Ceiling fans can help make a huge dent in your summer cooling costs -- if they're used properly. Keeping the fan set to a "forward" direction -- which is counter-clockwise -- has the most impact and the most cooling effects, whether you use the fan on its own or combined with an air conditioner.
Most ceiling fans have a means of changing the fan's direction. This adjustment may be found on a wall switch, a remote control, or on the fan itself on its motor housing. Select "forward," which indicates the normal operating direction of the fan. If the fan's controls do not indicate forward and reverse, turn the fan on to its lowest speed setting and stand directly beneath the fan. The blades should turn counter-clockwise if it is set properly. If not, turn the fan off and move the switch on the motor housing to the other setting. You should feel the air flow against your skin much more than when the fan is set to reverse.
What Really Happens
The angle of the fan blades affects the air as the fan turns, no matter which direction the blades rotate. When set for a forward or counter-clockwise motion, the fan blades create a downdraft, forcing air directly down beneath the fan. This causes a "windchill" effect against you if you're standing nearby.
The Benefits of Blade Direction
A ceiling fan spinning counter-clockwise can make the room feel up to 8 degrees cooler than it really is, even without air conditioning. If used along with an air conditioner, the fan can help lower your cooling bills. Set the thermostat to 3 or 4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than your usual air-conditioning setting, and then turn on the fan. The air circulation, paired with the cooler air, provides the same comfort level with less strain on the air conditioner.
While the fan can cut cooling costs when used along with air conditioning, the savings arise from raising the thermostat. If you keep the thermostat set to its usual temperature, then turn on the fan, using the fan will actually cost you more, because the fan uses electricity as well. The thermostat adjustment is the key to savings. Whether you use a ceiling fan with air conditioning or on its own, turn the fan off when no one's in the room. Unlike air conditioning, the fan doesn't really cool the air, but it makes the room feel cooler because of the air movement. If you aren't in the room, there's no reason to keep the fan on, as it costs money to operate it.