Ceiling Fan Direction: The Surprising Benefits of Proper Rotatio

Ceiling Fan
Ceiling fans aren’t just for those hot summer days; they’re here for cold winter nights as well! (imaginetix/Getty Images Signature)

Ceiling fans are a great way to keep cool in the summer and warm in the winter if you know how what direction to use and when.

By changing the direction of your ceiling fan seasonally, you can make your home more comfortable and save money on your energy bills.

Though there is much confusion on the subject, it’s not that hard as long as you remember two simple rules.

In This Article

Ceiling Fan
Run ceiling fans counterclockwise on medium to high speeds during hot weather only when the room is occupied. (mathieukor/Getty Images Signature)

Rule #1: Summer Ceiling Fan Direction

Ceiling fans make you feel cooler in the summer by creating an artificial breeze that evaporates moisture from your skin. This allows you to set your thermostat higher, saving money on air conditioning bills.

When a ceiling fan spins counterclockwise (while looking up at it), the slant of the blades pushes air down and creates a wind chill effect, causing a noticeable breeze. The faster the fan spins, the cooler you feel. This is particularly useful in rooms where people spend a lot of time, such as living rooms and bedrooms.

This cooling effect doesn’t change the temperature of the air, it only makes you feel cooler. That is why you should turn the fan off when the room is empty. Otherwise, heat from the motor will actually increase the temperature in the room.

Ceiling Fan
Run ceiling fans on low in a clockwise direction during cold weather. (mathieukor/Getty Images Signature)

Rule #2: Winter Ceiling Fan Direction

Ceiling fans can produce the opposite effect in the winter by gently circulating hot air that is trapped near the ceiling.

Since heat rises, the temperature near the ceiling is greater than at floor level. This is particularly true in houses with high ceilings or those with heating systems that do not circulate the air.

The reason the fan is set to spin clockwise on low is to keep from creating a strong draft, which would cool you down just like it does in summer.

Instead, the fan is pushing the air near the ceiling up and outward, causing it to circulate down near the perimeter of the room.

Since the air at the floor level is warmer, you can set the thermostat lower, saving money and helping the environment at the same time.

Any heat generated by the fan’s motor is a bonus in the winter, so you can keep it running whether you are present in the room or not.

Follow these two simple rules, and your house will feel more comfortable while being a little greener at the same time.

Close up of a hand with a screwdriver next to the directional switch on a ceiling fan
To change the rotation direction of your ceiling fan, flip the switch near the light kit or under the blades. (Jupiterimages, Getty Images)

Changing the Rotation of a Ceiling Fan

Ceiling fans can come in various shapes and sizes, but most models will have a switch that allows you to change the rotation direction. However, some models may not have this feature, so check the manufacturer’s instructions before purchasing. 

Additionally, some ceiling fans may have a remote control that allows you to change the direction without having to climb a ladder.

To change the rotation direction of your ceiling fan, you will need to turn off the power supply and locate the switch on the motor housing. The switch is typically located near the light kit or under the blades. 

Once you’ve located the switch, flip it in the opposite direction. If your ceiling fan has a remote control, consult the manufacturer’s instructions on how to change the rotation direction.

Changing the direction of your ceiling fan will not affect the temperature of the room, but it will affect the airflow. 

Shot of a modern smart thermostat set to 76 degrees
By using your ceiling fan in conjunction with your air conditioner, you can raise your thermostat a few degrees without sacrificing comfort. (Kameleon007, Getty Images Signature)

How Ceiling Fans Can Cut Energy Costs

By setting your ceiling fan to the correct direction, you can cut your energy costs and keep your home comfortable at the same time.

If you use air conditioning to cool your home, a ceiling fan will allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4 degrees Fahrenheit with no reduction in comfort, according to energy.gov.

During the summer, you want your ceiling fan to rotate counterclockwise. This creates a wind chill effect, making you feel cooler without lowering the temperature in the room. The counterclockwise rotation of the fan blades creates a downward airflow that pushes air down and creates a breeze. This breeze evaporates moisture on your skin, making you feel cooler.

By using your ceiling fan in conjunction with your air conditioner, you can raise your thermostat a few degrees without sacrificing comfort. This can result in significant energy savings on your cooling bills.

During the winter months, you want your ceiling fan to rotate clockwise. This will create an updraft that circulates warm air that has risen to the ceiling. This helps to distribute heat throughout the room, making it feel warmer and more comfortable.

By using your ceiling fan in the correct direction, you can cut your energy costs and keep your home comfortable year-round. Don’t forget to adjust your fan’s direction when the seasons change to make the most of its energy-saving benefits.

Spinning ceiling fan
The combination of both airflow efficiency and electricity efficiency determines the overall energy efficiency of a ceiling fan. (pakornkrit, Getty Images)

How Ceiling Fan Efficiency is Measured

Ceiling fan efficiency is measured by the amount of airflow generated per unit of electricity consumed. It’s typically measured in terms of its airflow efficiency and its electricity efficiency.

  • Airflow Efficiency: Airflow efficiency measures the amount of air that is moved by the fan per unit of energy consumed. Airflow efficiency is expressed in cubic feet per minute (CFM) per watt of electricity consumed. The higher the airflow efficiency rating, the more air the fan moves per unit of electricity consumed.
  • Electricity Efficiency: Electricity efficiency measures the amount of electricity consumed by the fan to produce a given amount of airflow. Electricity efficiency is expressed in terms of the fan’s wattage. The lower the wattage, the less electricity the fan consumes to produce a given amount of airflow.

The combination of both airflow efficiency and electricity efficiency determines the overall energy efficiency of a ceiling fan. The higher the energy efficiency rating, the more energy-efficient the fan is, and the more cost-effective it is to operate.

View of a modern bedroom with a large ceiling fan
When selecting a ceiling fan, choose one that complements the overall design of your space. You don’t want a large fan that may appear overwhelming in a smaller space. (Curtis Adams, Pexels)

Choosing the Correct Ceiling Fan

Ceiling fans are ideal for rooms with at least eight-foot high ceilings. For optimal performance, the blades should be 7-9 feet above the floor and 10-12 inches from the ceiling. When installing a fan, the blades should be at least 8 inches away from the ceiling and 18 inches away from the walls.

Larger ceiling fans are better for bigger rooms because they can move more air than smaller fans. For rooms up to 225 square feet, a 36- or 44-inch diameter fan is sufficient, while rooms larger than that should use fans that are 52 inches or more. Multiple fans are ideal for longer rooms over 18 feet. Smaller and medium-sized fans are great for areas between 4-6 feet in diameter, while larger fans are suitable for up to 10 feet.

A larger blade provides the same amount of cooling as a smaller blade but at a lower velocity. This is especially important in areas where strong breezes could disturb papers or other objects. 

Additionally, the fan should match the aesthetics of the room, as a larger fan may look overwhelming in a smaller room.

When shopping for a ceiling fan, look for energy-efficient models with high airflow efficiency and low electricity consumption. Look for models that are ENERGY STAR certified, which means they have met strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This ensures that the fan meets high energy efficiency standards and can save you money on your energy bills over time.

Further Reading


  1. Danny: Your article about ‘ceiling fans’…
    what if your heating system has heating-vents
    in the ceiling (mostly!) as well as at floor-
    level (some)?

  2. Regardless of where your heating vents are located, heat will still tend to rise to the ceiling in the winter, so running the paddle fans on reverse is still a good idea.

  3. we purchased our home and it has steam heat and I saw it has different knobs for each level of the house. Our bedroom gets the hottest but turning the heat down tthe other part of the house gets cold can you tell me how to regulate it or do you have any suggestions. Should it be flushed out at the end of winter?

  4. We have a Renew Aire energy recovering ventilator in our newer home and want to know how to set our timer. What percent of the time do we run this system during the different seasons to get the most efficient use? Or do we leave it the same during the whole year. The manual does not really cover this and we would like to know. Thanks for your help!

  5. Neil,
    How much you run your air exchanger mainly boils down to how much fresh air you want in your home. To minimize any heating/cooling loss, I would avoid running it in the middle of the day during the summer if you live in a hot climate, or at night in the winter if you live in a cold climate. You can find more information in the FAQ section of the RenewAire website.

  6. Danny, should the filter inside the motor casing on my ceiling fan be removed and washed, removed and replaced, or just vacuumed from the outside of the motor casing? The ceiling fan was installed 16 years ago.

  7. I just purchased a condo in south Florida and have 4 ceiling fans in my unit. I’ve been told to leave them on 24/7 even when I go back up north for the summer. I reset the air conditioner and humidity control when I leave but don’t touch those fans. I have safety concerns?

  8. I have a vaulted ceiling in my great room (16 ft) – in the winter, it feels cooler in there than the other rooms (and somewhat drafty). Would installing a ceiling fan and running it on low in a clockwise direction help to even out the heat in that room?

  9. I have 9 foot ceilings in my home and my heating/Colling registers are all in the ceilings. Should I have the ceiling fans rotate clockwise all year or change the rotation to counterclockwise in the summer. Thank you for your comments.

  10. I have a dumb question. My ceiling fan has three chains.
    What do they do ? One is in the middle and the other two
    are on the sides. There are also three light bulbs.

  11. We can’t reverse our ceiling fans, are they still okay to be left on during the winter months blowing down or does this actually make things colder?

  12. My husband keeps our fans on 24-7 all year long, he also says in the winter it helps bring the hot air down and circulate the room but why than am i so cold? Every year he changes the direction of the fan just like you said, but i freeze! i do not feel this hot air you speak of at all.

    • Hi Fran,
      First of all, you should only run ceiling fans in the summer if you’re in the room to feel the cooling effect of the moving air. Otherwise, you’re just using electricity and the fan motor puts out heat. Depending on your heating system and ceiling height, you may or may not have much stratification of the air in the winter. If the air near the ceiling in winter isn’t appreciably warmer than the air at the floor, running ceiling fans won’t help. If you do run the fan in winter, run it in reverse on low only to prevent causing so much air movement that it makes you feel cold.

  13. We have a 20′ vaulted ceiling so I want to run the fan in winter. But, the ceiling fan is too high to reach to reverse the direction to clockwise. If I continue to run in the counter-clockwise direction, will it still bring down some of the warm air gathering at the ceiling?

    • Hi Jeff,
      Yes, the fan will help circulate warm air from the ceiling whether it’s on forward or reverse. The advantage of running it on reverse in the winter is that it won’t blow on you as much and make you feel cold.

  14. I want to install a ceiling fan in my great room but not sure where to locate it because of my ceiling registers. If I center it, one of the vents will be very close to the base of the fan. Does that create a problem?

  15. I have ceiling fans in all three bedrooms and in the living room, which has a vaulted ceiling. The heating/cooling vents are all in the ceiling. Should the fans circulate the same direction as if the heating/cooling vents were in the floor? Thanks you.

    • Becky,
      Yes, the fans should rotate the direction indicated in the article above regardless of whether the heating/cooling vents are in the ceiling or the floor.

  16. The trick I found is by looking at the switch on the fan. Pushed up and the air is drawn toward the ceiling for winter and pushed down the air blows down into the room for summer.

  17. Which way should the switch go for summer and winter if it is horizontal? It seems like our blades may be reversed, so the clockwise/counterclockwise direction may not apply. Please convert to lower edge/ upper edge being the leading edge for summer and winter.

  18. I’m using a pellet stove on the first floor to heat the first and second floors of my home. Would I follow the article when using my ceiling fan at the top of steps in the second floor to draw more heat up from the first floor?

  19. My remote control has a reverse button on it, problem is my 3 years old presses it whenever he can. I imagine switching directions in mid-spin will eventually break the fan, am I correct?

  20. I live in small 1 bedroom apartment. It has a window air conditioner in the living room. I have a ceiling fan in the living room and one in the bedroom.
    I have the fan spinning counterclockwise in the living room to blow a breeze down.
    In the bedroom I have the fan spinning clockwise to suck the cool air in.
    Is that correct ?
    Thank You
    John Cooper

  21. I have a sunroom with Windows screens & doors. We installed a wall gas heater we now use it all winter long. My ceiling fan is in the reverse clock position so that it pushes the hot air down. I feel as though it is working correctly but now summer should I leave my fan as is, or should my winter blades go clockwise? Thank you

  22. Wow! I’m surprised & glad to be among so many, with questions on these issues, but I was hoping to read at least 1 comment relating to mine..
    Personally, anytime I’m hot, I prefer any breeze, (even hot) over no breeze or air movement at all. So, yes the fan helps me feel a bit cooler blowing down on me, but thats only if there’s nothing else.
    Frankly, I disagree that fan direction, should be set 1 way, according to season. My experience, in terms of supplimenting with fan to save money, had absolutley ZERO BENIFIT, in terms of power bill, & even contrary affect in terms of cooling off. Fan direction, should be based on structure, & personal preference. Our home us quite old, & poorly unsulated. It also lacks open space for circulation, so the days accumulated heat, usually doesn’t escape. So we have wall units in both our bedroooms. The one in our room is on its last leg so, it works best turned on during wee morning hours, even if you have to cover up with a blanket. If you wait til it gets hot, you can barely tell its on. So it was nice & cool in my room when my guy suggested turning on fan for saving sake, & when i did, all i felt was miserable HOT STALE AIR, distributing itself throughout the room, & dominating over the hard earned crisp cool air that was there to begin with, & now couldnt get back, because its 3pm, & 109° outside & absorbed in our ceiling. So, the best thing i could come up with was to pull the hot air back up where it belongs, while pulling newer, slightly cooler air upward through the center of the room. It never got back to where it started but helped get it where it was tollerable. Also helpful, My dad tought us to put a fan backward in a main window, & open a door on otherside of tthe house. It blows the stale air out of the house pulling new air to start circulating.

  23. Yes fan should push down in the summer and draw air up in the winter months. The exception to this rule in the winter is if you have an open fireplace. If the air is being drawn up while the fireplace is being used it will draw smoke into the room therefore the fan should be set at a low speed and gently push the air down and circulate the warm air throughout the space.

  24. My wife and I are conflicted on whether to run a ceiling fan in an adjacent room to help circulate air throughout our, very small, home. We live in New Mexico, desert climate with no air conditioning. High temp today was 99. One of us agrees with your recommendation to only run a fan in the room occupied the other thinks we’re better off moving air throughout the house. What to do?

  25. Our vents are located above our ceiling fans. We’ve noticed that the ceiling fan lowers the temperature in our bedroom no matter which way it’s turning. So we are not benefiting at all during the colder months. Any suggestions?

  26. My husband and I have always complained about how hot our house gets in the summer, and we want to find the best ways to cool it down. We’ll have to look into hiring a professional to come and install ceiling fans in our home to prepare us for summer!

  27. Danny, will my ceiling fan draw air from the outside of my house into the house if I set the direction correctly, or dust it just circulate air up and down”


    • Hi, Art,
      Ceiling fans don’t move outdoor air into your home; they are only designed to move air that’s already inside the room.
      Take care!

  28. I think you have the rotation backwards.
    Its counterclockwise for winter and clockwise for summer.
    It may depend on the fan but everyone i have had in my 62 years has been this way.
    In fact I’m looking at my fan right now and its still in winter months counter clockwise. Because my husband sits under it and doesn’t like the fan on him.
    Please clarify the blade direction.

  29. You guys…I NEVER knew that ceiling fans can help us circulate hot air in the house during winter!!! Just that we only use fans in the summer when it’s hot. Just shared this with my husband who also was like, “What?!” And THAT’S why I come to your site. Great tips!!!

    • Glad to hear you enjoyed this content! Please feel free to share it with friends — that’s how we’re able to create similar content.

  30. So we have a double central air system. Upstairs and down. The thermostat is in the master on the other side of the house from where the furnace is in the basement. The rest of the rooms are always hot, most certainly because the hot air reaches them first. We have 1 1/2 year old twins in one of the spares so hoping for any ideas that might help cool off the other rooms. Single point thermostat, vent is closed and other than when they go to sleep (door is then only cracked) the door is wide open. Thanks in advance for any help you can give

    • Hi, Danny. We’re always looking for homeowners to call into our radio show and ask questions directly to Danny and Joe. We’ve reviewed your question and shared it with our radio show’s producer.
      Thanks for writing!


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