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Ceiling Fan Direction - Part 2 of “It Suddenly Turned Cold In Greensboro, NC”

The direction your ceiling fan should be turning during the winter, or any other time that you are trying to bring warm air down from the ceiling, is clockwise.  This may sound a little strange, but to be sure your fan is spinning clockwise you should lie on the floor and then look up at the blade rotation.  

I say that because of a fellow co-worker, that one day got most everyone confused in which direction was clockwise and which was counter-clockwise in relationship to a fan’s rotation.  He knew when looking at a clock that the hands spin to the right of the 12 O’clock mark, but when looking at a fan from a side angle he saw it differently.  Finally we understood what the cause of his confusion was.  You see, he would look at the fan from a distance and then his eyes would follow the blade rotation as he looked down at his watch.  He was looking at a ceiling fan’s rotation from a birds eye view, as one would typically look down to their wrist in viewing a watch.  His confusion, and the confusion he caused many of us, came to an end when he was told to lie on the floor and look up.  This is a fool proof way, that unless a person doesn’t know the difference between clockwise and counter-clockwise, that they can’t go wrong.

An easy way know the way a fan should turn during cold weather is to remember this fact.  A ceiling fan doesn’t actually cool the air, instead it creates a wind chill effect to fool our body into thinking the air is cooler.  Even a fan that is operating in its counter-clockwise mode will have the ability to bring warm are down from the ceiling.  The problem is that you will feel the wind chill effect along with the warm air coming down, thus defeating the purpose.  By operating a ceiling fan in the clockwise mode, air is blown up towards the ceiling, thus slowly bringing the warm air down at the outside edges of the room, which allows the warm air to come down to the living level without creating the unwanted wind chill effect.  So, keeping all of that in mind, stand directly below your fan with it operating.  If you feel air blowing directly down on you, you will know that is the summer mode.  Reverse the fan’s direction.  Now standing directly below the fan you will notice that airflow isn’t coming down.  This is the winter mode.

Remember, during the winter, low speed is best.  You do not want to create a wind chill effect while the fan is in winter mode.  So, not only do you want the fan’s direction to blow air upward, but you also will want to remember that low speed is all you will need.  Any higher speed setting may cause too much airflow, thus even creating a wind chill effect in the room even when the fan is spinning in reverse.

Whichever style ceiling fan you own, whether tropical, modern, victorian, traditional or rustic, the one thing they all have in common is that a clockwise rotation helps save on heating cost.  If used properly, all ceiling fans have the ability to help save money during both the summer and the winter.  The only exception to this rule would be with outdoor ceiling fans, and when they are actually installed outside.  During cold winter days there will be no heat outside on your covered patio for the fan to bring down.  Thus using an outdoor fan in reverse (if it is indeed installed outdoors) is lost cause.

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