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The A/C Guy of Tampa Bay Inc. Blog

“Fan Only” vs. “Air Conditioning”: What’s the Difference?


In our last post, we explored a topic that’s always popular with homeowners: ways to save money. Specifically, how to lower the cost of cooling a home in the summer. It’s not hard to find ways to reduce how much you use your AC, and our technicians can help out with installations like dehumidifiers and high-efficiency ACs.

We didn’t touch on one way to lower AC costs in the last post, which is “fan only” mode. We’re going to address it here because it’s not exactly a way to save money, but it’s something important to know about.

The Central AC as a Central Fan

You know that a fan makes you feel cooler. It doesn’t lower air temperature, but instead, allows more heat to escape from your body so the air feels cooler than it is. 

Your central air conditioning system is largely a whole-house fan. The air handler of the unit has a powerful blower fan that’s responsible for circulating air through the ventilation system. The air conditioner only provides cooling when the compressor is running, which causes refrigerant to move through the indoor coil to pull heat from the air the blower sends into the ducts. When the compressor isn’t running, the blower circulates room-temperature air. 

The Difference in Electrical Use

Both the blower fan and the compressor have motors that run from electricity. But the difference in how they use it is substantial. The average central air conditioner uses between 30,000 to 35,000 watts per hour. The blower fan uses around 750 watts per hour. Although it may seem like the AC is consuming the same amount of power whether the compressor is on or the system is in “fan only” mode, it’s much less costly to run only the fan. 

Should You Leave the AC on “Fan Only” Mode to Save Money?

Although the air circulation from “fan only” can help with keeping the house from feeling stuffy, you have to be standing in the direct path of the air current from a vent to get any cooling benefit from it. In general, keeping the AC running in “fan only” mode without the compressor coming on doesn’t do much good for comfort and it puts stress on the ducts as well as the blower fan. Too much of this strain can lead to air conditioning repair in Tampa, FL.

However, it is helpful to have the AC set to the “auto” mode, which is when the air conditioner will turn on the compressor as needed and have the fan run between those times. The reason is that it takes more energy to keep turning the fan on and off than to let it run. As long as you need cooling for the house, it’s wise to have the fan running even during periods when the compressor cycles down. The “auto” mode handles this. 

Call The A/C Guy of Tampa Bay Inc. for the best in cooling help. Serving our Tampa Bay family with integrity and honor.

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