Timothy Harris
ceiling fans

Your list of ways to keep warm in the winter months probably doesn't include using your ceiling fan, but a standard ceiling fan can actually have a pretty serious impact on the way you heat your home – and, it can even save you money!

Read on to find out how ceiling fans heat your apartment. It only takes a flip of a switch – a switch you probably didn't even know was there.

How a ceiling fan works

Many of us have ceiling fans in our homes and use them to cool things down or get the air circulating to freshen the room up. You probably never suspected a fan could be used to actually keep a room warm. To understand how this works, it's best to understand how ceiling fans work in general.

Ceiling fans have angled blades that push the air in a room. Different models of ceiling fans actually have different degrees of angle on their blades – usually between about 10 and 16 degrees. Fans with blades having an angle less than 10 degrees really don't do much at all in terms of moving air. When you get close to 16-degree angled fan blades, the air movement becomes fairly intense – nearly like a portable box fan.

The premise behind the heating or cooling effect of a ceiling fan is that it moves air either upwards or downwards, depending on the direction of the blades. Flat blades won't provide this effect.

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How ceiling fans heat your apartment

The way you probably think about ceiling fans is the way you think of a standard box fan or table fan – spinning blades that push air forward to provide a cooling effect. However, since ceiling fans move air vertically instead of horizontally, the climate control capabilities of a ceiling fan is a bit more complex.

When using a ceiling fan in the summer months to cool a space, the fan blades push air down through the middle of the room to create a large area of "breezy" conditions to make your skin feel cooler.

However, in the winter, this effect can be revered. How? It works by literally reversing the direction of the fan blades.

When fan blades spin in reverse, the effect is different – air is pulled upwards instead of pushed downwards. If your heat supply (vents, radiator or baseboard heaters) are near the floor, a reversed fan will work to pull warm air upwards. If your heat comes from near the ceiling, the reversed fan will pull heavy cold air from the floor and mix it with warm air near the ceiling for an evener temperature throughout the space.

Not only does this effect actually help a room to feel warmer, but it could also save your heating unit a lot of power and ultimately keep some money in your pockets.

How to make it happen

Now that you understand how ceiling fans heat your apartment, you might be wondering what you need to do to make this happen in your own home. Like we said earlier, it's literally as easy as flipping a switch.

flipping switch on fan

Photo courtesy of Brian Carberry

Near the base of the ceiling fans in your home, you'll likely find a small, black toggle switch. Flip this to switch the direction of the fan blades.

Counterclockwise is typically the setting you would want to use to cool a room in the summer and vice versa for the winter months – this is the case on most models of ceiling fans. However, there's a way to test your fan to be sure.

Stand near the edges of the room with the fan running at full speed. If you feel a gentle, slightly-warm breeze flowing from the ceiling downwards, your fan is set for heating the space. This is perfect for the winter.

If instead, you feel a breeze across the entirety of the room but strong in the center, your fan is set for the summer.

If you're looking to save on energy costs and keep your home nice and cozy this winter, think about looking to your ceiling fan for some help. Just don't forget to switch it back next season!

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About The Author

Timothy Harris

Timothy Harris is a freelance writer based in Albuquerque. He brings a professional background in event marketing, residential real estate and journalism to the table to provide useful and relevant content for the modern renter. Timothy has previously written content for Karsten & Associates in New Mexico and Up 'til Dawn, a philanthropic fundraiser that benefits St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

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