Most ceiling fans are able to spin in both directions. However, that doesn’t mean you can just select any one and switch it on. The direction the fan rotates will either provide a cooling breeze you can feel, or there will be no noticeable air movement when spinning in the opposite direction.
If you have installed a new fan or are new to a building, you may not be sure which direction your fan is set to spin. Fortunately, checking is simple if you know what to look out for.
Clockwise blade rotation (left to right) of a ceiling fan is called winter mode. Air is pulled up to displace warm air from around the ceiling. Fan direction can be verified by visually observing the spin direction, checking the blade angle, and confirming that there is no discernible air movement.
Clockwise Rotation Typically Given to Winter Mode
The majority of ceiling fans are designed so that clockwise blade rotation results in air being pulled up. This is classed as winter mode because the idea is to pull cold air up and out of the occupied space and use it to displace the warmer air gathered at the ceiling, which is distributed throughout the occupied space.
Only ceiling fans with reversible spin direction will have this mode. If there is only one option, it will be counterclockwise rotation—summer mode.
On occasion, you may come across a fan that has been designed so that counterclockwise rotation pulls air up and clockwise rotation pushes it down. In such cases, you will have to look for alternative confirmation.
3 Ways to Confirm Clockwise Rotation
1. Visual Confirmation
While some may find determining clockwise rotation easy, others may struggle because it depends a lot on the angle at which you view it and the speed at which it is going.
To visually confirm that your ceiling fan is spinning clockwise, turn it onto the slowest speed setting, so you can still see the blades clearly, and then stand right below it and look up. If the blades are moving left to right, then the fan is turning clockwise.
Using this technique, you can definitely confirm that the fan is spinning clockwise. Most of the time, this means that your fan is in winter mode. However, on the off chance that you have a “backward” fan, then you can check using one or both of the following.
2. Check the Blade Pitch
Ceiling fan blades are pitched. This is what allows them to direct air either up or down. To pull air up, the lowest point of the blade needs to lead. Here’s a quick visualization trick:
- Hold up both of your hands so that your palms are pointing down and your fingertips are touching.
- Tilt your right hand at 45° so that your wrist is higher than your fingers.
- Now, move your left hand forward towards your right hand.
- The fingers of your left hand should slide up the back of your right hand into the space above your hands.
This is what happens when the air hits the lowest point of the fan blade first.
Turn your fan off and look at the blades. Determine which side of the blade is lower and make a mental note that a fan in winter mode will turn so that this side of the blade goes first. Then turn the fan onto the lowest speed setting and confirm if it conforms to the clockwise = winter mode standard.
3. Confirm That There Is No Detectable Airflow
Fans running clockwise in winter mode should not create any significant air movement below the appliance. The idea is that air gets gently scooped up to displace the warm air above the fan, which then gently cascades down into the room.
If you turn your ceiling fan onto the highest setting and you don’t feel a significant flow of air coming down onto you, then you can confirm that the fan is in winter mode. If you previously established that the fan is turning clockwise, then you have confirmed that your fan conforms to the norm.