Do you know which way your ceiling fan should turn in the summer?
No, this is not a philosophical question, like "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" This is a practical question, and before you set that fan spinning, you should know the right answer.
Clockwise or counterclockwise?
To stay cool in the summertime, you'll want to make sure your ceiling fan is turning counterclockwise.
Unless you have a very outdated ceiling fan, there should be a switch on the side of the motor that controls the blade direction. First, turn the fan off and make sure the blades have stopped moving completely. Then, simply reach up (you might need a ladder) and flip the switch to send the blades the opposite way.
You can stand under the fan and easily see which way the blades are moving. You'll feel it, too -- when the blades move counterclockwise, the fan sends cooler air downward. The breeze that you feel is known as the wind chill effect. Turn up the speed on the fan to feel it even more.
Should you use your ceiling fan in winter?
With all this discussion of which way your fan should turn in the summertime, you might be wondering, "Should I use my ceiling fan in winter?" The short answer is yes.
Don't confuse your ceiling fan with your air conditioning. While an AC is built to lower a room's temperature, a fan is simply meant to keep the air circulating, not make the room cold. You can use this to your advantage in the wintertime. All you have to do is flip the fan's switch and send those blades going in a clockwise direction. Instead of sending cool air down, the fan will pull it upward.
Remember, warm air rises, so instead of it all hanging out by the ceiling, a fan set on low speed will distribute it throughout the room. It won't keep things toasty, but you will feel a difference.
Exceptions to the rule
Depending on where your ceiling fans are, you'll want to keep the blades going in a certain direction all year round. Here are some examples:
If you've got high ceilings, you can keep your fan blades going counterclockwise all year. As long as you keep your fan speed on low in the winter, the fan is likely too far away for you to feel much wind chill effect.
Be sure to set your dining room ceiling fan to clockwise. Otherwise, you'll cool off your hot meal rather quickly. In fact, this might be a very good reason not to upgrade the ceiling in the dining room with a fan in the first place.
Whether you're working from home or at the office, if you deal with a lot of paperwork, you'll want to do it under a fan that's moving clockwise. If not, you might want to include paperweights as part of the office budget.
The bottom line
Don't assume your ceiling fan is only useful in the summertime. As long as it's moving in the right direction, it'll keep your space temperate all year round.