What Uses More Electricity: AC or Fan?

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Updated May 12, 2023

If you’re looking for a top-tier fan or other cooling solution but are worried about the cost, you may wonder what uses more electricity: AC or fan? Air conditioners deliver effective cooling for an entire house, but some homeowners worry about the energy cost. Luckily, fans are more energy efficient, but how many watts per hour can you save compared to an air conditioning unit? Stick around to learn whether a fan or AC unit uses more electricity.


  • Fans use about 1% of the energy it takes to run an air conditioner which uses between 1000 and 4000 watts depending on the type and model.
  • Ceiling fans, window units, and tower fans use about 40 to 100 watts per hour to run.
  • Whole-house fans offer the most optimal cooling compared to other fans, but they use between 100 and 600 watts per hour.

If you’re curious about evaporative cooling, see our guides on what cooling fans are and air coolers vs. fans. That said, if you begin to feel sick after sleeping with a fan, it’s likely due to using a fan after the temperature drops outside. By reading our guides, you’ll learn the best time to use your fan, and when not to use it.

Insider Tip

If you want a clean video feed, the best option is to connect a high-quality camera to your laptop or computer.

Fans require planning and strategic placement for optimal cooling. Consider learning how to use a window fan if you want efficient energy consumption and relief from hot weather.

What Takes More Electricity: a Fan or Air Conditioner?

Comparing energy consumption between fans and air conditioners is a classic “apples versus oranges” problem. Since fans do not actively cool the air, they have a much lower average cost per KWh than a central AC or window unit. For reference, a central AC uses between 3000 and 3500 watts per hour. You can also compare room ac vs central air to see how they differ.

Each type of fan needs different amounts of electricity to cool your space. Additionally, fans are ideal for maintaining the temperature in your air-conditioned room. There are also models out there like the one in this Shinco Portable Air Conditioner review that are capable of both cooling and operating as a fan as well.

Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans use between 50 and 100 watts, and the power consumption relies on the size of the fan. For example, a 36-inch fan uses about 55 watts, while a 52-inch-blade fan uses approximately 90 watts.

Window Fans

Window units use much less power than a window air conditioner. While the size and model window fan will affect the power consumption, most window models use between 40 and 100 watts.


Traditional tower fans use between 50 and 100 watts to cool your space, and the electricity cost will vary by fan size and speed settings. Additionally, if you use an oscillating feature, your tower fan will use more power. Keep in mind that AC units can have different fan speeds as well, like how our Luma Comfort EC220W review discusses a unit with four fan speeds.


Don’t use fans for heat relief if your indoor air temperature is 90 degrees or higher. Running house fans without AC in 90-degree heat can raise your body temperature, leading to severe health conditions.

Whole-House Fans

Whole-house fans require professional installation like a central air conditioner, but they use less energy and expel warm air from your attic space. While your fan motors will affect the unit’s energy consumption, a whole-house fan uses about 150 to 600 watts to run.

STAT: A 2020 US EIA (Energy Information Agency) survey found that 8.5% of American households use an air conditioner unit that’s 20 years or older. (source)

What Uses More Electricity AC or Fan FAQs

Do smart fans save energy?

Smart home devices allow you to connect and control appliances with internet-connected smartphones. Smart fans let you schedule cooling cycles and turn on advanced features like oscillation mode and quiet operation. You can stay power efficient by turning off the fan with application control.

Which direction should my ceiling fan go in the winter?

Ceiling fans should rotate clockwise during winter to push warm air back towards the ground. Additionally, you can save on heating costs and slash your annual power bills by up to 15%. Conversely, ceiling fans should rotate counterclockwise for cooling purposes during the hottest months.

When should I use the AC fan mode?

Using the fan mode can lower the power consumption of air conditioners because it eases the strain on the AC compressor and condenser fans. Additionally, using AC fan mode has a positive impact if your air-conditioned space is already cool. Lastly, fan mode improves your indoor air quality, but running it all day will raise your operating costs.
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