Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

How to Use a Paddle Ceiling Fan Properly

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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.

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13 Comments on “How to Use a Paddle Ceiling Fan Properly”

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  1. Jim Says:
    November 2nd, 2007 at 8:37 pm

    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. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    November 5th, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    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. Lupe L. Says:
    November 6th, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    Our Central Air Unit went out,its a Rheem model ra fa-o42jas.How would I go about when
    inslalling a new one?

  4. JANICE MILLER Says:
    November 11th, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    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?

  5. Neil Doose Says:
    December 30th, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    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!

  6. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    February 25th, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    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.

  7. Grace Says:
    October 17th, 2008 at 8:15 am

    I have a 8 ft wide stairwell. What size ceiling fan should I install? Thanks for all your great tips.

  8. Michelle Says:
    September 24th, 2009 at 11:37 am

    Thank you so much for this very easy-to-read explanation on which direction the ceiling fans should be on and WHY!!

  9. Louanne Blevins Says:
    April 28th, 2010 at 10:30 am

    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.

  10. Jack Eddington Says:
    November 17th, 2011 at 7:56 am

    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?

  11. Dorothea Says:
    March 26th, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    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?

  12. Lewis Fiorentino Says:
    May 13th, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    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.

  13. Eve Says:
    May 15th, 2014 at 11:28 am

    What direction should a ceiling fan in your cellar run in the summer?

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