House fans do use less electricity, but they function only through circulating air whereas air conditioning units remove heat from the air before circulating it so the cooling capacities aren’t really comparable.
If, subjectively, you feel your house is cooled appropriately just through the use of fans, that really is the best measure.
Very much so. But remember that fans cool by moving air, so turn them off when not in use. The first link has a graph comparing their energy consumption.
A typical ceiling fan uses 1/30th the energy that a standard air conditioning unit does. Air conditioning is extremely wasteful in terms of energy use so using a house fan is much more efficient and cuts household cooling costs significantly.
An air conditioner basically blows air over a cooling coil, which you can improvise by placing a bowl of ice water in front of your fan. It works just as well and is much better for the environment (not to mention your wallet!)
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