How to Save Energy by Correctly Operating Ceiling Fans in the Winter

Friday December 2, 2011
Posted at 11:15

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Many people know the trick to saving energy during the summer by running ceiling fans. It’s easy, just turn on the fans when you’re in the room and they’ll help cool you off by generating a wind chill effect around your body. The result is that you can raise your thermostat’s temperature and save money off monthly electric bills while maintaining your comfort.

But what about using ceiling fans during the winter? Generating a wind chill effect is only going to make you colder. Thankfully, by performing one simple task and setting your ceiling fans to operate in reverse (clockwise), you can use them to help circulate the warm air in a room, save energy, and increase your comfort.

Setting Ceiling Fans to Run Clockwise

If your ceiling fan is capable of operating in reverse, it will have a small toggle switch on the side. Make sure your ceiling fan is off. Flip the switch and turn your ceiling fan back on. It should now be turning in the opposite direction. Instead of pushing air down and creating a wind chill effect, the fan’s blades should be forcing air up.

This may sound like the wrong way to do things at first. After all, you want warm air to be forced down so that you’re more comfortable and your thermostat won’t be activated to run your heater as often. However, this is precisely what you want to happen. Ceiling Fantasia says it best:

You want to run your ceiling fans in reverse. By running your ceiling fans in reverse, the hot air pooling at the top of the ceiling will be forced to the outer edges of your rooms and then be forced down along the walls to the floor. After the air hits the floor, it will travel toward the center of the room and then back up through the ceiling fan once again. This will help equalize the temperature of the entire room, saving you energy costs.

Choosing the Right Ceiling Fan and Installing it Correctly

If you don’t have ceiling fans in your home, installing some in the rooms you plan to spend the most time in can help you increase comfort and save money this winter. Here are some tips for choosing the right fan and installing it correctly:

  • Ceiling fans only work well in rooms with ceilings at least 8 feet high
  • When installed, fan blades should be 7–9 feet above the floor and 10–12 inches below the ceiling for best results
  • Fan blades should be no closer than 8 inches from the ceiling and 18 inches from the walls
  • You’ll need larger ceiling fans for larger rooms; fans with diameters of 36 inches to 44 inches are best for rooms up to 225 square feet, while fans with diameters of 52 inches or more are best for larger rooms
  • Rooms longer than 18 feet benefit best from more than one ceiling fan
  • Consider more expensive fans for quieter, smoother, more trouble-free operation

Sources

Ceiling Fans Save Energy Costs in the Winter,” Ceiling Fantasia, May 1, 2008.

U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “Ceiling Fans and Other Circulating Fans.”

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