Informational Guide

Fan Vs AC Compared for Cooling

We discuss which is more costly to run, which lasts longer and ultimately which appliance is better.

by Ian Haynes

Air conditioners and fans remain the most viable commercial and private indoor cooling solutions. It is common to find both, if not one, installed inside a standard American home.

But which appliance provides more effective and efficient cooling according to your needs – a ceiling fan or a portable air conditioner?

In this guide, we will discuss which is more costly to run, which lasts longer, and in short, which appliance is better. So join us as we pit a fan vs. AC to get these pressing answers.

If you want to choose a fan over the AC, you have countless options to choose from; therefore, finding the right one can be challenging.

So, to help you find the correct fan for your requirements, here are the different types you’ll find on the market:

Bedroom with White Ceiling Fan
Ceiling Fans

The ceiling fan, also known as a mechanical fan, is usually powered by electricity. They typically contain hub-mounted rotating blades that help spread and circulate the air evenly. These can be found indoors or in outdoor settings and offer quick and easy relief for homeowners.

Table Fans

A table fan is compact and small and is ideal for cooling down small rooms. They’re easy to move around and can be effortlessly placed on countertops, desks, and other solid platforms.

Pedestal Fans

Pedestal fans, also known as “stand fans,” are relatively tall and provide height adjustment capabilities. In addition, they have an oscillation feature to optimize air circulation.

Wall Mount Fans

A wall-mount or window fan is best for rooms with limited floor space or area. Apart from producing a concentrated airflow, they are also space savers.

Exhaust Fans

An exhaust fan is typically used in larger spaces or whole homes to release unpleasant odors, smoke, fumes, and excess moisture from a bathroom, kitchen, or workshop. Bathrooms are usually wet and can fall prey to mold development; exhaust fans help keep this issue at bay.

Benefits
  • Low upfront cost and are less expensive to operate
  • Compared to air conditioners, fans discharge less harmful pollutants
  • Some fans, especially portable ones, can be relocated anywhere
  • Simple installation process
  • Don’t need regular maintenance
Negatives
  • Fans don’t offer the same cooling level as AC units. Also, the cooling fan offer doesn’t spread over the large area
  • They don’t work well in smoldering hot weather
  • Fan blades can be safety hazards

Pros & Cons Of Using Air Conditioners

Did you know that homeowners in the US spend almost $11B every year to power their air conditioning systems?  Buyers should be aware of the different air conditioners available to choose from. Therefore, it’s best to know which one is right for you before making a purchase.

Commercial Split Type Air Conditioner on Wall
Window Air Conditioners

Window ACs are self-contained appliances, typically installed in the window, as the name suggests. They’re only useful in single rooms and apartments.

Central Air Conditioners

These units contain two devices: a condenser placed outside the house and an evaporator placed near the furnace. Both devices are connected through refrigerant piping, enabling the unit to spread cool air via supply & return vents.

Portable Air Conditioners

Portable AC units are single self-contained appliances wheeled into the room and placed on a floor. They rely on an exterior window or wall to release internal warm air. Portable units can be noisy; however, they’re one of the best temporary cooling solutions.

Ductless Air Conditioners

Ductless air conditioners are more common in retrofitted homes. Like the central air conditioning unit, these also come with an external condenser/compressor and an indoor handling unit.

Benefits
  • Prevent harmful particles such as mildew, mold, pollen from entering
  • Provide controlled temperature with adequate ventilation and clean air
  • Provide a humidity-free indoor environment
  • Inverter units also help provide energy efficiency
  • Compared to coolers and fans, AC units make less noise
Negatives
  • The upfront cost and the running cost of an air conditioner are pretty high
  • Compared to fans, they have a complicated installation process
  • They require regular maintenance to operate properly

Fan Vs AC – Which Is Best For Your Cooling Needs?

Cooling Ability and Size

AC units turn warm indoor air into cool air. So no matter the type you choose, they provide comfortable, cool air to the entire house or one specific room, lowering its temperature.

In contrast, a fan doesn’t necessarily cool your room. In fact, it doesn’t do much to bring down the temperature of a space. Instead, it circulates indoor air to minimize room stuffiness.

Moreover, air conditioners come in different sizes – portable, window, mini-split, etc. – to meet your requirements. Similarly, fans are also available in multiple sizes, from taller designs covering an entire bedroom to smaller models placed on a desk.

Portability

One of the most valuable properties of a fan is that it can move anywhere you require them. Some of the smallest fans can easily be placed on kitchen counters and even bedroom nightstands. Even taller designs can be shifted from one room to another without hassle.

While most air conditioning systems need to be permanently set up in the house, others, especially smaller ones, can be shifted anywhere effortlessly.

However, they have specific requirements to perform adequately. These include easy access to the window to release exhaust fumes.

Power Consumption Or Energy Usage

All air conditioners need electricity to run. However, if you believe all AC units are expensive to run, think again! Nowadays, many models come with higher energy efficiency.

They provide timers and temperature settings, which are eco-friendly and cost-effective. Also, most units have refrigerants that match their energy efficiency standards.

Fans, however, consume very little energy. This is because their low-watt motors are usually highly efficient. So, they use less power and are affordable to run.

Ease Of Installation & Maintenance

Air conditioners have a complex and lengthy installation process when compared to fans. However, many AC manufacturers are now making it a lot easier: they offer applicable installation kits alongside every tool you’ll need to set it up.

Though some units require the help of professional HVAC technicians to be installed, others are simple to install.

Fans, in contrast, only need a plug to perform. Though some fans, particularly electric fans, need assembling, they’re easy to set up.

Purchase & Installation Costs

Fans are less expensive than air conditioners. You can buy a fan anywhere from $20 (desk fan) to $350 (ceiling fan) and more.

Also, the installation cost of a fan varies from model to model. For example, the cost to install a desk fan is nothing; however, setting up a ceiling fan can cost you up to $140, including labor and parts.

On the other hand, an air conditioner can cost between $100 to $2500 and more. Similar to fans, the installation cost of ACs also varies from model to model.

For example, the cost of installing a centralized system ranges from $3300 to $7900. On the other hand, a portable AC can be installed for somewhere between $250 and $1600.

Cost To Operate

Fans, particularly ceiling and table fans, are highly cost-efficient. An average fan consumes 30 wattages of electricity. This amounts to just $2/month.

On the other hand, air conditioning units use about 20% of total electricity in your home. In hotter climates, ACs consume almost half of the total energy consumption of a house.

Nevertheless, the average running cost of an air conditioner can be anywhere between $15 to $300 per month based on the AC type and room size.

Overall, fans are cost-effective to run, and air conditioners are more efficient in cooling the house.

Noise Levels

The noise produced by either appliance depends on several things, including the intended purpose and the structure of the house.

Typically, faster and bigger appliances make more noise. So, as AC units are larger and more powerful than fans, they make more sound.

However, not all ACs are guilty of this. In fact, many ductless, mini-split air conditioners produce little noise as their motors are placed outside the house.

Anyhow, the noise level of fans usually ranges from 29 to 70 decibels based on the type of fan. In contrast, air conditioners have noise levels between 31 to 83 decibels, also based on the style. You can lower some portable ACs by following our guidelines in this article.

Life Expectancy

Fans can last longer under normal running conditions. If you’ve got a low-quality ceiling, pedestal, table, or any other fan, it can easily last 3 to 15 years.

On the contrary, premium fans can function adequately for up to 30 years, provided they have their maintenance.

On the other hand, modern air conditioning systems can last anywhere between 15 to 20 years, while older ACs can survive between 10 to 12 years.

Moreover, the efficiency and health of air conditioners are based on many factors such as model type, proper maintenance, and care.

People Also Ask (FAQ)

How Do Bladeless Fans Work?

Though their tubes don’t have blades within, the fan’s pedestal includes an electric motor, which takes the air inside and transfers it to the tube. Thus, air circulates within the fan till it hits the slit within the tube.

Is The Dyson Hot And Cool Fan Worth It?

This is arguably the costliest double-purpose unit by Dyson! If you want a premium fan capable of serving its purpose exceptionally well, then the Dyson Hot and Cool fan is an excellent choice.

Can You Use Both AC And Fan Together?

You can. In fact, you should use your air conditioner along with your fan as doing so will help keep your energy bills lower every month, provided you use them properly.

Does Fan Mode In AC Save Electricity?

Yes, you can save power by using your AC on the fan mode. The electricity consumption on this mode is relatively lower primarily because it doesn’t rely on the compressor.

Which Mode In AC Consumes Less Electricity?

The fan mode consumes less electricity. This is because the AC’s compressor is turned off during operation, and the fan operates continuously. As a result, there is low power consumption as the compressor is the most power-consuming component.

When Should I Run My AC In Dry Mode?

You should run your air conditioner in dry mode when the room has extremely low humidity or high humidity. This is mainly because the fundamental purpose of dry mode on your AC unit is to ensure adequate humidity levels.

Conclusion

In terms of cooling needs, most homeowners resort to either air conditioners and fans. However, this decision depends on the local climate and your budget more than any other factors.

The primary difference to keep in mind is that ACs bring down the temperature of a room while fans circulate the pre-existing air in the room.

Ian Haynes

Ian Haynes is an HVAC writer, and researcher. He has worked on hundreds of articles relating to home cooling, heating and air quality with a vast knowledge of the technical aspects of these types of appliances. Outside of his work, Ian likes exploring Brooklyn with his Labrador. Learn more about the AC Lab team here.

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