Air Conditioner vs Fan, What Uses More Electricity?

how much does it cost to run ceiling fan

With the never-ending rise in electricity costs, beating the heat presents a major challenge. Air conditioners are one of the best ways of bringing down the air temperature in your living space, making it more comfortable. However, used indiscriminately, they can impact your energy bill significantly. 

If you don’t have air conditioning in your home or are looking to circulate cool air without using an air conditioner, you can use an electric fan. This cooling device comes in different types, and each has its advantages. But all offer the benefit of helping you save money on your electricity expenses because they’re cheaper to run than central air conditioners. 

Also, fans can lessen the burden of your air conditioning unit. For example, turning on your ceiling fan to circulate the cool air from your air conditioner can maintain your room’s temperature at a comfortable level without having to crank up your AC. 

Here are some facts that can help tide you through the hot summer months without dramatically increasing your energy consumption.    

Air Conditioner vs Fans

Several types of electric fans exist. Box fans, ceiling fans, and portable fans are just some examples. Each kind of fan varies when it comes to price, cooling power, and electricity usage. The same holds for air conditioners. A window AC unit will consume less electricity than a central air conditioning model, while a tower fan with large blades will use more energy than one with smaller blades.

Running Costs

The running costs of both fans and air conditioning units vary depending on their type, size, running speed, temperature setting, and the like. Let’s look at how many kilowatts per hour the different kinds of air conditioners consume. 

  • Window air conditioner: Typically runs on 1.2 kilowatts and costs 14 cents per hour to operate. It can add about $50 per month to your energy expenses. 
  • Central air conditioner: A central AC unit is more efficient and can cool a larger area (or more rooms) than a window unit. However, it consumes more energy, too, at 3 kilowatts per hour, which translates into 36 cents per hour. How much your central air conditioner adds to your electric bill depends on the hours of use. On average, expect your power bill to rise by about $130. 

How much it costs to operate fans depends on their wattage because the higher their wattage rating, the more electricity they consume. Still, running a whole-house fan that uses 600 watts is cheaper than using an air conditioner.  

Let’s look at the energy consumption of various electric fans.

  • Box fans: These come in wattages ranging between 73 to 220 watts. A box fan consumes an average of 47.3 watts running on low and 73 watts on high. 
  • Table or portable fans: The fan wattage of these fan types is about 42 to 100 watts. On average, they consume roughly 17 watts per hour running on high and 42.5 watts on high. 
  • Whole house fans: These fans draw cool air in from open windows and drive hot air out. A whole house fan uses between 120 and 600 watts and costs around 1 to 5 cents per hour of use. 
  • Ceiling fans: These have power ratings of 55 to 100 and the lowest operating wattage. Their energy usage on low is about 3.6 watts and 31.1 watts on high. 
  • Tower fans: These have a wattage ranging between 56 and 110 watts. They consume approximately 44 watts on low and 56.5 watts on high. 

Price Tag

Both fans and air conditioners offer a wide range of options since they come in different models, types, and sizes. Their prices also vary widely. For the most part, fans are easier on the budget than air conditioners. Here’s to give you an idea of how much you should set aside for each cooling device. 

  • Window AC unit: The price range for this type of air conditioning model is between $150 to $600. 
  • Central air conditioners: Expect to spend between $5,000 and $9,000 for the initial cost of installing a central air conditioning unit.  
  • Box electric fans: You can get one for as low as $29. Meanwhile, industrial and high-velocity models can have a price tag of $259. 
  • Portable electric fans: Small ones can go as low as $20, while the pricier ones can cost around $40. 
  • Whole house fans: These fans typically range between $500 and $2000, depending on their size and type. Add the installation cost to the price of the unit itself. In the U.S., you’ll need to pay between $600 to $1200 for a professionally installed whole-house fan. 
  • Ceiling fans: On average, indoor ceiling fans cost between $200 to $800, while the price for outdoor models ranges between $300 and $900. 
  • Tower fans: Expect to pay between $43 and $92 for these fan types. 


In moderate heat, both fans and air conditioners can adequately provide cooler air to your home. However, when the mercury rises, especially during summer, you’ll need air conditioning to make your living space more comfortable. Fans move air but don’t cool it. So even if you have several ceiling fans running, you’ll simply circulate a hot breeze through your home.  

When the ambient air temperature is high, air conditioners are better options than electric fans

Ease of Installation

Ceiling fans and whole house fans often require the services of a professional. However, box, tower, and portable fans are all plug-and-play affairs. You just plug them into a socket and turn them on. No fuss, no worries. 

Window air conditioners can be DIY propositions for those who have carpentry skills but installing central air conditioning is more complicated. As such, it usually involves the help of a professional. 


Once installed, maintenance for ceiling fans only calls for some light dusting and cleaning of the blades and light. The same holds for other types of fans. Meanwhile, to maintain a central air conditioner, you’ll often need to hire an HVAC company, as the system needs an annual inspection. This is to ensure that the air conditioner is in top operating condition. Expect to spend around $75 for the tune-up cost of this cooling appliance. 


You’ll have several options when it comes to AC units. You can have a window type that sits in your window frame, a portable unit that you place inside or a large central unit that you install outside the house. Any of these models can impact the aesthetics of your home. 

In contrast, electric fans come in various models. Ceiling fans, in particular, can be used to complement the interior design of your living space.  


You won’t run out of options with both types of cooling devices. Air conditioners have portable, window, and central air models. Each of these selections has a wide range of features. You can opt for a conventional model, an inverter-type, and even a solar-powered one that can help reduce your carbon footprint.

Smart ACs offer the convenience of maintaining your home temperature using a smartphone. They also have lower operating costs without affecting their cooling process functionality. 

Meanwhile, you can get a ceiling fan with or without lights, a standing fan with varying oscillation capacities, and a box fan that boasts quiet operation. Some fans offer natural breeze settings and ionizers. In short, these cooling appliances have a range of models that can suit any room in your home. 

Benefits & Drawbacks

Whether you opt for an electric fan or air conditioner to achieve the cooling effect you need when the heat builds up in your living space, you can enjoy some benefits from the appliance. Likewise, this cooling equipment also comes with some drawbacks. We’ll examine these pros and cons to help you decide which will suit you best. 

Air Conditioner 

An air conditioner can be your best friend during scorching weather as it can quickly bring down the room temperature to a comfortable level. However, it consumes a significant amount of electricity.


Here are the common benefits you can get from this cooling technology.

  • Improves air quality: ACs can filter dust, outdoor pollen, and other allergens. They also reduce humidity which keeps the growth of mold and mildew in check. As such, air conditioning units can significantly improve the quality of indoor air and create a much healthier living environment. 
  • Prevents dehydration and heat stroke: Exposure to extreme heat can lead to dehydration. This is because high temperatures lead to profuse sweating, causing the body to lose water. ACs reduce sweating, thus preventing dehydration. Meanwhile, heat also stresses the body. Because ACs bring down air temperature, they can help reduce the risks of heat strokes. 
  • Can effectively cool a large area: You can run fans to increase air circulation but to bring down the room temperature quickly, only an air conditioner can do the job effectively. More so if the room has an open floor plan or has a large area. 
  • Reduces humidity: It’s not just the high temperature that brings discomfort during hot days. The humidity level is also a contributing factor. An AC sucks the moisture out of the air, making a room more comfortable during hot, sweltering days. 


When it comes to cooling comfort, an air conditioner works better than, say, a ceiling fan. However, using this cooling device also has some drawbacks. 

  • It costs more: This is the primary disadvantage of relying on an AC to beat the heat. Newer models have become more energy-efficient, but fans are still cheaper to run than even the most energy-efficient AC unit. An air conditioner is also more expensive than a fan. The price is about $3800 to $7500. This costs more than purchasing several fans. 
  • Negative environmental impact: Unfortunately, ACs emit gasses that harm the environment. Also, because they consume more energy than a fan, using them increases the amount of electricity that needs to be generated, thus increasing your home’s carbon footprint. 
  • Can cause health problems: Although ACs improve air quality by removing dust and allergens, the filter could get clogged and dirty. If not maintained regularly, the dirty filter ends up spreading harmful particles that can trigger or worsen respiratory ailments, such as asthma. Also, the cold air dries the membranes and can make you feel worse if you have nasal congestion, a cough, a cold, or the flu. 
  • Not easy to maintain: A ceiling fan only needs light dusting to keep it in top condition, and you can easily do the task yourself. An AC system requires an HVAC company’s services to inspect and regularly tune up the unit. It costs around $75 to $200 to maintain an air conditioner. 
  • Involves installation challenges: This is particularly true if you intend to install a central AC system. You’ll have to hire the services of an installer to cut into the walls, put in the ductwork, and possibly install the unit outdoors.   


Using fans to cool your come can help you save a few bucks because they’re cheaper to operate and purchase. However, they may not work effectively in cooling the house or room during periods of high temperatures.  


Buying a fan to drive the heat away can be advantageous as electric fans offer the following benefits. 

  • Fans cost less: Installing a ceiling fan will typically cost about $150 to $360. In contrast, a central AC system will set you back over $5000. Smaller systems are a bit easier on the budget at $3,800. AC units are also heavier on the pocket when it comes to operating costs than electric fans. A ceiling fan uses between 3.6 and 31.1 watts per hour, depending on the speed setting. Meanwhile, the power consumption of a central AC average between 3000 and 3500 watts per hour. 
  • They’re eco-friendly: Electric fans don’t use coolants. Also, they use less energy than air conditioners. Fans with DC motors consume the least energy, using 70% less than a ceiling fan running on alternating current. Because of these factors, they have a lesser impact on the environment. 
  • Installation ease: Mounting a ceiling fan is a breeze compared to installing central AC. You don’t need to tear anything down and will only require the services of an installer to set up the wiring for the fan.  
  • Portability: You can move fans around the house (except for ceiling fans, of course), taking them to any room you want. In contrast, an AC unit is fixed to a single location. 


Although fans can save you money, they also have some limitations.

  • Inferior cooling power: Fans don’t provide the same level of comfort as ACs, especially during extremely hot and humid days. They don’t cool the air, so even if you run several fans, they won’t be able to match the cooling power of an air conditioner.  
  • Safety risks: The blades of a fan can pose safety risks, especially for small kids who might poke their fingers through the grills. This is particularly true for table or floor fans. 
  • Fans don’t improve air quality: Unlike ACs that reduce the amount of dust and other harmful particles in the air, fans don’t have filters, so they don’t improve the room’s air quality. 
  • Humidity issues: Humidity increases the discomfort you feel during hot days. Fans don’t suck the moisture out of the air. They make you feel cool by making your sweat evaporate. You’ll have to run a humidifier with a fan to reduce or take out the moisture from the air. 
  • Noise level: Some fans are noisy, although pricier models tend to be quieter. DC fans also produce less noise because of their smaller and more efficient motors. However, normal wear and tear can loosen the gears leading to noisy operation. Aside from the motor noise, the blades create some wind noise as they spin through the air. 


Is it Cheaper to Use Fans or Air Conditioning?

The short answer is yes. Fans are cheaper ways to keep cool during hot days. Consider the following facts. Fans cost less to purchase. The sticker price of even the priciest model doesn’t come close to that of the smallest AC unit. Moreover, electric fans cost less to run, install and maintain. 

Does a Fan or AC Use More Electricity?

Without a doubt, fans use less electric power than ACs. In fact, they consume only about 5% of the electricity an AC typically uses per hour. As such, fans are considered the more budget-friendly way to beat the heat. 


If we talk about costs, air conditioners are heavier on the pocket. Their purchase price comes to a few thousand, and that’s for a small unit. In contrast, you’ll likely spend less than $500 for the priciest fan model. ACs also consume more energy. As such, they impact both your budget and the environment. You pay more for the electric power they require, and they drive up your home’s carbon footprint.   

However, they have superior cooling power than electric fans. So if you live in areas where the temperatures rise during the summer months, fans might be unable to cut it when it comes to making your living space comfortable. 

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