This will be short and sweet, just like the amount of time and effort it takes to adjust the switch on your fan.
Ceiling fans are found in almost every home and dates back to 1882 when Phillip Diehl took the same concept from his electrically powered sewing machine (which was also a first) and modified it. While ceiling fans look very simple, they have come a long way in terms of aesthetics, functionality and performance. From the outside, ceilings fans come in different sizes to meet each unique home’s needs, different colors and materials to match interior themes and some come with integrated lights. From the inside, different materials are used to achieve different results from quieter operation, smoother spinning which means less friction and greater efficiency, and then there is a difference in the quality of the parts that affect the longevity of the fan. Innovation has taken its toll on ceiling fans along the way and you’ll find a button on the fan which leads us to the meat of this topic.
Contrary to the beliefs of some people, who I assume have never used the button, it is not an ON/OFF switch; that’s handled by pulling on the cord “x” amount of times until it’s not operational. While this button is small and subtle, don’t let it fool you for anything lesser than it is. In fact, it can be very beneficial to your home when used correctly. The button is there to switch the rotation of the fan between clockwise and counter clockwise to achieve a desired air flow result. The blades on the fan are not perfectly flat if you have ever paid close enough attention. They are intentionally angled to catch air and force it in an upward or downward direction.
During the Summer: Counter Clockwise Spin
A counter clockwise rotation will force air downward by pulling in the air from above the fan and forcing it down below it which is great during those warmer months. Ceiling fans are typically centered in a room so you will be able to feel the refreshing breeze while sitting down on the couch or laying around in bed. While you might feel cooler as a result of a fan, just know that a fan doesn’t actually do anything to reduce the temperature in a room. This is known as a “wind-chill” effect. The use of a fan can save you money during the summer but when used correctly. By making you feel cooler you could potentially turn your thermostat down and still feel comfortable. The problem arises when you try to use too much fan and not enough air conditioner. An air conditioner provides the added benefit of reducing humidity which a fan does not provide. Relying too much on the fan during the stuffy humid months will leave you at greater risk of mold and mildew inside your home.
During the Winter: Clockwise Spin
A clockwise spin pulls the air from below it and forces it upwards. This probably seems contradictory to what you would want, right? The air needs to blow on you for you to get the benefits, right? Well not in this scenario. Warm air rises and good insulation will keep it trapped inside the living space which is the first step. But what do you do with it once it’s up there? The cold air return does a decent job at recirculating the air throughout your home but much of it is still missed. By forcing air upward you push the air up to the ceiling and then outward to the walls and back down to the floor so you can benefit from all the air you are spending money on to heat. This has a similar but opposite effect to the “wind-chill” effect during the summer time. This provides two benefits to you and both have to do with reducing energy. Since the warm air is now coming down to you, you may begin to feel warmer which might allow you to turn your thermostat down and feel just as comfortable as you were before. A lower setting means less energy and less money out of your pocket. Secondly, your returns now have a greater opportunity to capture this warm air and circulate it through the system; cold air takes more energy to make warm than converting warm air to warmer air.
Ceiling fans are a great team mate on team “Home Comfort” but should by no means be treated as the star. A properly functioning HVAC system, meaning tightly sealed, properly sized, properly balance and properly maintained, in addition to a properly insulated home will reduce your urge to turn on the fan. Using a fan alone might make you feel cooler or warmer but in the end they are only there to move air which does not help with many of the health related concerns of filtering air, controlling humidity and actually dropping the temperature in a home.