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Fans can save money on air conditioning

(ran HP edition)

Question: Would you repeat your recommendations about fans?

Answer: Research has found that, if you sit near a fan, you can set the air conditioner between 2 and 6 degrees higher and feel just as comfortable. Every degree that you can raise the setting above its usual level means a reduction of about 8 percent in cooling costs.

You can also increase the "natural ventilation" season by relying more on fans and less on air conditioning. Use the fans on pleasant days and turn off the air conditioner.

By using fans more and air conditioning less, a homeowner can probably pay for the cost of the fans in about three years. This depends on where the home is, the efficiency of the air conditioner and the personal preferences of the occupants.

In terms of energy costs, ceiling fans and oscillating fans eachuse less energy than do ordinary light bulbs.

Ceiling fans are most effective from 4 to 6 feet from their center. Better-quality fans generally will do a better job of moving air, and a top-of-the-line ceiling fan can be effective as much as 8 to 10 feet from its center. A 12-inch oscillating fan is usually adequate for dining rooms and kitchens, though you may want a larger one for bigger rooms.

Finally, do not leave fans on when no one is in the room. Fans cool your skin and make you feel more comfortable. If you're not there to enjoy that, then you're wasting electricity.

Ken Sheinkopf is associate director for the Florida Solar Energy Center. Write to him at the Florida Solar Energy Center, 1679 Clearlake Road, Cocoa, FL 32922.