Using Fans in Winter

Image from Wikipedia.
Fans: They're not just for summer anymore.

While fans can be great for dispersing cool air during summer months, it's important to realize they can also spread heat through a home all winter long. Most ceiling fans use about the same amount of electricity as a 100-watt light bulb; making fans a cheap, effective way to supplement temperature control in your home.

Keep in mind that fans should only be on when people are in the room to benefit from the air movement—fans do take up energy, and they even produce a little heat—a 1996 study in Florida (not Redwood!) determined that using ceiling fans appropriately could allow people to raise the temperature inside by 2°F, resulting in about a 14-percent annual cooling energy savings. However, the same study found that most people do not adjust their thermostats when using ceiling fans, actually increasing their energy use rather than reducing it. Something to keep in mind throughout the year!

We'll go over ceiling fans below; but also remember that smaller box fans and doorway fans can really help to distribute heat throughout your house. If you've got a fireplace, wood stove or pellet stove—or if your forced-air furnace vents aren't spread evenly throughout your house—these small fans can make a huge difference in distributing warmer air (and returning cool air) in your home.

Ceiling Fan Direction in Summer and Winter
The below information is gleaned from the Ceiling Fan website.

Ceiling Fan Direction in Summer – Forward / Counter Clockwise
ceiling fan direction for summer
image via Emerson
A ceiling fan’s direction in the summer should be rotating counter clockwise or forward to produce a Wind Chill effect by the downward airflow. The thermostat won’t actually change but the room will seem several degrees cooler due to the wind chill factor. You can save on air conditioning bills by placing ceiling fans throughout your home.  According to Casablanca Fan Company when you are using a ceiling fan you can then “raise the thermostat setting, resulting in reduced air conditioning energy consumption of 40 percent or more” while still keeping your room cool.

Ceiling Fan Direction in Winter – Reverse / Clockwise
ceiling fan direction for Winter
image via Emerson

The ceiling fan direction in winter should be rotating clockwise or reverse. Warm air rises and gets trapped near the ceiling so when the ceiling fan direction is in reverse mode it circulates the warm air from the ceiling to the floor helping take the chill out of the air. Without a ceiling Fan the warm air would continue to be trapped near the ceiling and the floor level would continue to stay cold. The reverse mode only works if the fan is on low. If you have the fan on a higher speed you will create a wind chill effect that you don’t want since it is already cold. Some ceiling fans now come with a wall or remote control that has a forward/reverse option so you can change the direction of the Fan with a push of a button.

Exceptions for Ceiling Fan Directions
There are some exceptions that you should keep in mind when it comes to ceiling fan direction.  If your ceiling fan is installed in a room with a high ceiling you still put the ceiling fan direction on clockwise or reverse motion in the winter although you should put the speed on medium or high. With higher ceilings it takes more than low speed to help re-circulate the warm air down to floor level.

Also if you have a ceiling fan directly over a dining room table or a desk you should have the ceiling fan direction rotating clockwise/reverse on a higher speed. By having the ceiling fan direction in reverse on a higher speed you will still get the wind chill effect that helps cool you off but will save you from a cold dinner or papers flying all over the place.

Check out Energy Star’s Ceiling Fan Usage Tips on how to help save energy with ceiling fans.

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.