Which Uses Less Electricity, Ceiling Fan or AC Fan Mode?

ac termostat

Are you curious which uses less electricity between a ceiling fan and an AC unit in fan mode? People have questions about AC fan mode vs. a ceiling fan and which is more efficient. Here’s what we know. 

The AC fan mode often uses more energy than a regular ceiling fan. However, this will depend on the type of ceiling fan and the type of AC unit. Some smaller units on fan mode may use about the same amount of electricity as a ceiling fan, but they’re usually less efficient and less practical. 

In this article, we’ll discuss all these questions in more depth. We’ll offer some of the ways people use their ceiling fan and AC mode to their advantage. Finally, we’ll go over some tips to save money on your energy bill during the hot months of the summer. 

Let’s figure this one out! 

Is it Cheaper to Run AC or a Ceiling Fan?

If you’re using your air conditioner unit on full power, it will use significantly more energy than the ceiling fan. And, by full power, we mean the AC unit is actively cooling the room. However, many people wonder if they can just switch the AC unit to fan mode and save a little power. Well, the answer to this question is nuanced. 

Overall, it’s cheaper to use a ceiling fan than a full AC unit. However, things become a little murky when we start talking about fan mode (if you’re not sure what this is, see the section below). 

When the AC unit is at full power, it requires enough energy to power the compressor within the AC unit and power the fans/blowers. This activation of the compressor is what makes an AC unit use so much more power than a modern ceiling fan. 

With that said, some old-fashioned ceiling fans may use more power than modern units; however, they still probably won’t use as much energy as a full-blown AC unit. But what about fan mode? 

What is Fan-Mode for an Air Conditioning Unit? 

Fan mode is a setting available on most AC units. In this setting, instead of actively cooling the air, the AC unit is just blowing air in a similar fashion to any regular fan. 

AC fan mode can vary in its purpose, function, and effectiveness. For example, fan mode will be different in a small window AC unit than in a central air system. 

In the small window unit, the AC fan mode may just suck in warm air from the outside. Also, with window units, it may be difficult to direct the air where it’s most needed. 

In a central air system, the fan mode can circulate the air within the home (many have return air systems). This helps ensure the entire house is evenly cooled, preventing cold air from getting trapped anywhere. 

Let’s talk about how much energy you can save with AC fan mode. 

Does AC Fan Mode Save Electricity? 

AC fan mode can save you energy; however, you have to know when to use it. And it depends on your current cooling system. If you’re used to using regular box fans and ceiling fans, then you probably won’t save much energy using your AC’s fan mode. 

However, if you use your AC unit constantly to actively cool your home, you will save some energy by using the fan mode. With that said, you might end up being less comfortable. 

Let’s talk about when to use fan mode correctly. 

When to Use AC Fan Mode

In this section, we’ll talk about several times to use fan mode in your AC unit. As you’ll see, there are ways to use fan mode effectively. 

One thing to keep in mind – it’s important to review and research your specific AC unit. There are many types on the market. Try to figure out how your work, and make sure that it’s properly installed and in working order. If your AC unit isn’t working properly, then none of these tips will help. 

When to use AC fan mode: 

  1. In the morning or evening 
  2. As an air purifier 
  3. To circulate cool air 

Below, we’ll look at this topic in more depth. 

Use AC Fan Mode (window units) in the Cool Mornings or Evenings 

Many window AC Units (at least many of the older ones still around), don’t have a super-powerful fan. Not only that but the fan is stuck in the window, with minimal ability to adjust it. So, is there ever a time to use it? 

Well, it depends on the unit. However, these window fans often pull air from the outside and push it inside. While this can be uncomfortable in the hot part of the day, it can be helpful in the morning or evening, as it pulls the cool air from outside and brings it inside. This makes your home cooler and doesn’t require using full AC mode. 

Use AC Fan Mode to Clear the Air 

Some newer AC units that have effective air filtration systems can be used to clear the air of dust and debris and help the room feel fresher. So, you might turn on the fan-only mode just to help keep the air clear. 

Since it’s only the fan, some people might even use this method during the colder months. 

Note: many people like the sound of white noise as they sleep. A small AC unit can provide a calming sound throughout the night without creating a huge energy bill. Of course, this will depend largely on personal preference. 

AC Fan Mode to Distribute Cold Air

Finally, for your central AC system, fan mode can help distribute cool air around the home. Sometimes, with older homes and older ductwork, the cool air from the AC unit is distributed disproportionately around the home. This can lead to one room being much cooler than the other. 

If this is the case in your home, then using fan mode on the AC unit might help distribute the cool air evenly. How does this work? 

Well, after running the AC unit for a while, you can switch over to just the fan. Now, the fan will use return vents to circulate the cool air around your home. 

If you have a tightly insulated home, then you’ll find you don’t need to have the AC on as much. Instead, you can use the fan mode to circulate the cool air. 

While the AC fan mode probably uses more energy than your ceiling fan, it does have a purpose. 

Should I Use the Ceiling Fan Instead of AC Fan Mode? 

Ceiling fans don’t use a ton of energy. You will most likely save power by using your ceiling fan vs. constantly running your AC unit fan. However, let’s talk about a few reasons to choose the ceiling fan over your AC fan. 

Reasons to use the ceiling fan: 

  1. More direct 
  2. Quieter 
  3. Less power 

Let’s look at these in more depth. 

The Ceiling Fan is More Direct 

Most of the time, a ceiling fan will do a good job of moving air around a room. The ceiling fan will help even out the temperature in a room, and it can help people feel more comfortable. 

Some have suggested that using a ceiling fan with your AC unit can actually create a positive effect. How does this work? 

Well, the ceiling fan moves the air around, making people more comfortable, and the AC unit actively cools the air. If you just use your AC unit by itself, you might find you need the temperature at about 73 degrees to feel comfortable. 

However, if you turn on your ceiling fan, you may find that you can tolerate the AC at 76 degrees. Depending on the efficiency of your system, this may save you money in the long run. 

The Ceiling Fan is Quieter than AC Fan Mode 

Most of the time, the ceiling fan is pretty quiet. This is good for two main reasons. First, if you’re having a party or a gathering, you can turn on the ceiling fan to keep everyone comfortable without disrupting them with loud noises. 

Also, if you have a ceiling fan in your bedroom, you can turn it on to keep you cool at night – and it will usually be quieter than the AC fan. However, this is a personal choice, as some people might like the louder noises. 

Ceiling Fan Uses Less Energy 

The ceiling fan will most likely use less power than your AC fan mode. However, this depends on the ceiling fan and on the AC unit. If you’re looking to keep a fan on all summer, the ceiling fan is likely your best choice. 

Now, let’s go over our final take. 

Last Words on Ceiling Fan vs. AC Fan Mode

The ceiling fan will use less power than the AC fan mode in most cases. However, there may be some exceptions based on your specific unit. For example, if you have a modern AC unit and an old-fashioned ceiling fan, then the AC fan mode may be as efficient. 

Regardless, both units serve a purpose. The AC unit fan mode can circulate, cool, and clean the air. On the other hand, the ceiling fan will be quieter, more direct, and use relatively less energy.