The right speed level (summer and winter)

What is better? A smooth pace of 50 revolutions per minute or a turbo speed with more than 200 rpm? There is no real answer to this question. The rotation speed of ceiling fans needs to be adjusted individually in a way that provides sufficient air movement without causing any uncomfortable draught. How strongly the cooling effect is perceived depends on the sensitivity of the user. Particularly during winter mode there is no additional cooling, it only serves the purpose of recirculating warm air throughout the room. A controllable speed is crucial for the fine tuning of your ceiling fan.

Reading time complete guide 6 min or skip directly to the summary


  • Forward and reverse function
  • Operation in the winter
  • Operation in the summer
  • Overview of controllers
  • Hazards of draught
  • Summary

Forward and reverse function

Many, though not all ceiling fans are controlled with so-called pull cords. Usually they are already included in basic models. The fan speed and if applicable, the light is activated by a light pull. Some models, in particular commercially used fans, are installed without the cords for aesthetic reasons. Another motive for going without pull cords is a tall ceiling where the strings are simply impractical and hard to reach without stepping on a ladder. In that case it is recommended to opt for a remote control or wall control instead.

Once you have decided in favour of a model, it is necessary to find the optimal rotation speed. On cold days other factors have to be considered when using the reversing feature that when the fan moves in summer mode.

PS: Whether the ceiling fan’s winter mode is clockwise or anticlockwise, depends on the manufacturer. However, there is a way to find out which mode the fan is currently adjusted: Position yourself directly under the ceiling fan. If a noticeable airflow is coming down on you directly from above, the ceiling fan is operating in summer mode. If the airflow has more of a sideways movement along the ceiling and the walls of the room, it is in reverse.

Operation in the winter

In the majority of cases the function of summer and winter mode of ceiling fans is determined by a manual reversing switch on the side of the motor housing.

A ceiling fan in winter mode is not used for cooling, but rather for recovering heat and forcing down to the lower part of the room. The (reverse) mode is one of the many benefits a ceiling fan has to offer. During the reverse function you should not be able to feel any cool draught. The winter mode is useful in rooms with a maximum ceiling height of about 2.80m / 9ft. The feature is selected either with a switch on the fan housing or the remote control. Cold air from the floor level is taken in and transported up to the ceiling by the suction that is generated. The air then blends with the heat from the upper level of the room, afterwards moving down to the ground again at a more pleasant temperature. Unpleasant draught is prevented and a consistent (re-)circulation of air is ensured. Not only warm air from the radiator but also from the fireplace can be treated by the ceiling fan.

Want more information about saving heating costs? Check our ceiling fan winter guide

The rotation speed should be appropriate for the room size and diameter of the fan. Usually, the “golden mean” is right. Many ceiling fans come with anything between 3 and 6 speed levels. Let’s assume the following example: Once ceiling fan has three speeds (1. 80 rpm; 2. 130 rpm; 3. 180 rpm). In that case the medium speed would probably be the best choice for efficient results.

In regards to the rotation speed there is no difference for the motor whether the fan moves clockwise or anticlockwise. In order to distribute warmed air it is also possible to use the lowest “summer” mode of your fan. The speeds can also be slowed down to a minimum with a special controller or transformer.

Our tip: Energy-saving fans with a DC motor are equipped with up to six speed levels thanks to their new technology. The “Eco Elements” from the CasaFan range even comes with a slow motion speed. A remote control is already included to ensure ease of use, there is no need for any additional controllers. More about the topic controllers is available later in this guide.

Operation in the summer

On hot summer days owners are able to enjoy the entire spectrum of rotation speeds of a ceiling fan. During the day you counter hot temperatures on medium or high speed and benefit from the lowest setting during the night. The fan operates so quietly that your sleep will not be disturbed by noise.

The generated airflow meets our skin and gives a pleasant and cool sensation. That is why it is so important to have the option to individually adjust the ceiling fan to prevent a cooling effect that is too strong. Often radio or infrared remote controls are utilised simply because they offer great convenience, allowing you to select the required setting in a fast, effortless manner. Of course, these adjustments can also be made by using a pull cord or wall controller instead.

In summary it can be said that the rotation speeds are changed more often in the summer than in the winter. If you are sensitive to sudden changes in temperature it is better to opt for a fan with six instead of three speeds. This gives you more room to fine-tune the operation of your fan. Often you will find that basic models can be upgraded with controller units if required.

Overview of controllers

Select the speed of fans with a pull cord, remote control or wall control. 

Start, standby, lighting e.g. intensitiy and colour, fan speed and direction of the motor are features most modern ceiling fans are equipped with. Basic configurations can be done directly on the device with pull cords or switches. As the fan is mounted outside of reach, external controllers are a handy solution. By implementing sensor TDA technology, step transformers or continuously variable controllers you can regulate several fans at once, for example in storage buildings.

⮩ Fans are rarely supplied without any type of control. Whether you require any additional control systems or not is always stated in the item description. If you have a universal remote control it is cheaper to buy a second fan without controller. Otherwise it makes sense to always included a control in your order.

The CasaFan Slow Motion Module reduces the speed of fans to about 45 revolutions per minute which equals an extremely slow and quiet operation. By comparison: Usually speeds of AC fans range from 90 to 250 rpm. The curbed operation is useful if the ceiling fan only offers a small amount of possible fan speeds. The motor of the fan is not affected by the external controller. However the module is not suitable for direct current models. As the energy-saving DC models come with up six speeds anyway, it is also not needed.

The quantity of the fan blades impacts the volume of transported air. The energy-saving Turno for example can be installed with three, four or five blades down to your whim. Another important factor for the airflow is the pitch and shape of the blades. Give it a “whirl” and see what works best for you and your environment.

Hazards of draught

If the fan is accidentally running too fast it can create an excessive cooling effect. The user is then forced to act and change the settings. Hot summers tempt users into putting on high speed. In case of energy-saving Eco models this puts hardly a strain on the electricity bill, so there should be no reason to slow down, right? Quite the contrary. A high-performance fan on high speed can lead to all impairments you might know from taking a walk in a strong breeze:

  • Watery eyes, perhaps inflammation
  • Earache
  • Unwanted extreme cold
  • Shivering, getting a cold
  • Dry, irritated skin
  • Sore throat, tense nape
  • Muscular cramps

Children and pets should be kept away from a rotating fan for reasons of safety. In case of ceiling fans, accidental touch by them is quite unlikely, though. Lastly, carefully styled hair-dos or spread out tax return documents should not be blown away - moderate speed is the key. That is why a controller module should also be used during summer mode.

Did you know…
In South Korea there is a myth of the fan death. According to superstition, running a fan at night in closed rooms can have a lethal effect. Rest assured though, a ceiling fan will neither to asphyxiation nor hypothermia. Those who believe in this misconception do not use any automatic electric fans or air conditioning systems – another means of control by the way.


Pull cords, wall controls, remote controls and step transformers are all suitable for the regulation of ceiling fans. Transformers add even more levels to the device. Control systems in professional environments offer synchronized operation of several fans at once. Remote controls are generally very practical as they allow users to select all settings from the comfort of their couch. Both during the summer and winter mode it is important to fine-tune the airflow. Draught can affect the health and is harmful for the well-being. By utilising an appropriate controller you can optimise the airflow. An automatic timer is best for the bedroom.

Product pictures: creoven
Image child with fan: Andi_Graf, CC0 Public Domain,