Should My Ceiling Fan Switch Be Up Or Down?

Generally, you need to toggle the ceiling fan switch down for the summer for downward airflow and up in the winter for upward airflow.

However, the up-down switching only works for vertical switches. If your fan has a horizontal switch, flip it to the left during the summer or to the right during the winter.

The down/left switch position in the summer causes the ceiling fan to rotate in a counter-clockwise direction, pushing cool air down towards the floor. The action produces a chilling wind effect on the skin and makes the room feel cooler. This is why counter-clockwise fan operation is advantageous in the summer. The fan alone can make the room feel up to eight degrees cooler to the people underneath,

Meanwhile, the up/right switch position causes the ceiling fan to rotate in a clockwise direction, gently pulling air upwards. The action pushes the warm air found close to the ceiling downwards, effectively raising the temperatures on the floor. This explains why clockwise fan rotation works so well in winter.

So, what about fans without the toggle switch? Also, for fans with the toggle switch, where is it located, and when should you toggle it? Let’s find out.

How Ceiling Fans Work

The ceiling fan comprises five main components;

  1. An electric motor: The electric motor converts electrical energy into mechanical energy. Different ceiling fans have different motors depending on the type of fan.
  2. Fan blades: The blades rotate to stir the air. During the cooling days, you can feel the breeze across your skin. Fan blades are sometimes called wings or paddles.
  3. Metal arms: The arms are metal components that connect the motor to the blade wings. It also holds the blades in position.
  4. A flywheel: The flywheel is attached to the motor’s shaft and is responsible for the rotation motion of the blades. The metal arms are directly attached to the flywheel.
  5. Mechanism to mount the fan: Options here include ball-and-socket systems, j-hooks or claw hooks, low-ceiling adapter kits, and close-to-ceiling mounts.

Optional parts of the ceiling fan include a down rod, motor housing, a switch cup/housing, blade badges, and lamps.

When you turn on the fan at the electric socket, electricity flows from the electrical wiring in your house to the fan’s motor. This motor is designed to convert electrical energy to mechanical energy. As soon as it detects electrical current, the motor’s capacitor creates torque that causes the motor to start and run.

However, what creates the high rotating speeds is the wire coil inside the motor. When electrical current enters the fan, it enters the coils of wire wrapped around a metal base. Passing current through the coil creates a magnetic field that exerts a force on the motor, causing it to rotate.

In this way, electric current is converted to mechanical energy that causes the fan motor to spin continuously. Since the blades are attached to the motor, they rotate in sync with the motor. Thus, you can change the speed of the fan as you wish.

The Direction of the Rotation Directly Affects the Feeling Underneath

The ceiling is an all-season appliance. It’s valuable throughout the year, from the coldest months of the winter to the peak of summer. It all comes down to the direction of the rotation.

Anti-Clockwise Rotation in the Summer Makes You Feel Cooler

During the summer, you’re required to set the ceiling fan to rotate in a counter-clockwise direction. Why? Because counter-clockwise fan rotation pushes cool air downward, thus causing a cooler feeling underneath.

The cooling effect is different from what you’d get from an air conditioner. Air conditioners extract heat from indoor air and dump it outside the house, leaving your home feeling cool and comfortable. Meanwhile, fans only create a breeze across your skin. They don’t necessarily lower indoor the amount of heat in indoor air.

Nevertheless, ceiling fans can have a significant impact on how you feel. Research shows that you’ll feel 8˚F cooler underneath a ceiling fan. Indeed, according to the US Department of Energy, using a ceiling fan together with an air conditioner allows you to set your thermostat 4˚F lower without a change in comfort levels.

The result is that you can save substantially without compromising on comfort. Some studies show that simply incorporating a ceiling fan can allow you to save up to 40% on cooling costs.

Clockwise Rotation in Winter Makes You Feel Warmer

During winter, you’re required to set the fan to rotate in a clockwise direction. The reason is that clockwise ceiling fan rotation helps draw the warm air pooled around the ceiling downward, creating a warmer feeling, even if only slightly.

Naturally, warm air rises because it’s lighter, while cooler air stays around the floor surface because it’s denser. Therefore, it can feel much warmer around the ceiling than down on the floor. It’s why your feet feel coldest of all your body parts during winter. It’s also why the floor feels colder than the rest of the room during cold weather.

When you set the ceiling fan to rotate in a clockwise direction in the winter, it causes the blades to pull down the warm air from the ceiling to the floor, resulting in a warmer feeling for the people underneath. The improved warmth levels around the people underneath can allow you to turn the thermostat down a little and decrease the use of heating devices.

How much money you can save in energy costs varies significantly depending on the ambient temperature and ceiling height. However, most studies show you can save up to 15% of your winter heating power bill by incorporating ceiling fans.

Change the Direction of Rotation at the Switch

 Modern fans come with remote controllers that make it easy to change the direction of fan rotation. You can easily select “Counter-Clockwise” on the remote during the summer and change it to “Clockwise” when winter sets in.

Some remote controllers also use signs rather than words. So, you may find one button with a clockwise sign and another with a counter-clockwise sign.

However, you can still change the fan direction even if your fan has no remote or if the remote doesn’t include direction switching buttons. All you need to do is locate the switch on the fan.

For most ceiling fans, the switch is located on the motor housing, the part of the fan right below the blades. In most cases, the switch toggles up and down, though some models have horizontal switches that toggle left to right. Just remember that;

  1. Down/left switch position turns the fan counter-clockwise: Toggle the fan switch down (for vertical switches) or left (for horizontal switches) during the summer for anti-clockwise blade rotation to generate a downward airflow that makes you feel cooler. 
  2. Up/right switch position turns the fan clockwise: Toggle the fan switch up (for vertical switches) or right (for horizontal switches) during winter for clockwise blade rotation to generate an upward airflow that draws warm air down so that you feel slightly warmer. 

Key Takeaway

The ceiling fan switch should be down or on the left (for horizontal switches) during the summer for counter-clockwise blade rotation as this creates a downward airflow. It creates a wind breeze around the people underneath, leaving your home feeling cooler.

However, at the onset of the winter season, toggle the switch up or to the right (for horizontal switches) for clockwise blade rotation to generate an upward airflow. It helps draw warm air from the ceiling to the floor level, leaving you feeling warmer.