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Ceiling Fan Direction - Winter vs Summer

By Jeff Eller 1 years ago 6466 Views No comments

Which Way Should a Ceiling Fan Rotate

Everyone should be able to agree that a ceiling fan is great for helping to keep a room feeling cooler during the warmer months, but did you know that in many cases a ceiling fan can be just as beneficial in helping to keep a room feeling more conformable doing the colder months?

Ceiling Fans Must Be Reversed for Winter Usage, but Which Way Is Reverse?

In order for a ceiling fan to help during the cold season, first you must know which direction to operate your fan during the winter versus the summer. I could easily give you the short answer, but working in the ceiling fan business as long as I have, I realize that the short answer helps only about 50% of the people that ask the question, "Which way should I run my fan during the winter?"

This confusion is caused by the angle that we will usually view a ceiling fan from. This angle is rarely straight up from underneath the fan. We usually view a ceiling fan from an angle off to the side of the blades while looking upward all at the same time. It causes many to be confused in which is clockwise and counter-clockwise.

I never realized this ceiling fan confusion in counter-clockwise and clockwise rotation when looking at a fan until one day when I was training a new co-worker. I told him that a ceiling fan should spin clockwise during the winter months, and proceeded to put a fan in its reverse (clockwise) winter setting. He looked at me and said, "But that is spinning counter clockwise."

At first I thought he was crazy, as he proceeded to argue with me on which direction was counter-clockwise is in comparison to clockwise.

The co-worker I was training was very book-smart and had all kinds of college masters degrees. I was thinking to myself, "All those degrees and he missed the class in 1st grade when they taught him about a clock and how to use it to tell time." You have probably met the type, all the book-smarts in the world, but not an once of common sense? Well this wasn't really this guy, because he had decent common sense, but still, come on, who doesn't know which way a clock rotates?

To prove my point, I showed him my watch and said, "See!" Just after I showed him my watch, and no sooner than I said the word "see", I myself became confused along with him. For the first time ever I looked up at a ceiling fan and saw what looked to be a counter-clockwise rotation, when I knew it was supposed to be in the clockwise reverse setting for winter time use.

After looking at it for a while and almost gave in to, I, as well as all of the ceiling fan manufacturers were wrong about a fan's direction all along, something occurred to me... I went over to the fan and looked straight up at it, and suddenly what was supposed to be clockwise began to look clockwise to me again. The fan's direction had not changed, just to my eyesight and in my mind it suddenly looked like clockwise again.

Lay Below the Ceiling Fan, Look Up = No More Confusion

Then, just to be sure, and I know this sounds crazy, but I laid down on the floor directly below the center of the ceiling fan and looked up at it from that angle, and then without any doubt in my mind I knew the fan was for 100% sure going clockwise. Hey, don't pick on my for laying on the floor in a ceiling fan / lighting showroom and looking up at the products. I once had a very popular Hollywood actress in buying ceiling fans and she was doing that exact same thing. Only she wasn't laying on the floor to see which direction the fan was going. She actually said that it gave he a better sense of how it would look in her home if she lied down below the product and stared at it for a while. To each their own I guess.

Why Use Reverse Mode When It's Cold Outside?

Cold air is more dense than warm air. Therefore, doing the winter months the cold air, being heavier than warm air, settles at the floor level of our homes. This forces the hot air upwards, which becomes trapped against our ceilings where it does no good for comfort. A ceiling fan will bring this warm air back down to the living level of our homes, thus helping our rooms to feel noticeably warmer and more comfortable. For this to be effective the fan must be used in reverse mode.

When a ceiling fan is reversed, it causes the fan to move air upward towards the ceiling, versus the normal rotation which causes the fan to blow air downward where we may be standing or sitting. While true, even if a fan is not reversed and it's left in its summer time airflow direction, the fan will still bring heat down away from the ceiling, it will also create a wind-chill into the room if used in the wrong direction. If using a fan during the colder months the last thing you'll want is to feel wind-chill, because this will make the room feel cooler, not warmer.

How This Works

By reversing a ceiling fan, and operating it on the low speed setting, airflow is gently moved up towards the ceiling and this forces the trapped warm air to move across the ceiling towards the walls of the room. Once the warm air reaches the walls, the air movement from the fan then forces the warm air down the walls back to the living area, which is then gently pulled to the center of the room and recycled over and over again. When a ceiling fan is in this upward airflow moving mode, and if used on its lowest speed setting it keeps us from feeling the normal wind-chill effect commonly produced by a ceiling fan to keep us cool during the warm weather. This is why we need to use the reverse during the winter months.

That said, the higher the ceiling in a room is, the more beneficial operating a ceiling fan during the winter months will be. The reason for this is due to a higher ceiling ends up with way more heat trapped up top than that of a standard 8' ceiling. To be honest, although in my home I run all of my fans 24/7, 365 days per year, I do not notice any difference in warmth in my rooms with standard ceiling heights during the colder months. However, in my family room / kitchen area, where my ceiling peaks at 16 feet, I notice a huge difference in the warmth in that room when my fan is spinning in the reverse setting, compared to not running at all. Therefore, ceiling height will play a huge roll in how much difference in warmth you'll feel in a room while operating a ceiling fan during the winter months.

In Short - For Summer

In the summer mode, forward direction, a ceiling fan should rotate counter-clockwise. This will cause the fan to blow air directly downward so that it can create the most wind-chill possible. The more wind the fan can create, the better for cooling. Better quality ceiling fans almost always will move more airflow than lesser quality models.

If your fan has a manual reverse switch that slides up and down, click that switch in the downward direction for downward air movement for the summer. If your manual reverse switch slides left and right, then you'll want to slide it to the left during the summer.

If your ceiling fan's direction is operated by a remote control or wall control, then you will need to view the fan's direction correctly to know the difference between clockwise and counter-clockwise. Lie on the floor and look up, there is less confusion that way. Again, a fan should spin counter-clockwise ruing the summer.

In Short - For Winter

A ceiling fan should operate clockwise when used in the winter mode. This is commonly referred to as the reverse direction. In most instances, it should only be necessary to use the low speed setting in this mode. This is because you do not want to create any wind-chill into the room. By reversing the fan so that it directs airflow upward, and then using the lowest setting, the feel of wind-chill is usually not present.

If your fan has a manual reverse switch that slides up and down, slide the switch upward. If your fan has a manual reverse switch that slides from side to side, slide it to the right. This will set it into its winter mode.

If your ceiling fan's direction is operated by a remote control or wall control, then just as changing the fan's direction would be for the spring and summer, you will want to view the fan correctly to know the difference between clockwise and counter-clockwise. Again, lie down on the floor and look up. Your fan should be spinning counter-clockwise for winter.

View Our Ceiling Fan Direction Video for More Clarity

DC Ceiling Fans Work Best for Winter and Summer

Another helpful piece of advice, if you are looking to purchase a new ceiling fan and want it to be more efficient year round, is to consider purchasing a modern ceiling fan with a DC motor.

A ceiling fan that uses a DC motor (direct current motor) typically uses 1/3 the energy of a normal ceiling fan on high speed, yet it will usually also move more airflow. This means a lot of savings on cooling cost during warm weather.

More Speeds

DC ceiling fan motors almost always have 6-speeds, instead of only 3-speeds like those found in traditional ceiling fans. Because of this, the low speed on a DC fan has a much slower rotation than that of a normal fan. Slower is better for more gentle air movement, and more gentle airflow is better for reclaiming the lost heat trapped against your ceiling during the winter time.

Additionally, most DC ceiling fans use less than 5 watts of electricity on their low speed setting. Therefore, their cost to operate added onto your power bill will only be about as much as using a small nightlight in your home. Basically, pennies per month to operate!

In Closing

I know this article is a little long, and I wish I could, with a good conscious, have simply wrote, Clockwise for winter and counter-clockwise for summer. While correct, I've seen so many people get confused on this, and saying it in short like that would only cause half of the people who read this article to conclude that a ceiling fan does not help during the winter months, which is totally false. They work great, if used correctly.

If you should have any questions about fan direction, and especially if you are looking to purchase a new ceiling fan from us here at Modern Fan Outlet and you have questions, please, send us an email at, or give us a call at 1(888) 841-1993. Anyone here will be glad to help answer any further questions or concerns you may have.

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