Which Direction Should a Ceiling Fan Rotate?

Fan rotating in a room

isitsharp / Getty Images 

What is the correct ceiling fan direction for summer and winter— and is your ceiling fan on the proper seasonal rotation? It could save you energy dollars if it rotates in the proper direction, depending on whether it's winter or summer. Ceiling fans provide great air circulation, and you can optimize these benefits by ensuring blade rotation is correct for each season.

  • Winter: The blades should turn clockwise to circulate warm air.
  • Summer: The blades should turn counterclockwise to create a breeze effect by moving or circulating the air better during hot weather.

Keep reading to find out the science behind these methods.

Illustration of ceiling fan rotation
The Spruce / Madelyn Goodnight 

Ceiling Fan Direction in the Summer

To help produce a comfortable breeze or "wind chill" that cools the skin, blades should rotate in a reverse, or counterclockwise, motion. The air movement has the same comfortable effect as when you fan yourself with a magazine to get relief from hot, stifling air.

Ceiling fans in themselves do not heat or cool a room, but the ceiling fan rotation creates increased air circulation, which can greatly improve the comfort of your living space. You can also save on energy costs when the ceiling fan is on the correct setting to support your cooling or heating efforts.

Tip

Though many ceiling fans sold in the United States and Canada would follow this rotation guideline, some models may have been designed overseas and might not be standard in this regard. For this reason, if you do not find your ceiling fan is working properly on the seasonal setting above, change it, and note the difference. And there should be a noticeable difference. These seasonal settings are provided as a guideline only to recommend that you explore settings on your fan to make it more efficient for each winter or summer. 

Fan Direction in the Winter

To help move warm air that's trapped near the ceiling, blades should turn forward, in a clockwise motion. This movement will push up the lower air and pull down the warm air to the sides of the room, improving heat distribution.

Finding Your Fan Direction Switch

Depending on your style of ceiling fan, there will be one of three ways to switch your fan direction. You may have a pull chain, a remote control, or a smart fan connected to the internet. Here are basic instructions on how to switch your fan's direction, but it's always best to consult your product's owner manual for complete directions.

  • Pull chain: Turn off the fan using the pull chain, and let it come to a complete stop. Examine the fan's body or the light fixture to find the switch to reverse the fan. Slide or toggle the switch, and turn the fan back on.
  • Remote control: Turn off the fan, let it stop fully, and look for the reverse button on the remote control. You may see a blinking light on the remote when the reversal has taken effect.
  • Smart fan: Turn off the fan, let it stop fully, and follow directions using your smartphone or smart device to change the direction of the blades. Even a smart fan may have a manual reverse switch, however, and it helps to know where it is for future reference.

Rotation Tests and Proved Results

Six different fans were tested to conclude what rotation was best for winter or summer. All fans had the same blade angle, and the two settings operated the same way. A reader in Japan also conducted the following physical test, and we compared notes. His fan blades had the same angle, and we came to the same conclusion.

To further confirm proper fan rotation by season, we referred to information from one of the largest fan manufacturers, the Hunter Fan Company, and came up with the same conclusion, based on their recommendation on how to destratify a warm room during winter. This site has the best information on buying and using ceiling fans

Conduct Your Own Test

Because fan settings and blade angles are set by the manufacturer and these design features dictate how the fan operates, your fan could be designed to work opposite to the above settings. If your fan has instructions for summer and winter use, follow those guidelines.

But, in the absence of product information as to what setting is best for summer or winter for your particular fan, follow standard rotation recommendations for summer and winter, or conduct your own test.

On the first, or forward, setting, explore where the air movement is detected, and then make a reference note as a reminder for seasonal change. Then try the second, or reverse, setting. These are the optimum setting effects: In the summer, you want to feel the air circulating underneath and around the area reached by the fan. On a hot day, you would feel more comfortable and can detect air circulation on the right setting.

In winter, as hot air rises, it becomes trapped at the ceiling level. On the correct winter setting, the fan should push air up and draw that hot air down the side walls of the room. You would feel practically no air movement underneath and only a little air circulation closer to the walls. During summer, this setting does not provide any comfort or enough air circulation to the room. But it does bring the hot air down to warm the cooler air closer to the floor.