Should You Use Ceiling Fans In The Winter?

Do you use your ceiling fans in the winter? There is a debate on whether this is a good idea or not. Using ceiling fans properly during colder months can have a noticeable impact on  heating costs, but does it sacrifice comfort?

For many homeowners, ceiling fans are a must during the summer to keep cool. This is because air flow causes a wind chill effect that cools your skin. But ceiling fans are often left idle all winter and homeowners could be missing out on energy savings and a more comfortable home. The main reason so many avoid using them in the winter is the same wind chill effect. So which is better? Ceiling fans on or off in the winter?

How Ceiling Fans Can Help Warm In the Winter

Everyone knows that warm air rises. Because of this, a lot of the warm air that your heating system puts out goes to the ceiling, leaving the cooler air down on the floor level. By reversing your ceiling fan to blow air up, this warm air is redistributed throughout the room. This redistributes the heated air and thus warms the entire room.

Some studies have shown that simply reversing your ceiling fan in the winter can lower heating costs by as much as 15%! That’s a significant savings!

Avoiding The Chill

But what about the wind chill caused by the air movement? To avoid too much air flow and the drafty chill, you can simply turn the fan on the lowest speed setting. It does not take a massive amount of airflow to circulate the warm air. Just a gentle flow of air in a room can make a big difference to the entire heating system.

It is also notable that if you have very high vaulted ceilings, it may not be necessary to reverse the ceiling fans direction to prevent the wind chill effect. If the fan is high enough and on the low setting, it will pull the air downward, without you feeling a breeze at floor level. It just takes a little trial and error to find out what works best for your specific home.

How To Reverse Your Ceiling Fan

Changing the direction of most modern ceiling fans is very easy. Turn off the fan completely to prevent the chance of being hit by the blades. Then simply find the direction switch, usually located on the fan motor housing. Move the switch and turn the fan back on.

Most fans will run in a counterclockwise direction in the summer months, blowing the air downward. And turning in a clockwise direction during the winter months will pull the cold air upward, and push the warm air out and down the walls of the room.

For other energy saving tips check out Everyday Green Home.

2 comments… add one
Gary Steps January 10, 2014, 8:15 am

As you are aware, this is one of those items that are still being fought over after decades. One would think some college kid could do an experiment to prove or disprove the concept. Here is what Martin Holladay said in the last Green Building Advisor – look at item 7:

So i will ask you like I asked Martin – show your sources.

I personally agree with you, and keep the fans in my great room running year round with one running forward and one running in reverse. I also disagree with his items # 8, 9, and 10. Specifically, we have the ceiling fans in the Berg home running on low 7/24, along with the GSHP fan running at low, hooked to the ERV running at 100 CFM. This distributes superclean (MERV 12) outside air all over the house continuously at room temp while exhausting indoor air at 100 CFM. The system keeps the house temp at +/- 0.5oF all day.

Simon Persica June 20, 2015, 1:20 pm

I say it depends on if you like cold weather. I don’t reverse ceiling fans anymore. If it’s super cold I don’t run them at all unless the house smells like smoke. I prefer my fans with 2 or 3 speeds.

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