One of the cheapest, energy-saving fixes you can make is also one of the most low-tech; installing a plantation or ceiling fan

They’ve been around for years – think Rick’s Café in Casablanca (in fact that is the name of one prominent brand) and a good one can be purchased for around $100 although my daughter recently bought one for $20 at WalMart.  It doesn’t take many skills to install one especially where there is already a light fixture in place. 

The fans will cut the need for using the air conditioner substantially during spring, summer, and fall and if a reversible one is purchased, can help with heating in the colder months.

In cooling mode the fan pulls warm air up to ceiling levels but its main benefit is that it keeps the air moving so it feels cooler.  Even if the fan is set to spin like the blades in a jet engine, the temperature in the room will not drop a whit, but people in the room will feel cooler.  For that reason, the fan should be turned off when the room is not in use, thus cutting energy consumption further.

When the heat is on, the fan motor used in reverse and at a low speed will push the warm air down from the ceiling to people level where it is needed.  Ceiling fans are particularly useful in rooms with cathedral ceilings.

I have five fans in my house and find that I do not need, even in this sub-tropical climate, to use the air conditioner before June or after August and then only a few hours a day although I am admittedly more heat tolerant than most people.  In the hottest months my electric bill (including lights, hot water, and cooking as well as HVAC for a 2,000 sf house) never exceeds $150 per month. 

And as a bonus, many of the fans are stunning and come in styles that blend into almost any decor.  Blades may be wood grained, painted, or any of a variety of metal finishes.   I saw a huge fan in a new office building recently that was straight out of Rick’s with oversized wicker blades in a palm leaf shape.  I inquired and it was very expensive but also very beautiful.

Some fans come with ceiling lights built in, but where they do not, light kits can be purchased separately.  The kits are interchangeable within a manufacturer’s line so the consumer can design his own product.  Fans have three speeds and the light and fan operate independently of each other.  Most of the higher end models also have remote controls for fan and lights and dimmer settings for the lights.  

And, in case you were wondering, the remotes do come equipped with the same teeny tiny little feet as the one for the television so they can disappear together as soon as you set them down.