Which Way Should Your Ceiling Fan Spin? Heating and Cooling Strategy

Why do ceiling fans turn both ways? Does it matter if your fan’s blades are rotating around the motor to the left or to the right?

It does indeed!

Your ceiling fan is more than decoration — it is an investment in your home’s energy efficiency and comfort.

But few homeowners (or renters) know how to take advantage of their fans directional benefits, and many people actively work against themselves by leaving their fans on counterproductive settings.

Table of Contents

Ceiling Fan Direction Settings For Cooling

Ceiling fan direction to cool a room: to make the most of your indoor ceiling fan, set the fan to spin counterclockwise on medium or high speed in the summer or on warm spring and autumn days to push air down toward you, to evaporate sweat and thus cool your body. 

Ceiling Fan Direction Settings For Heating

To help circulate warm indoor air on colder days or during winter months, reverse your fan so the blades rotate clockwise on the lowest setting. This movement will pull the warm air up and out against the walls, circulating the warmth without giving you a wind chill effect.

Use Your Ceiling Fan to Save Energy in the Summer

Do ceiling fans cool the air? Technically no, although they do help: in the hot and humid summer months, your body attempts to cool itself by sweating. Sweating itself does little to help cool your body, but the subsequent evaporation of the water from your body is where the magic happens. This is why when you are in high humidity areas, it is difficult to manage your body temperature — the sweat from your body does not evaporate fast enough, and you feel muggy and damp.

By moving air (even warm air) across your body, you assist with this cooling process. Makes sense.

Ceiling fans push air down across your body and create a windchill effect. The breeze evaporates moisture from your skin which makes you feel cooler.

By doing so, your ceiling fan keeps bodies cooler so you are able to stay comfortable and even set your thermostat a few degrees higher, if you have air conditioning in your home.

Using Proper Ceiling Fan Direction When Air Conditioning is on

When the air conditioning is turned on and cold air is blowing up through the vents, have your ceiling fans continue their counterclockwise (left-turning) direction on a medium or high setting. Yes, cool air sinks anyway, but the air being pushed downward by the fan will move around your body faster and quicken the cooling action.

In Which Direction Should a Ceiling Fan Turn in Winter Time?

Whether you use a gas fireplace or wood stove or electric heat or central heating with floor and ceiling vents, the same thinking process applies when switching your ceiling fan to rotate clockwise in the wintertime.

Ceiling fans don’t heat the room, but they do circulate the air. So if you have warm air in your house, it will rise. That warm air is useless to you when it is hanging out along the ceiling. By turning your fan on so it rotates to the right (clockwise) with the blades angled as in the diagram below, your fan recirculates that warm air by pushing it up against the walls and back down to where it needs to go — back down along the walls and out to warm your shivering little body.

Ceiling Fan Direction Diagram

Switch Up or Down?

If your ceiling fan has a reversing switch, at the beginning of each winter and summer season, reverse the fan direction.

  1. Turn the fan off.
  2. Locate the reversing switch. It is on the base of the fan near the fan speed and light switches.
  • Switch up = clockwise = to circulate warm air in winter (when you want warm heated air to circulate indoors)
  • Switch down = counterclockwise = to cool in the summer (with or without air conditioning indoors)

How to Reverse a Ceiling Fan With No Switch on the Motor

Using the Remote

Some models of Hampton Bay fans use a remote control device that adjusts operating times, temperatures, speed and rotation direction. Changing the direction of a remotely controlled Hampton Bay fan is a simple process:

  1. If your fan is powered by a switch at the wall, flip the switch to make sure power is going to the fan. Make sure the blades are not rotating.
  2. Press the “Reverse” button on the remote control of the ceiling fan to change the direction of the airflow. Press the “Reverse” button again to revert to the previous direction of airflow. If your fan does not have a remote control, proceed to the following video:

Another Way to Reverse the Fan if There is No Switch Nor “Reverse” Button on the Remote

Ceiling Fan Direction Cheat-Sheet

Ceiling Fan Direction Diagram

Counterclockwise directly cools, clockwise indirectly warms without a draft.

Ceiling fan direction to cool spaces, attics, lofts above the fan:

Technically, the clockwise direction will pull air upwards, so if you are aiming to cool a loft that sits above a ceiling fan, if the fan is large enough, pulling the air downward (counterclockwise) can move enough stagnant air so that cooler air below can replace it.

But the main cooling action of a ceiling fan is in its ability to blow air across your body. In which case, pulling air upward (which is traditionally the “winter” clockwise setting) might just do the trick.

The correct direction for the blades to turn on a ceiling fan installed at the top of stairs or on a second floor stairwell?

If your goal is to push warm air from upstairs to downstairs, then make sure the fan is turning counterclockwise (summer setting).

If you want to pull cool basement air upwards and the ceiling fan is located at the top of the stairs leading up from the basement, then reversing the fan to its clockwise rotation (winter setting) makes sense.

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