Q: They say you're supposed to reverse the direction of ceiling fans in the winter to improve the circulation of warm air, thus helping your furnace's heating efficiency while reducing your utility bill. But most homes have their warm air ducts at floor level. My house is a little funny in that a previous owner who installed the HVAC system had the ducts placed near the ceiling. Do the same rules still apply?
A: Master builder remodeler Scott Mosby of St. Louis says the technique works. As you know, warm air rises, so the idea in winter is to keep that heated air closer to the floor where people sit to read or watch TV. That's why, Mosby says, it makes sense to make sure your fan is turning clockwise as seen from the floor looking up at the underside of the fan. By doing this, it will push the warm air off the ceiling, down the walls and into that critical living space.
In your case, it seems to make even more sense because most of the warm air is already at the ceiling and won't come down without help. If you have particularly high ceilings, you might try upping the fan speed a notch. It might seem logical to use the summer setting to force the warm air down, but you'd probably wind up uncomfortable sitting in the constant downdraft. You'll probably find the less direct method easier to take. Of course, you can always conduct your own experiment to verify the theory as far as comfort and power bills.
Regardless, ceiling fans should be set to run counterclockwise in the summer. Although this technically does not cool the air one iota, it can make you feel more comfortable by producing a mini windchill effect, allowing you to perhaps turn your thermostat up a degree or two and save energy costs a bit.
Just remember that running the fans when nobody is in the room is a waste of money since it is doing nothing to lower the temperature. In fact, the heat generated by the fan motor could raise it a tad.