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What Happens if You Leave a Ceiling Fan on All the Time

Ceiling fans are an incredibly simple but incredibly useful invention for the home. They can greatly improve your home’s air circulation, so it makes sense to consider having them on all the time in uncomfortable weather.

However, it may not make sense to keep your fan on all the time even if it feels more comfortable with it on, and if you’re not in the room while the fan is being used, you could be wasting energy and decreasing your fan’s lifespan.

Ceiling fans are designed to run for long periods but running them constantly will cause premature part failure, increased maintenance, greater chance of overheating, and higher bills. In empty rooms, ceiling fans serve no purpose. They can’t cool or heat a room; they only affect the perceived temperature.

Running Fan Can Improve Air Circulation

Not only do ceiling fans improve air circulation, but many are able to turn in both directions. This changes the direction of the airflow, allowing the ceiling fan to be used to increase comfort during both cool and warm months.

Ceiling fan circulating air

In summer, you want your fan set to turn counterclockwise, as this creates a cooling downdraft.

In winter, a fan should be set to turn clockwise, as this creates an updraft that moves warm air.

These are just some of the benefits of ceiling fans, but too much of a good thing can end up hurting you, and ceiling fan use is no exception to this universal rule.

The Ceiling Fan Will Be Subjected to More Friction

Of course, leaving your fan to run isn’t all good. Doing so subjects your fan to more friction.

You might not immediately associate a fan with friction, since they generally appear to run very smoothly. However, whenever there is motion, there is friction working against it.

Additional friction may not seem like a huge deal, but let’s look at how it can cause harm to your fan over time.

Friction Can Damage Fan’s Bearings

As you may know, friction wears things down over time—your car brakes, shoe soles, or kitchen knives.

Fan bearings are no exception, and leaving your fan to run for extended periods means they’ll wear out sooner than if you used them “normally”. 

The fan bearings are critical parts, as they not only reduce the friction caused by the rotation of the fan, but support its axial load. When worn down, they can no longer operate correctly.

It Can Shorten the Lifespan of the Motor

A ceiling fan is able to rotate because of its motor. Just like with any other piece of machinery, a motor can only run for so long before it loses efficiency or breaks.

Motors also generate heat. It’s only a small amount of heat, but when left to run for an extremely long period of time, it’s possible for your motor to burn out. 

The Fan Might Need More Frequent Lubrication

As discussed before, the fan bearings are an incredibly important part in helping the fan operate effectively.

With use, the oil used to lubricate the bearings will deplete.

The Fan Might Need More Frequent Lubrication, illustration of motor oil and ceiling fan with drip hole

Now, some fans do have self-lubricating bearings that prevent the need for maintenance. However, when left to run all the time, the excessive load could mean that even these fans may need lubrication maintenance.

Ceiling Fans Could Overheat

While fans are generally built not to overheat, different parts of the fan can wear down with lots of use and fail to prevent temperatures from rising past a safe level.

For example, the motor could fail or, if the lubrication runs out, the friction from the fan running can raise temperatures, too.

There are also other parts that cause overheating issues but however a fan overheats, it is likely the unit will fail afterward and need repair or replacement. There is also the risk of fire, although it is relatively low.

Keeping the Fan on All the Time Can Waste Energy

If you want to keep the ceiling fan on to improve airflow, that’s one thing!

However, if you’re using the fan to try and cool down a room, be aware that fans don’t actually reduce or increase the temperature. Ceiling fans cool you via the wind chill effect.

Essentially, if you’re not actually in the room, keeping the fan on all the time might just be wearing out your fan and increasing your energy costs!


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