I don’t know about you, but I pity the poor people who live in places like Hawaii, who will never know that wonderful feeling of walking in from the outside on a hot, humid St. Louis summer day into an air conditioned room. No, you will never hear me, your House Doctor, preaching about the damage air conditioning does to the planet, how through some bizarre twist of fate its excessive use might lead to pneumonia, or how it costs too much money. So, tell me. If not comfort, what exactly is money for?
But while I may be one of air conditioning’s biggest fans, I am also one of its least faithful fans, as I am also a fan of 3 different types of fans — fans that let people use their air conditioners less often. These are wonder-fans, almost magic fans, because they are fans that will lower your air conditioning bills. If that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.
In my travels speaking with customers and prospective customers, I find a great deal of confusion on what these fans are called, what are their best uses, and whether or not they can be used at the same time an air conditioner is running. So, let’s clear the air by going through each of the 3 totally different types of fans, one at a time.
CEILING FANS — These are the ones with the spinning blades hanging down into your room. They do two things. They create air movement, a minor breeze, that for whatever reason makes us feel cooler (if you want to understand why, talk to a real doctor, not a fake one like me, and let me know what you’ve found out). They also do something helpful in the winter, like move the hot air that has risen to the top of the room back to the bottom where it can do some good, particularly helpful in a room with high, vaulted ceilings. And yes, you can certainly run a ceiling fan when the air conditioner is on, as it will help distribute the newly introduced cool air.There are a couple of questions about ceiling fans I’m asked all the time, so let me address them. The first is, if there is nothing on my ceiling, not even a light fixture, can a ceiling fan be wired and installed, and a switch for it be placed on my wall? The answer is ‘yes’, we perform this magic trick routinely. It’s a bit easier and cheaper if there is an attic above, but even if there isn’t we have ways of “fishing” wires behind walls and ceilings, sometimes requiring that we cut-out then replace small sections of drywall. The second question is, if there is already a light fixture on my ceiling, can’t this fixture simply be removed and a ceiling fan put in its place? The answer to that one is ‘usually not’ because a ceiling fan requires a special electrical box that is more firmly attached to the wood boards that are behind your ceiling. Fortunately, we know how to install these, too.
WHOLE HOUSE FANS — If you are one of the VERY few people who DON’T erroneously refer to this as an “attic fan,” go to the head of the class. You know those square, flat louvered boxes you sometimes see on hallway ceilings, with slats that open when the fan behind it is on? That’s what we’re talking about. Yes, yes, I know, the fan is sitting in the attic. But what this fan is doing is sucking-in air through your open windows and doors, sweeping the presumably cooler outside air through your WHOLE HOUSE, then pushing it out through the vents in your attic. For most people, turning on these fans on summer nights, when the temperature usually dips below 72 degrees, is a great way to feel comfortable and lower your electric bills, because air conditioners require much more power to run. Their use also provides a way to shorten your air conditioning season electric bills — just use it instead of air conditioning as deep into the Spring and as early into the Fall as possible. Obviously, you won’t want to run the air conditioner at the same time unless you’re some kind of environmentalist who believes in counteracting our allegedly warming planet with air you’re paying to cool-off. Outside air, a cool breeze — sadly, it’s the closest many St. Louisans will ever get to Hawaii.
ATTIC FANS — So we all learned in middle school that hot air rises, right? Well, the attic is where much of the heat of your house ends-up, and it is compounded by the heat absorbed from the typically dark-colored shingles on the roof above. But in the summer, you don’t want that heat in the attic, because it warms the ceiling on your top floor, and then that hot ceiling surface heats-up the house, and makes the air conditioner work harder to cool the house. Attic fans installed in gables and on roof surfaces clear-out this hot air, and allow your house to cool. Instead of drawing outside air through windows and doors, like Whole House Fans, they draw it from holes in the soffits and gable vents (let’s not worry about what that means for now — I’ll get to that in a later post). And go ahead, run your air conditioning when your attic fan is on — your air conditioner will not have to work as hard.
So, there you have it Fix St Louis fans. When you’re ready to chill-out, just let us know! Give us a call, today!