Ceiling fans not only add style and décor inspiration to a room with beautiful new designs, but they are also critical to the air flow in a space. And not just in the summer — when used properly, a ceiling fan will also keep a space warm in the winter. However, if the blades are spinning in the wrong direction, you might not even get the cool breeze you’re expecting. Master the air flow in your home (and efficiently heat or cool your space) with these tips about the direction of your fan.

Why is it important to change the direction of your ceiling fan?

While ceiling fans may keep you cool in the summer, their main purpose is circulating air through your home. In fact, fans themselves do not heat or cool a room. In different seasons, different circulation is required.

Some fan companies call the counter-clockwise direction “forward,” while others call it “reverse,” so we’ll use clockwise and counter-clockwise to avoid confusion.

When a fan spins in a counter-clockwise direction, the blades create a breezy, “windchill” by pushing air down and around the room. Because heat rises, you need a fan to pull the cool air from ground level higher into the room where you can feel it. That means in the summer you’ll want the blades spinning counter-clockwise.

In the winter, a clockwise-spinning fan will push warm air down from the ceiling, moving heat better throughout the room. Again, because heat rises, the fan keeps the warmth from staying trapped at the top of the room (especially if you have cathedral-style ceilings).

When should you change the direction of your ceiling fan?

You’ve already learned that the change in direction helps with the changing seasons and helps your other heating and cooling systems work properly. When you start a fire in the winter or turn on the AC in the summer, it’s time to change the direction of your ceiling fan. In more moderate climates, you might be able to survive a few months longer without your air conditioner just by using ceiling fans.

The Department of Energy reminds homeowners that ceiling fans do not actually change the temperature of a room (they cool the people in a room), so you can turn them off when you leave a space in order to save on electricity.

How to change your ceiling fan direction:

Changing your ceiling fan spin direction couldn’t be easier: you simply flip a switch from clockwise to counter-clockwise (or vice versa), and you’re ready for the next season. You’ll probably need a ladder since the switch will be on the fan motor unit and does not operate with a pull string.

If you’re standing under the fan, you’ll only feel a breeze when rotating counter-clockwise (for the summer). In the winter, you should not feel a breeze under the fan.

Do all ceiling fans change directions?

Almost all modern ceiling fans change directions to help a home run efficiently in all seasons, and some even come with remote controls. If you lost the remote control, and a reverse switch is not available, some fans have a programming sequence to force the change in direction (ex. turning the fan on and off quickly).  If your reverse switch is not visible, then consult the manufacturer.


For more information on buying a ceiling fan, consult our Ceiling Fan Buying Guide. Already know what you’re looking for? Start shopping our ceiling fan selection.

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