Just the other day I stopped by my wife’s office, which is close by, actually in the back of the house as of last spring, and found her to be in a bit of a surly mood. I happens that she had just paid the power bill. Yep, you guessed it, the bill had gone through the ceiling. Literally, as you'll see. Because we’ve been both been home through the winter of Covid, our heater has been running a lot more. Naturally, our energy bill would reflect that.
Now, we keep fairly good track of our expenses and although we are grateful to live comfortably, we are happy to save money where we can. As a certified home inspector, I’ve taken any number of classes on home energy efficiency and offer tips to my clients all the time. But one tip I never took very seriously was running the ceiling fans in reverse during the winter. Logically, it makes sense, but how much difference could it make? I found out just a few minutes ago.
Here's what I did. With the heater off I took the temperature of the ceiling, mid-wall and floor; all in the same room to establish my base-line. I then turned the heater on and set it to 73 degrees. After five minutes I took the temperatures again. Then I turned the heater off and waited for the room to get back to the original base-line temperatures. Next, I turned the heater back on and also turned the ceiling fan on in reverse mode. Five minutes later I took the temperatures. I was surprised to find out that this method worked.
The ceiling temp dropped 1.5 degrees, the wall temp rose 1.7 degrees and the floor temp rose 2.3 degrees. This may not sound like a lot, but in the world of climate control it’s amazing. This means that your heater, will kick on less because the thermostat is mid-wall and that’s where it measures the room temperature. Without the fan, heat has to stack up in the ceiling and slowly work it’s way downward before the thermostat registers the difference. What good is heating the ceiling anyway? Much of that air will leak into the attic where it doesn’t benefit anyone but the rats and mice. No, the place we want and need warmed air is from the floor to about 6 feet and the ceiling fan does just that.
So, how much money can one save? According to Bill Prindle of The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, you will save 3 percent for each degree lower you set your thermostat. For example, Let’s say your thermostat to 71 degrees and your bill is $250 per month. By running the ceiling fans, you can now set your thermostat to 68 degrees and be just as comfortable. Your monthly savings would be $22.5 per month. That’s like two drinks at Starbucks which will add fat to your body so you can lower your thermostat even more. Although the savings aren’t huge there are other benefits. Firstly, the circulated air in the room just feels better. Rather than walking through streams of hot air, the room temperature is more evenly distributed and feels normal and natural. Secondly, it saves energy. If most people employed this technique, we’d easily lower our overall consumption and that, I am told is also a good thing.
So, get in there and reverse your ceiling fans.
Oh, if you don’t know – there is a switch on your fan for just this reason. If your fans work by remote you should have a button.