AC, ceiling fans and power: How a little goes a long way

Let me be clear from the beginning that I absolutely love air conditioning.

  • On a hot, sweltering day, there’s nothing better than entering a home or place of business with truly exceptional air conditioning.

You immediately feel all your worries melt away. In some ways AC is a simple technology—one that hasn’t changed significantly for many years—by the pleasure it confers is out of all proportion to its simplicity. Good AC remains a cornerstone of modern civilization! And yet, AC is not perfect. It’s incredibly energy-intensive for example. While a two-and-a-half ton central air conditioner consumes about 3,500 watts power and a portable A/C system usually requires between 500 and 1,500 watts, the humble ceiling fan—which can be immensely effective on even the very hottest and most uncomfortable days—typically uses between 15 and 100 watts. The exact figure obviously depends on the size of the ceiling fan and the speed at which it is set. The main lesson of these statistics? However pleasurable and effective modern A/C is, an effective ceiling fan can approximate its benefits while using a full 99 percent less power overall. When customers consider what this enormous gap in power usage means for their bills, it’s not at all surprising that the humble ceiling fan remains a popular choice in every corner of the world—from Southeast Asia and Africa to the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and the southern United States. There’s also something immensely romantic and noirish about ceiling fans. How many great movies featuring a hero (or villain) lying on a bed as a ceiling fan turns slowly above them? In the end, the ceiling fan, which also hasn’t changed much in generations, has a tremendous amount going for it. Again, while I love A/C, I can’t deny the humble ceiling fan’s immense charms!


HVAC worker