Friday, May 3, 2013

Ceiling Fan Direction: Which direction should your ceiling fan rotate in summer and winter to save you money?

Ceiling Fan Direction- Set your Ceiling Fan to Rotate in the Right Direction

Display of a variety of ceiling fans
Most Ceiling Fans are Reversible for Summer and Winter
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher



Most ceiling fans can reverse direction.  This means that the fan can rotate either clockwise or counterclockwise when you are viewing it from below.  Your ceiling fan can help keep you more comfortable in winter by circulating warm air throughout your living area, reducing heating costs.  In summer, your ceiling fan can help cool you with moving air to create a windchill effect, keeping you cooler and saving money on air conditioning costs.

The cost to operate a ceiling fan is much lower than the cost to operate an air conditioner or furnace.  Using a ceiling fan properly can keep you comfortable at a higher thermostat setting in the summer or at a cooler thermostat setting in the winter, saving you money on heating and cooling costs.

It is not obvious by looking to determine the correct direction for a ceiling fan to rotate in summer and in winter.  I think it would be useful if the switch to reverse direction was somehow labeled to indicate the summer position and the winter position, but I have never seen one labeled.  Which way should your ceiling fan rotate?

Which direction should your ceiling fan rotate in summer and winter?  

Summer Ceiling Fan Direction

In summer, a ceiling fan should rotate counterclockwise when viewed from below.  The fan should turn so that the up-turned edge of the blade is leading.  This results in air being pushed down directly under the fan.  This ceiling fan direction provides the most cooling effect from moving air.

Winter Ceiling Fan Direction

In winter, the ceiling fan should turn clockwise when viewed from underneath so that downward turned edge of the fan blade is leading.  This results in air being pulled up toward the ceiling fan.  This will mix cooler air from near the floor with warmer air near the ceiling and circulate it throughout your living space.


Wrong Ceiling Fan Direction

Even if your ceiling fan is turning the wrong direction, you can still get some climate control benefit.  In winter, if your ceiling fan is turning in the summer direction, it will still circulate air and help move the warm air near the ceiling down to where you will feel it.  The downside is that you will feel the moving air from the ceiling fan and this may make you feel cooler.  In summer, if your ceiling fan is turning in the wrong direction you will not get the windchill effect under the fan, but moving air will help somewhat with cooling especially near the walls in the room where the ceiling fan is located.

How to reverse the rotation of your ceiling fan

Switch in Plain Sight

Most, but not all ceiling fans are reversible.  If your ceiling fan is reversible the most likely way to control the rotation direction is a switch on the outside of the fan.  The picture below shows the most common style and location of switch to reverse the ceiling fan direction.  Many switches are not labeled, but a switch like this on a ceiling fan is likely to control the blade direction.


Ceiling fan reverse direction switch is circled- this one can be seen easily
Ceiling Fan Reverse Direction Switch- this one is easily visible
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Where to find the Hidden Ceiling Fan Switch

How do you reverse the direction of your ceiling fan if there is no switch?  In some ceiling fans, the switch to change the direction of rotation is located on top of the fan.  This can be confusing- there are lots of questions posted on the internet by people looking for the reverse switch on their ceiling fan.  If you can’t see it standing under your ceiling fan, you may need to stand on a chair or use  a ladder to locate the switch on top.  The picture below shows a rotation direction switch on top of a ceiling fan.  There is no way to see this switch when standing below the fan.  The model shown is a Harbor Breeze Wakefield.  Other models have reverse switches on top as well.

Ceiling fan with no apparent way to reverse the fan direction
No reverse direction switch is visible on this ceiling fan- how do you reverse the direction?
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher


The reverse direction switch is on top of some ceiling fan models
The reverse direction switch is hidden on top!
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Remote Control

Another way to change the rotation direction of a ceiling fan is using the remote control.  If your ceiling fan has a remote control, there may be a combination of buttons on the remote that can be pressed to reverse the fan direction.  If this is not labeled on your remote control, you will need to search for a manual to determine the correct buttons to change the fan direction using the remote control.  It may be easier to use the switch on the fan itself rather than using the remote control.


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