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Switch Your Ceiling Fan Direction Each Season for Increased Comfort

White ceiling fan hanging from a support beam in a vaulted living room
VBD Photos/Shutterstock

Come the change of the seasons you should take a moment to check your ceiling fans are spinning the right direction to keep you extra cool in the summer and extra toasty in the winter. Here’s how.

Why Reverse Your Ceiling Fan’s Direction?

Not all ceiling fans are reversible, but many are, and the benefits of a reversible fan are pretty great. In the summer you can adjust them to push air down and cool you, and in the winter you can change them to pull air up and push it around the room for better heat distribution without feeling like you’re getting blasted by a draft. The key to the adjustment is the direction the blades spin.

In the summertime you want the fan to spin counter-clockwise. When rotating counter-clockwise, the blades push the air down towards you which, thanks to the power of evaporative cooling, makes you feel significantly cooler when you’re sitting below (and helps, overall, distribute the cooled air throughout the room more effectively).

In the winter you want the fans to spin clockwise. Unlike the cooling downdraft you get from the counter-clockwise summertime setting, the clockwise motion creates an updraft and pushes air towards the ceiling. The result is you don’t feel like the fan is blowing on you, but it’s pushing the warmer air trapped up near the ceiling towards the walls and down into the room—then the warmer air is where you want it, around you, instead of hanging out near the ceiling.

How to Change Your Ceiling Fan’s Direction

There are typically three ways to change the direction of the fan, depending on the model you have. If you’re not sure which method works with your fan, investigate the ones that don’t require busting out a step ladder first.

Start by examining the wall switch for the fan as well as any remotes that came with the fan. In our living room, seen below as an example, there is a clearly labeled “Reverse” button on the wall switch.

A fan control switch with a clearly labeled "Reverse" button
Jason Fitzpatrick / LifeSavvy

Not all switches will have immediately clear instructions on them, however, so note the brand and look it up online. Some older Casablanca fan switches didn’t have a dedicated reverse button, for instance, and required you to hold the power button and the fan speed button simultaneously to reverse the direction. Also, many newer models have simple symbols instead of text, and it might not be immediately intuitive what the button combination is to adjust the direction. When in doubt, look online for documentation.

For reversible fans that don’t have a wall switch or remote, you have to switch it on the fan body manually. Below is an example of such a switch.

A physical direction switch on a ceiling fan body
Jason Fitzpatrick / LifeSavvy

The toggle switch on the body of the fan is typically wired so that vertical switches are up for winter/clockwise motion and down for summer/counter-clockwise motion. You can remember it easily by thinking the switch direction indicates the direction the air will flow (you want it blowing down in the summer and blowing up the winter).

Horizontal switches are usually right for winter/clockwise motion and left for summer/counter-clockwise motion. Alas, we don’t have a clever memory tool for this one—but as long as you remember that winter goes clockwise and summer goes counter-clockwise at least the direction of the switch corresponds to the direction, the blades will turn.

That’s all there is to it. Whenever you’re doing other seasonally-related tasks—like adjusting your HVAC dampers for more efficient heating and cooling—take a few minutes to change the directions of your fans too.

Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Editor in Chief of LifeSavvy. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at LifeSavvy, Review Geek, How-To Geek, and Lifehacker. Read Full Bio »
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