How much does it cost to run a fan 24/7?

With temperatures soaring once again in the US, we asked the experts how much it costs to run a fan and whether it’s financially okay to keep it on 24/7

Fan in the living room with brown leather couch in the background
(Image credit: Delaney Van, Unsplash)

With temperatures soaring on the East and West coast, you're probably wondering how much does it cost to run a fan 24/7. While some folks in the US are lucky enough to have AC installed, it’s notoriously pricey to run, especially with electricity costs increasing and so using your fan may actually be one of the quickest ways to help keep your house cool during a heatwave. 

According to the US Energy Information Administration, in 2021, US retail electricity prices rose 4.3%, the fastest rise since 2008. With this in mind, many of us prefer to use a fan instead. But is a fan more cost-effective, especially if you're keeping it on all day or all night? We asked the experts to find out.

Of course, the cost to run a fan varies depending on the make and model you have. The best fans are energy-efficient, however, if you have yours on all the time it’s nice to know approximately how much it’s costing you. Luckily, our energy and appliance experts are here to explain how much running your fan will cost.

How much does it cost to run a fan?

Generally speaking, the cost to run a fan is far less than the cost to install AC and run it consistently. Dan Mock, vice president of operations at Mister Sparky (opens in new tab), explains, ‘The cost of running a fan may vary, but on average it can cost around $0.011 per hour. Since the cost typically isn’t too high, you may want to rely on your fan more and your AC less to stay cool while saving money and energy.’

So far, so good. However, although a fan typically costs less to run than AC, it's still worth considering the cost of running your particular fan. To figure this out, you’ll need an energy bill and the product manual or box for your fan. 

Once you have these, here’s how you can figure out how much your fan costs to run:

1. Find out how much energy your fan uses in an hour

Like all appliances that use energy in your home, your fan will likely have its wattage listed on the power supply, on the box, in the product manual, or even online. It will be listed as a number followed by the letter W. For example, 100W.

Once you have the wattage, divide it by 1000. This converts it to kilowatt-hours, which is how much energy the appliance uses per hour. Energy is sold in kilowatt-hours so this is the figure we need.

2. Find out how much you pay for energy

Second, you need to find out how much you are paying for 1 kilowatt-hour of energy. This figure should be stated on your electricity bill. Sometimes the price will increase after a certain number of kWhs. Check on your bill to see whether there are different pay steps, and ensure you use the price you typically pay.

3. Calculate how much your fan is costing to run

Once you have these figures, we can calculate the cost of running the fan. We take the fan’s power in watts and multiply it by the number of hours for which we want to calculate the running costs. Divide this figure by 1000 to give us the kilowatt hours, and times by the cost per kWh.

So, the formula for working out the cost of running a fan is:

Cost = (power (watts) x time (hours)) / 1000 x cost of 1kWh.

Lyle Solomon, consumer finance expert at Oak View Law Group (opens in new tab), gives us this example, ‘You want to know the energy for 24 hours; thus, if the power is between 50 and 100 watts, your energy is 50*24 to 100*24 or 1200 to 2400 watt-hours. We'll divide by 1000 now because energy is often sold in kilowatt-hours or 1000 watt-hours. You'll need 1.2 to 2.4-kilowatt hours to run a fan for a day. (This is for 50-100 watts.) For one day, a 200-watt fan would use 4.8-kilowatt hours.) Electricity prices vary, but 10 cents per kilowatt hour is a fair starting point. So, multiplying again, we obtain 12 to 24 cents daily to run a fan.’

How much does it cost to run a fan all night?

If you're consciously trying to reduce energy bills at home, rest assured that even running a fan all night is typically inexpensive, and is sure to cost less than cranking up the AC.

According to Shawn Laib, an energy expert with Clearsurance (opens in new tab), ‘Running a fan all night long is very cheap. It cost a few cents a day to run a fan for its entirety, and if you were to compare the electrical costs of running a fan with an air conditioner, the latter is way more expensive.’ So it is an option if you're finding it too hot to sleep.

What do you need consider before running a fan all day?

Fans work by moving air over your skin which cools you down. If you're in the house, enjoying the breeze, it makes sense to run your fan all day. However, if you are out of the house, leaving a fan running just circulates the warm air and can make it feel hotter upon your return.

Tim David, HVAC expert at Airlucent (opens in new tab) says, ‘Running a fan with no one in the room serves no benefit to the cooling of the room as fans only move air around a room, they do not actually cool. So you can save on costs by getting in the habit of turning off ceiling fans as you leave a room.’

Are there budget-friendly alternatives?

There are many ways you can conserve energy and save on your bills while tackling the heat at home. Lyle Solomon, consumer finance expert at Oak View Law Group (opens in new tab), suggests these three energy-saving ways to keep temperatures down:

  • Take a combined approach to cooling your surroundings. Although air conditioning may be your first thought for cooling, several alternatives utilize less energy. You might also use fans, evaporative coolers, or heat pumps as your primary cooling source. Furthermore, in all but the hottest regions, a combination of sound insulation, energy-efficient windows, doors, daylighting, shading, and ventilation keep the home cool with minimal energy demand. Ventilation is ineffective in hot, humid regions; other methods can considerably minimize air conditioning requirements.
  • Purchase blackout curtains. Sunlight is blocked by blackout curtains, which naturally insulate the rooms in which they are installed. Consumer Reports suggests using neutral-colored drapes with white plastic backings to cut heat gain by up to 33%.
  • Take care of your doors. Closing off empty rooms keeps cold air from entering during the hottest portion of the day. You'll also want to take advantage of the cooler nighttime temperatures by allowing natural air to flow through your home.

Overall, running a fan tends to be an inexpensive way to cool down a room, especially compared to AC. However, some models cost more than others. Newer fans tend to be more energy efficient, but be sure to do some research before purchasing a new fan. 

Also, note that fans don't actually cool the air down, so they may be less effective on a super hot day. Plus, they don't keep your place cool while you're out and about. 

If you've tried our cost-saving methods but still suffer in the heat, it may be worth installing AC or heat pumps (they cool too). Modern AC is becoming much more energy efficient. You could invest in a good portable air conditioning unit also for a budget-friendly stopgap. 

Emily Grant is a British ex-pat living in Squamish, Canada. She has written about all sorts from interior design and gardening, to travel, tourism, and pets. When she’s not writing, she loves finding DIY ways to beautify her rented space. She has become an expert in making small apartments feel like home and has written features on smart storage solutions, organization ideas, and seasonal decor. She also loves spending time out in the backyard, relaxing in the hammock on her beautiful patio. In addition to Real Homes, her work has featured on Gardeningetc and Homes & Gardens.

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