Ceiling Fan Efficiency: making the most of your ceiling fans in all seasons

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When rebuilding our house after the fire, we decided to put ceiling fans in each room. We did this not fully understanding the benefits then but knowing that it was cheaper and easier to install them then than try to do it later. Only now are we starting to really understand the benefits of using them to regulate temperature in the various rooms of our house, and it turns out that there are ways of making sure they are at their most efficient. Here’s one of the most important…

Ceiling Fan Direction

You may or may not have noticed that your fan has a little switch that changes its spinning direction. There is a reason for this and its use can increase the efficiency and comfort levels in your room.

blue arrows shows summer (counter-clockwise) air movement, while pink arrows show winter (clockwise) air movement
  • Counter-Clockwise – spinning the fan in a counter-clockwise direction pushes air from the ceiling down towards you. This creates what is known as the “wind-chill” effect, which causes you to feel cooler simply because of the air movement. This direction is normally used in the warmer months. This also helps the warmer air to move up a little faster.
  • Clockwise – the fan spinning in a clockwise direction eliminates the “wind-chill” factor and gently forces the warmer air up and along the ceiling and down the walls, creating a warming effect. This is normally used during colder months to aid heating.
  • An Exception – in rooms that have much higher ceilings (2-stories or more, like vaulted ceilings) the fan direction should be reversed from above. This is because there is no significant “wind-chill” effect and the goal becomes to move the colder air up during the warmer months and the warm air down. The end effect is a room that has a more even temperature regardless of height.

The sources I found indicate 40% efficiency gain in the summer and 10% gain in the winter just by using your ceiling fan and changing the direction correctly. This means a room that is around 78F might feel more like 72F, which saves energy when compared to the traditional whole house forced air or window mount air conditioners. That saved energy equates directly to $$ savings on your next electric bill as well.


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