Mechanical fans have been around for centuries, but the modern electric ceiling fan was invented in the early 1880’s and eventually became one of the most common place appliances in any modern home. Ceiling fan popularity faded as air conditioning became more prevalent and affordable, but they’ve recently enjoyed a resurgence as a low-cost, energy-efficient cooling method that can also look great in the right room. Most of us think of ceiling fans as tools to cool a room, but depending on their setting and direction they can actually warm a room as well. Here are some tips and tricks for warming and cooling your home with a ceiling fan in the summer or winter months.
Most modern ceiling fans have the ability to blow in two different directions. They can either blow in a clockwise direction (think of the how the hands of a clock move) or a counter-clockwise direction (moving in a direction opposite to the hands of a clock). To tell which way your ceiling fan is blowing, set it for the lowest speed and stand under it. Look direction at the center of the fan and you’ll see the blades either spinning like the hands of a clock (clockwise) or the other way (counter-clockwise). Let’s talk about which direction does what.
What Direction Is Your Ceiling Fan Spinning?
Sometimes it is difficult to tell which direction your ceiling fan is spinning in, especially if it’s set for one of the faster speeds. To really be sure what speed your fan is spinning you should set it to the slowest speed, let it spin for a few seconds and then turn it off. Now stand DIRECTLY beneath your ceiling fan and straight up at it. It doesn’t matter which direction you’re facing, if you look straight up at your ceiling fan (like in the top photo of this article) and imagine a clock, you’ll see the fan blade spinning in one of these two directions:
Once you know what direction your fan is spinning in you can determine if that’s the right setting for the season. Here’s what each ceiling fan direction does:
When a ceiling fan’s direction is running counter-clockwise it is blow air down from the center of the fan. It is literally taking the air from the ceiling and pushing it downwards into the room. This downward blowing air feels cool as it crosses our skin. The faster your fan is set to spin, the more air gets pushed down, the more the cooling effect is felt.
This is generally how you want your ceiling fans to blow in the summer months. You want to cool your rooms, so setting all your ceiling fans to counter-clockwise makes sense.
Your fans can also turn in a clockwise direction. When a ceiling fan is blowing in a clockwise direction it is actually pulling air up from your room into the center of the fan. The fan is creating an updraft. That upwards moving air hits the ceiling and then disperses out across the ceiling and down the walls of the room. If your fan is blowing fast it will still cool the room, which is not what you want during the winter months. Instead, set your ceiling fan to the slowest setting so that it gently blows the warm air from the ceiling down into the room. This can actually warm the room up by a degree or two and can save you some money on your winter heating bills.
Changing Your Ceiling Fan Direction
Again, most ceiling fans do change direction, even if it isn’t obvious at first. On the base of many ceiling fans there is a little non-descript switch. It either moves up or down or left to right. Turn off your ceiling fan at the main switch, wait for the blades to slow to a stop, and then flip the little switch on your fan base. Turn your ceiling fan back on at the power switch and it should now begin turning in the opposite direction. Some ceiling fans now have remote controls which can adjust the speed and the direction that the fan blows.
Here’s a quick table you can use to determine how to set your ceiling fan: