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Air Conditioner and Fan Safety

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

Photo of ceiling fan

As with other electrical appliances, it’s critical to keep fans and AC units in good working order and to use them correctly. Lack of maintenance or improper use can lead to electric shocks or fires. For example, National Fire Protection Association research shows that each year, fans cause 6% of home fires and air conditioners cause 3%. The Consumer Products Safety Commission estimated in 2017 that air conditioning equipment accounted for 33,000-plus emergency room visits annually and approximately 16 electrocution deaths each year.

The Basics Floor- and ceiling fans and central- and window-air conditioners all have one thing in common: They are powered by electricity so electrical safety precautions apply to each of them. For example:

  • Have an electrician check to be sure your home’s wiring can handle the appliance before installing it.

  • Call a licensed professional to install any hard-wired equipment.

  • Replace any frayed or damaged appliance power cords and don’t use extension cords with the unit.

  • Don’t use the units in any wet or damp area, and dry your hands before working on (or even touching) the appliance.

  • Only purchase appliances and equipment with a label showing that it is approved by a recognized testing laboratory.

  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and care.

Fan Safety Box or floor fans and ceiling fans can be useful tools for keeping you cool on a budget. Used properly and with other methods (keeping draperies closed, opening windows at night and keeping them closed during the heat of the day, reducing humidity and more) fans can reduce energy costs.

However, when the inside temperature reaches about 95 degrees fans can’t prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke. That’s because fans simply move air around; they don’t cool it. Below that temperature, the fan’s breeze helps evaporate sweat from your skin, making you feel cooler.

There are ways to position fans to maximize cooling, such as bringing in cooler outdoor air or blowing out hot air when it’s cooler outside, creating cross ventilation with multiple fans and checking to be sure your ceiling fan is set for the summer season (it should rotate counterclockwise in the summer).

Be sure that ceiling fans are installed as high as possible (at least 7 feet from the ground) to stop people from touching the blades, and any fans on the floor or at a window should be placed to avoid tripping and tipping over, and located in a spot where children or pets can’t poke fingers (or paws) into the blades.

Wherever you place the fan, check to be sure that air intakes aren’t blocked (for example, a curtain might get pulled tight against the fan).