AUSTIN (KXAN) – 82-year-old Manuela Alcantar is one of many Austin natives who rely on the Family Eldercare Summer Fan Drive to fight the heat. “We’ve been on a strict budget all our lives. We usually keep the air conditioner very low,” says Alcantar. Her family has four portable fans placed throughout their home, but are portable fans the best option to save money and fight the heat?
Saving money: Air Conditioner vs Portable Fans
To figure out how much an AC and a fan would cost you to run, first we need to talk power. An average AC takes 3,500 watts to run, while a fan takes 200 watts. To figure out how much power it takes to run a day, you multiply the number of watts times the number of hours the device will be used, in this case 24, then divide by 1,000. This gives you the kilowatts per hour, meaning the energy used per hour.
The average air conditioner uses 84kWh to run, while the box fan uses 4.8kWh.
Keep in mind, an air conditioner is cooling the entire house all the time, while a fan only helps one room. This portability is one thing Alcantar likes, as she can point a fan directly at her wherever she is in her home.
“I usually like to keep one in the kitchen while I cook because it gets so hot,” Alcantar says.
Once we know the energy the device uses, we can calculate cost. Austin Energy charges about two cents for city residences and three cents for people living outside the city. We’ll just look at people living in town. Based on Austin Energy’s rates, a box fan would, on average, cost $0.09 to run all day, while an air conditioner would, on average, cost $1.68.
Keep in mind, these rates only apply to Austin Energy lowest tiered rate, 0-500kWh. The more energy you use, the more you’ll pay. For many, staying in this range during summer can be difficult, so these rates may go up.
Using a fan instead of air conditioning will save you the most money, but combining them is actually the best option.
Austin Energy says a fan can make the temperature feel four degrees cooler. They also say that for each degree you raise your thermostat, you can reduce energy use by up to 8%. If you raise the thermostat for each degree the fan lowers the temp, you’ll only pay $1.14 to keep your home cool.
Austin Energy advises people to not leave fans on when you leave the room, since they’re meant to cool people not spaces. Austin Energy has more tips for saving money here.
According to Family Eldercare, the average senior seeking fans makes $980 a month. It’s these people who need these cost-saving measures the most. “I’m very thankful and thanking these people that help us,” Alcantar says. “They never say no or make an ugly face. They’re always there to help me.”