By Lauren Urbanek, Natural Resources Defense Council
Temperatures may be cooling across the country, but new ceiling fan energy efficiency standards announced this week mean that consumers will stay comfortable in their homes in years to come while paying less on their energy bills. With an estimated 80 million U.S. households owning at least one ceiling fan, the energy and dollar savings will really add up under this update required by federal law to cut energy waste.
The U.S. Department of Energy projects the new standards will cut the energy use of ceiling fans by about 26 percent, resulting in national savings of about 200 billion kilowatt-hours of energy over 30 years, an amount equal to the annual electricity consumption of about 17 million U.S. households. They also will save consumers up to $12 billion and keep more than 120 million metric tons of harmful carbon pollution out of the air during that same period. That’s equivalent to a year’s worth of emissions from 25 million cars!
In spite of the proven benefits of energy efficiency standards to reduce electric bills, cut harmful pollution, and spur American innovation, the plans to update the efficiency standard had faced Republican opposition in Congress back in 2015 and the final version may see resistance under a GOP administration. But updating these standards to a cost-effective minimum level of energy savings will produce results that appeal to all political persuasions, ensuring we aren’t needlessly wasting energy while allowing manufacturers the flexibility to innovate and make even better products for consumers as we’ve seen time and time again from efficiency standards.
Ceiling fans are among more than 60 product categories—from light bulbs and refrigerators to electric motors and furnace fans—that must meet energy efficiency standards under laws passed by Congress. The first ceiling fan energy efficiency standards went into effect in 2007, but only set prescriptive standards (i.e., requiring that ceiling fans have adjustable speed controls). This new standard marks the first-ever time that standards are being set for the performance of ceiling fans. The updated standards announced this week are scheduled to become effective in late 2019, three years after the official publication of the rule in the Federal Register.
The ceiling fan standards can be met by optimizing the fan design (e.g. adjusting the pitch of the fan blades to be able to move more air) and using a more efficient version of the motor. With these more efficient designs, the fans deliver the same great performance while also saving money on electric bills. DOE’s analysis found that any incremental cost of buying a new fan that meets the standard will pay for itself with energy savings in under two years in many cases . A typical homeowner will save about $25 in energy costs per fan over the 13 year lifecycle of the fan, and commercial or industrial customers save up to $128. The savings add up as many homes and businesses have multiple ceiling fans.
And ceiling fans can do more than cool. During the winter, switching the direction of the fan’s rotation will blow air upward so the warm air bounces off the ceiling and back down to keep the room even cozier.
The new standards come after DOE recently issued a final rule to amend the test procedures to better measure the energy use of ceiling fans. In addition, DOE last year issued an efficiency standard for ceiling fan light kits, which is projected to save consumers between $500 million and $660 million over the next 30 years alone.
Efficiency standards bring benefits to everyone. In 2015 alone, they saved American consumers $63 billion on their utility bills and helped the U.S. avoid 300 million tons of carbon pollution, equivalent to the annual carbon emissions from about 63 million automobiles.
The updated standards for ceiling fans also will contribute to President Obama’s goal of reducing carbon pollution—a major contributor to climate change—by at least 3 billion metric tons by 2030 through efficiency rules for appliances and federal buildings.