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Fans: the first line of cooling

Often misused, fans are one of the most cost-effective ways to cool the most important thing in your house: You. Just as with wind chill in the winter, moving air will quickly reduce our skin temperature, especially when evaporating perspiration. Even homes that use air conditioning can benefit from the use of fans. Cooling our bodies with a fan means we can turn up the temperature for the air conditioner, and save energy overall.

For instance, a ceiling fan will allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4 degrees with no reduction in comfort, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). During moderately hot weather, ceiling fans may allow you to avoid using your air conditioner altogether. A ceiling fan is recommended in each room that needs to be cooled during hot weather. Ceiling fans should be turned off when you leave a room; fans cool people, not rooms, through the wind chill effect.

When buying ceiling fans, look for the ENERGY STAR® label. This designation means the fans will move air 20 percent more efficiently, on average, than standard models.

In the winter months, fans will not reduce your heating costs, because the movement of air currents will cool our bodies slightly. This cooling effect may prompt residents to unnecessarily raise their thermostat and overheat their homes.

For more on the use of fans to cool one’s home, including the best way to use window fans, visit the DOE’s “Fans for Cooling”.

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Minnesota Energy Tips is provided twice a month by the Minnesota Department of Commerce - Division of Energy Resources. Contact the division’s Energy Information Center at or 800-657-3710 with energy questions.