How Do Ceiling Fans Work? Your Questions, Answered

how do ceiling fans work

Winter is coming to an end, and the warmth of summer is just around the corner. The first thing that probably comes to mind is long days at the pool, but summer also comes with blistering heat. This means you’ll soon be cranking your air conditioner and flipping the switch on your ceiling fan.

Have you ever asked yourself “how do ceiling fans work?” If you have, then you’re in luck! Read on to learn everything you need to know about ceiling fans.

How Do Ceiling Fans Work, Mechanically?

Ceiling fans are a relatively simple structure in terms of mechanics.

Most ceiling fans consist of a canopy that connects to a down rod. The down rod is connected to the motor like the DC ceiling fan motor and the motor housing. At the bottom of the motor are two to five angled blades.

Ceiling fans may or may not have a light fixture affixed to the bottom of the fan.

In order to safely hang a fan, it must be attached to a fan-rated electrical box affixed to a joist in the ceiling.

Once the fan is installed, all you need to do is flip a switch or pull the attached chain to turn it on. The motor spins the blades to circulate the air in the room.

Do Fans Cool the Air?

When it’s sweltering in the summer, turning on a ceiling fan can help make you feel cooler in your living space. That doesn’t mean that ceiling fans can actually cool the air.

Fans help you feel cooler when they’re on because of the wind chill effect. When wind hits your body, it results in convective heat loss. Simply put, this is a process that occurs when your body is producing heat and wind carries the heat away from your body, lowering your body’s temperature.

The wind chill effect is the reason why temperatures in winter always feel colder than the actual recorded temperature. This process is enhanced if your body is producing sweat because the wind boosts your body’s ability to cool itself.

It’s All About the Rotation

You know that your ceiling fan can keep you cool in the summer, but did you know that it can help warm your house during the winter? The secret is all in the direction in which the blades rotate.

Warm air rises and cool air sinks. When you run your heater in the winter, warm air becomes trapped near the ceiling. Running your ceiling fan in a forward motion pushes hot air up and back down the sides of your room in order to more evenly distribute the heat.

Running your ceiling fan in reverse is what creates the breezy feeling you know and love. Most fans have a switch close to the motor housing that you can flip that will change the direction in which they spin.

A good rule of thumb to remember is to set it to rotate counter-clockwise in the summer and clockwise in the winter.

Can It Save You Money on Electricity?


You might think that running a fan in addition to your air conditioning unit will just increase the amount of energy you use in the summer. In reality, ceiling fans are an excellent way to improve your air conditioner’s efficiency.

Thanks to the wind chill effect, you can actually turn up the temperature on your thermostat and still get the sensation of a lower temperature. Your fan can also help circulate cool air throughout your house. This means you don’t have to run your AC as much, which results in lower electricity bills.

Choosing a Ceiling Fan

All ceiling fans are not made equal, and there are certain things to need to consider before you make an investment.

The first thing to consider is the size of the room. Larger rooms require larger fans, and they may even require multiple fans. If the space you want to cool is larger than 400 square feet, then you should consider purchasing more than one fan.

You’ll also want to consider the location of the fan. If you are planning on hanging a fan outside and your local weather is humid or the fan has the potential to get wet, then you need to buy a specialized model. Fans that are rated for damp or wet areas will preserve the motor and fan blades.

Can You Install It Yourself?

Installing a ceiling fan is often referred to as a simple job, but it is actually a task for people with electrical experience.

If you are replacing an old fan, then it’s a relatively easy task because the fan box is already installed. If you’re installing a new fan where lighting used to be, or a new fan altogether, then it’s worth giving an electrician a call to complete the task.

Ceiling Fan Maintenance 101

If you use your ceiling fan on a regular basis, then you’re also going to have to take some steps to keep it in good shape.

The fan blades are a magnet for dust and debris. Clean them off regularly wipe down any dust that is on the motor housing. If you notice any strange sounds coming from the fan, then you should contact a professional to diagnose the issue.

Are You Ready to Cool Off?

How do ceiling fans work? How do they keep you cool? The answer to these questions is all in the air your ceiling fan creates when you turn it on and the direction in which it spins.

Utilizing a ceiling fan in your home can help boost your air conditioner in the summer. It can also help you cool on your porch during hot summer nights. With all of these benefits, you should absolutely install a few in your home ASAP!

Do you want to learn more about great appliances that can help make your home more comfortable all year long? Check out the rest of our blog for tons of great content!