Every now and then you run across an idea that
Instead of trying to set up a solar system to run your whole house, focus on a key energy saving feature within your home. Specifically, ceiling fans. While running major appliances requires a very large and expensive solar system, setting up a system to run your ceiling fans is much
But is it worth it? That may depend on your situation. Let’s dig into this concept and see if setting this up would be cost-beneficial for your scenerio.
Why Focus On Ceiling Fans For Solar?
Ceiling fans run very efficiently and help to keep a home comfortable as they circulate the air in a room. A family can easily raise the threshold on their thermostat a couple of degrees if they are running ceiling fans throughout their home. The cost of running the ceiling fans is less than the cost of keeping the air conditioning those two degrees lower. This alone can result in significant savings over the course of a year.
But what if we were to take this to the next level? What if, instead of running those ceiling fans on the grid, we took them offline and powered them with solar? What would be the return on investment over the years as we supplemented our cooling in this way?
Now understand, this is an unusual approach. Traditional ideas for incorporating solar into a home efficiency strategy usually involve more of an all-or-nothing approach. This can cost tens of thousands of dollars and while there is definitely long term return on investment potential with such an approach it is, if we are just being honest, out of the financial reach for many of us.
This approach is different. It is actually a stair-step concept where we would BEGIN with ceiling fans which are a cost-efficient, low energy supplement to home comfort and would require significantly less solar energy to run.
How Much Solar Is Required To Run Ceiling Fans
Based on the research that I have done, a 52 inch ceiling fan will use, on average, 50-100 watts per day depending on the speed it is run at. Assuming a low speed, or 50 watts per hour and running the fan 10 hours per day we can expect to use 500 watts per day to run that fan. (Yes, I realize there are variables but for easy math let’s just continue with this, okay?)
Now, if you had four ceiling fans running in your home 10 hours per day, based on the equation above, you would be using 2000 watts of energy per day.
Is It Cost-Effective To Run Ceiling Fans With Solar Power?
Let’s use the 4 fan equation that we established above. At 2000 watts of energy per day, and figuring $0.10 per
But let’s dig a little deeper. Imagine being able to save at least that much each year on your electrical bill as well by adjusting your thermostat by a few degrees. Now we are conservatively talking about $400 per year (and it will likely be quite a bit more!).
Still, let’s push this envelope. Suppose you replaced your old, inefficient ceiling fans with Energy Star certified ceiling fans which run 40% more efficient. A 52-inch fan running at HIGH SPEED now uses only around 60 watts per hour of power or less. Can you begin to see how this all adds up?
The Beauty of Simplicity
The real beauty of this idea is that you don’t have to put together a complicated solar system from scratch. With the low wattage that would be required, you could easily run your ceiling fans with a quality portable solar generator and a just a couple of panels.
I like the idea of all-in-one solutions and solar generators are amazing devices as they can quickly be unplugged from whatever primary duty you have them on and taken with you on to provide on-the-go energy from the sun.
Camping trips, tailgating, whatever your weekend passion, you can bring a solar generator with you and keep your electronics charged as well as providing lighting and power for space fans, all from natural and free solar energy. Click here to learn why you may want to invest in a portable solar generator.
But when you are home and using them to power the ceiling fans throughout your house, you are also offsetting the need for air conditioning usage, the single more expensive running household mechanical system in most homes.
The “Catch” (You Knew There Had To Be One)
If you haven’t already thought this one through, there is a significant catch to this hack. It would require the rewiring of your ceiling fans from the electrical grid to a central location where your solar generator would be located. Depending on the wiring design of your home this may or may not be too complicated but it would be a process none the less. The question is whether or not the benefit would be worth the effort.
I’m considering doing this in my home as I’m writing this. There are several advantages beyond just the potential savings in electricity over time. I’m more interested in the idea that, in the event of a power outage, my ceiling fans would continue on circulating the air even while my air conditioning was out.
If I opted for a larger solar generator like the Goal Zero Yeti 1400 Lithium, it looks like I could easily add some of my LED ceiling lights in my home to it as well. That would mean that I would not only have air movement during a power outage, I would have lighting! For me, that is enticing.
This is not an inexpensive proposition to get into though, so the return on investment could take a few years. Still, I like the concept.
Implementation May Be Challenging But Consider The Possibilities!
Based on the Department of Energy’s guidelines, adjusting your thermostat to around 10 degrees back from its normal setting could result in around 10% savings over the course of the year. Without supplemental air movement, that would likely create an uncomfortable living environment. By using ceiling fans, however, we are already able to offset this discomfort. Even though they run on far less electricity that the HVAC system, however, we are still using energy to offset energy costs.
Now, if we could take those ceiling fans off the grid and power them through solar, and maybe even add some of the LED lights in our home to this off-grid system, we stand to save even more each year on our power bills. What’s more, we can at least have some moving air even when the electricity goes out for a few hours or, dare I say it, a few days or even weeks. Or better yet, keep a fridge or freezer going during critical power outages.
What this would require essentially is a hefty solar power generator like the
Goal Zero Yeti 1400 Lithium, The reason I would want such a large power solution is not just to run the fans during the day but to be able to continue to run them through most of the night while not charging. One great side benefit of the Yeti 1400 is
As I always say, this is just one idea for a comprehensive home efficiency strategy. It is in no way an end-all-be-all solution. if this idea is appealing to you, it should be part of a larger plan to offset your electrical bill including sealing leaks, increasing insulation where needed, and ensuring all of your home’s mechanical systems are maintained and running at peak efficiency.
Whether or not this is an ingenuitive idea to you or out the window crazy is going to depend on your situation, your priorities, and how much labor would be required to make this strategy work in your home. For me, it is at least worth exploring. And so, I will continue to study this further.