Can ceiling fans heat a room?

Ceiling fans have been a staple in most Australian homes for decades, and while they may have been overshadowed by air conditioners, a cool breeze from the trusty ceiling fan can be a true blessing on those hot summer nights. But while they’re the unsung hero of the warmer months, are they as handy during the winter months? Or are they resigned to simply collect dust until jumpers and trackies give way to singlets and stubbies again? To help settle this mystery of life – and potentially save you big on your next electricity bill – we look at whether you can use a ceiling fan to heat your room.

How do ceiling fans work?

Before we plunge into the question on everyone’s lips, it’s best to first look at how a ceiling fan works. Ceiling fans work via a motor installed in the fan itself, which in-turn rotates the blades to create the cooling effect we’ve all come to associate with the humble ceiling fan. While it may seem that the fan is cooling the room, it’s actually just circulating air that’s already there, helping the hotter air to rise above the fan and make the room cooler – or at least seem cooler from where you’re sitting or standing.

So, if this is what happens when blades move in a counterclockwise direction – can a fan make the room feel warmer by spinning anti-clockwise?

Can ceiling fans make a room warmer?

Ceiling fans can indeed make a room warmer, but only to a certain point. As ceiling fans only move the air around the room – rather than actually changing the room temperature as an air conditioner would do – ceiling fans can make a room warmer by circulating the hot air from the ceiling downwards towards where you are sitting or standing. As a result, you (or the room you’re in) should feel warmer from only using your ceiling fan.

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How do ceiling fans make a room warmer?

man installing ceiling fan

The magic of thermodynamics tells us that ceiling fans can definitely warm up a room since hot air rises. This means the temperature at ceiling height is generally higher than it would be at a lower height, such as where you sit on the couch or stand in the kitchen.

But because your ceiling fan is surprisingly close to the ceiling, it’s in a perfect position to push hot air upwards and outwards, where it will eventually make its way down to where you and your guests are huddling. However, pushing this hot air upwards and outwards requires the blades to move clockwise to ensure the hot air moves upwards and actually stay up there.

So, how can you change the direction of your ceiling fan to make a room warmer? On most ceiling fans, there will be a switch on the unit itself that changes which way the blades turn. Of course, where the switch is located depends on each brand and model as the style and design of the ceiling fan will likely determine where the switch is located.

How much energy does the heating setting on a ceiling fan use?

As the only difference between heating and cooling a room with a ceiling fan is which way the blades are going, it stands to reason that your ceiling fan uses the same amount of energy to send blades clockwise as counterclockwise. However, how much energy your ceiling fan will use will depend on factors like the size of the unit, the blade length, and what speed setting you have it at when it’s in use. To find out how much energy your ceiling fan uses, head to our guide on ceiling fan running costs.

Is it worth using a ceiling fan in winter?

Ceiling fan with aircon

Depending on what climate you live in, and how well insulated your house is, switching your ceiling fan to circulate warm air may be all you need to help you feel warm and toasty during the colder months, although most of us will prefer to turn the heater on or grab another jumper just in case.

A ceiling fan may be the cheaper alternative to heating a room, but its effectiveness is also somewhat limited in comparison to air conditioners and heaters, meaning if you’re really feeling the cold, a ceiling fan may not help stop your teeth from chattering. But if you’re only looking to get a bit of air circulation and bump up the temperature slightly, a ceiling fan may just be the option for you.

Picture credits: Apple Kullathida/, Dmitri Ma/, photopixel/

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