these different types of ceiling fans. We’ll start with the older model ceiling fans. 

Older model ceiling fans (those that use more energy) will be larger than new regulators. Also, these regulators have vents around them to help dissipate the extra heat. If you have an older home, you should check to see which types of system you’re home uses. 

The newer ceiling fan regulators are smaller and don’t have any vents. They use less energy at different speeds. 

Okay, we’ve heard about energy usage and cost, but how does that actually translate to dollar bills? We’ll talk more about this in the next section. 

How Much Does It Cost to Use a Ceiling Fan? 

Will using your ceiling fan all the time make you go broke? That depends on your budget and how often you use the ceiling fan. For most people, using the ceiling fan presents a very low cost, and it will certainly use less energy than your AC unit. 

Let’s talk about the numbers. You can use the appliance analysts tool to calculate your usage if you’d like. However, we’ll go over some general numbers in the sections below. 

For a 100watt ceiling fan run at full speed, at eight hours every day for seven days a week, the cost will be around $3 per month or about $36 per year. Now, this number is based on the average of 13 cents per kWh. If you live in Alaska, your bill will be higher (but you probably aren’t using the ceiling fan as much in Alaska). 

How to Use a Ceiling Fan (And Techniques to Stay Cool and Save Cash)

Now that we’ve tackled the issue of how much energy ceiling fans use at different levels. Let’s figure out how to save some money and reduce energy usage during the hot parts of the year. 

Here are several ways to reduce energy usage: 

  • Use the ceiling fan
  • Insulate better 
  • Upgrade appliances
  • Find Shade 
  • Clean and maintain AC 
  • Develop good habits 

Let’s look at these in more depth. 

Note: If you’re curious, you can read more about the energy use of different types of ceiling fans. 

Ceiling Fans Can Help You Save Money 

While we just discussed how ceiling fans use energy, it turns out that ceiling fans use less power than AC units. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise. With that said, a common technique is to use the ceiling fan in concurrence with setting the AC at a higher temperature. This gives you the best of both worlds and may reduce your energy use and electric bill. 

Insulate Your Home 

Good insulation is all about ensuring that there are no leaks. If there’s a leak somewhere in your home, it will ruin all the hard work of the insulated areas. Imagine a fence around sheep. It doesn’t matter if the whole area is mostly fenced – if even one part of the fence is broken, the sheep will escape. The same thing will happen with your cold and warm air. If you have leaks, the warm air outside will get inside, causing greater AC usage. 

Upgrade Appliances 

Modern ceiling fans will use less energy than older ceiling fans. Also, newer AC units will use less energy than old ones. While it may seem like a lot of time and money to change them out for newer systems, if you plan on being in your home for a long time, it may make sense to upgrade. It makes you more comfortable, you’ll deal with fewer repairs, and in the long run, you may even save money. 

Find or Make Shade 

Direct sunlight can cause heat to rise within your home rapidly. One of the best, and oldest ways, to stay cool is to find shade from the sun. How do you do this? Well, it’s pretty straightforward. 

First, in the short term, you can invest in some good window blinds. Window blinds will help prevent the direct sun from roasting your living room. However, you might not want the blinds closed all summer, so there are some longer-term options. 

Many people choose to grow trees around their homes or tall shrubs. These plants look nice, and they prevent the heat from getting the upper hand. 

Clean and Maintain the AC Unit 

AC units have a lot of pipes, propellers, filters, and moving parts. Before you become worried that your AC unit is broken, take steps to ensure it has the proper maintenance required. Some might need something simple, like a change of the filter. However, others may need more extreme maintenance. 

The more efficient your AC system, the less you will spend on energy costs, and the cooler your home will be. You might even consider a whole house fan that will save on energy. Alright, let’s talk about another tip – good habits. 

Good Habits 

Just common-sense stuff like not leaving doors or windows open while running the AC will give you real cost savings. Also, perhaps you don’t need the AC running at full power. Maybe you can adapt to a slightly warmer temp (while staying comfortable) to save money. 

Simple things like spending a warm day around the pool or beach and wearing light-colored clothes can help people be more comfortable in the summer and save more money. 

Time for our final take. 

Final Take on How Much Energy Ceiling Fans Use at Different Speeds

Modern ceiling fans will use relatively more energy when they are at full speed. However, if you have an older ceiling fan that uses an old-style resistor in its regulator, it probably will use about the same energy at low or high speeds. 

Ceiling fans can play a role in keeping you cool and reducing energy costs. Ceiling fans are not that expensive to run, and they can help augment the AC Unit. 

Practicing good habits and improving your home’s insulation can go a long way towards saving energy and staying comfortable.