Which Is Greener: Air Conditioners or Fans?

After summer time highs follows the lows of paying a pricey electric bill thanks to your central air conditioner. If you're like me and you've got a green, fuzzy spot in your heart for the environment then you're probably concerned with environmental costs, as well. There's no question that having and using your air conditioner is a necessity during peak highs and heat waves to fight against hyperthermia, heat stroke and death. Death by heat is no picnic, that's for sure.

But what if it's just too hot to be comfortable? Do you opt for a fan or at least a room air conditioner? Let's look at the facts and compare each type of cooling system's "greeness."

ph312r03medBest Air Conditioners

  • Costly Energy Consumption
  • Dual Objectives
  • Higher Operating Costs
  • Generates Large Amounts of Carbon-Dioxide
  • Keeps Families Safe During Heat Waves

Even the best air conditioners are going to cost a pretty penny to run. An air conditioner essentially does a single task: take indoor heat and push it outside. In order to accomplish this a good air conditioner uses energy that produces greenhouse gases and ultimately warms the earth's atmosphere (somewhat counter-productive, isn't it?).

On the plus side, an air conditioning unit performs the task of two machines - cooling and humidity control. Air conditioners remove the humidity (moisture) from air so you can breath easier and feel more comfortable.

Of course, there's those darn carbon dioxide production levels that average out to an incredible 3,400 pounds per year per US household. A fan produces none of these. Yet, can a fan effectively cool a five-person family in minutes? An air conditioner produces faster results and even protects against the deadly outdoor heat.

Cooling Fans

  • Uses Electricity, Too
  • Produces Far Less Comfort
  • Saves Far Greater Energy
  • Lower Operating Costs
  • Less Energy to Manufacture
  • Doesn't Humidify

Now for cooling fans - and before the fans start cheering in the eco-box seats - here's a little something that may fandisappoint you. Ceiling fans, table fans, floor fans, and decorative fans all use electricity, too. That means burning oil and coal.  And in order to achieve the same effective cooling as an air conditioner you'd have to use many more fans, of varying sizes, to win the same results.

So yes, having a fan or two will certainly drain less energy but when you put into account that you just aren't receiving the same level of satisfaction and cooling it's not such a victory after all.

Of course, having thirty fans for every air conditioning unit is ridiculous so you'd ultimately end up saving energy with the lower operating costs of a few fans. It also takes much less energy to manufacturer and ship a fan- so another point for the cooling fan.

But, then there's the problem that if you live in a humid climate you'd either have to put up with the crippling humidity or run a dehumidifier, adding an entirely new machine to the lineup.

Whole House Fans and the Air Conditioner

Weighing just a few of the pros and cons can end up feeling like defeat. Electric fans definitely win the "greeness" category, but not effectiveness. Either way it seems you can't enjoy comfort and help reduce planetary destruction, can you? And when safety is an issue, the modest table fan is little protection for our most vulnerable loved ones - senior citizens and small children. So what can you do? Does the air conditioner win, or fans?

The answer is not to give up one way or another, but to use sense and a careful juggling act. It may seem like a copout, but it's true. Keep the air conditioner unit ready, but install a handy fixture called a whole house fan. Rather than simply blow hot air around like a typical fan, the whole house fan mimics an air conditioner by pulling in cool outdoor air (during the night, mostly) and expelling hot indoor air, but without the coolant and high energy costs!

Utilizing a whole house fan is really like utilizing nature's air conditioner (that just so happens to run at night). Unlike a central air conditioner it won't dehumidify so it works best in climates with low humidity.

A whole house fan ensures that your home is cool most of the day and, should temperatures peak, you'll have good ol' Betsy the room air conditioner ready and waiting to jump to the rescue! This saves you money all year long while providing you a sensible option that doesn't trash your comfort or the planet.


The Green Guide to Portable Air Conditioning
Portable Cooling Guide
Ceiling Fan Rotation - How to Save on Heating and Cooling Costs