How to Heat or Cool Your Home with a Ceiling Fan

Paddle ceiling fan

Ceiling fans are a great way to keep cool in the summer and warm in the winter if you know how to use them properly. Though there is much confusion on the subject, it’s not that hard as long as you remember two simple rules.

Rule #1: Summer

Run ceiling fans counterclockwise on medium to high speeds during hot weather only when the room is occupied.

counter-clockwise during hot weather

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 rotates counterclockwise (while looking up at it), the slant of the blades pushes air down, causing a noticeable breeze. The faster the fan spins, the cooler you feel.

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.

Rule #2: Winter

Run ceiling fans on low in a clockwise direction during cold weather.

clockwise during cold weather

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 rotate clockwise on low is to keep from creating a strong draft, which would cool you down just like it does in summer. Instead, the air near the ceiling is pushed up and outward, causing it to circulate down near the perimeter of the room.

Since the air at floor level is warmer, the thermostat can be set 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.

Further Information


  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.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here