Suppose you have a new, top-of-the-line heating and air conditioning system, as well as excellent insulation and everything else that a modern home would benefit from in keeping the indoor temperature within comfortable bounds while using energy most efficiently. Is there still a role for a ceiling fan, or are they just a legacy appliance from a time before air conditioning?
The answer is: yes, ceiling fans can be effective if used right, but don’t be in a hurry to get one if your home does not already have one.
How do ceiling fans cool?
A ceiling fan doesn’t actually lower the temperature of a room. Rather, it produces the sensation of cooling by moving air over the skin; it’s basically a localized form of wind chill. If there is no one in the room where the ceiling fan is blowing, the energy it is using up is wasted. On the other hand, if you feel the sensation of coolness from the air blown by the fan and you have an air conditioner, you can raise the temperature of the air conditioner by a couple of degrees in order to take advantage of the comparatively lower energy usage that the ceiling fan affords.
What about air circulation?
While it is true that ceiling fans can be effective in dispersing warm air that collects at the top of rooms with high ceilings, optimizing air flow is part of the job that you would entrust to a contractor designing a heating and cooling system for your home. Consequently, in general, a ceiling fan is not likely to play a role in a new or redesigned central air system. However, in the case of an existing ceiling fan in an older home, you may be able to leverage the air circulation benefits of the appliance until such time as you can overhaul the whole home’s heating and cooling system.