Use your ceiling fan for cheaper heating

Using a ceiling fan alongside your heater can save you money and make you feel more comfortable.

20jun use your ceiling fan hero

Your ceiling fan needn’t gather cobwebs over winter. Our hack will have you using your fan year-round and might even help reduce your power bills when the temperature drops.

The downside of heaters

Most heaters heat a room by convection – heat rises, so the air close to the ceiling warms up first. If you have a high stud, it’ll take even longer for the warmth to reach you. By the time you’re feeling toasty on the couch, the ceiling will probably be sweltering. This heat is eventually lost to your roof space.

How can a ceiling fan help?

Ceiling fans often have a winter setting, where they run in reverse. This draws cooler air from lower in the room, so warm air pooled at the ceiling will be forced down to replace it. The fan doesn’t need to run at a high speed, just enough to create some air turbulence in the room.

How we tested our theory

We installed a ceiling fan in our 2.4m-high test lab, which has a 2000W convection heater set up next to a wall – just as you would in your home. To start, we set the thermostat to 18.5°C and measured how much power the heater used over an hour. We also assessed the temperature profile across the room to see how even the heating was. Next, we turned our ceiling fan on to its winter mode on its lowest speed and repeated the process.

A ceiling fan will save you money

Without the fan, our heater used 1.7kW to maintain the temperature at 18.5°C. With the fan spinning away in reverse, power use dropped to 0.7kW. So we saved a full kilowatt over an hour – that’s a 58% saving. In terms of running costs, this went from 44¢ per hour down to 18¢. Scale that up to over an entire winter of heating and the savings you stand to make can be huge.

The fan also used some power, but not much. We measured it at a measly 9W (less than a quarter of a cent per hour).

A fan will make you more comfortable

The temperature profile across our test lab completely evened out. Without the fan, the ceiling was almost 30°C, while the air gradually cooled as it got lower. This affects your feeling of comfort as you end up with a hot head and cold feet.

The fan totally changed this. The temperature evened out and the only hot spot in the room was the heater itself.

How to use a fan in your home

This hack also works with other forms of heating (especially woodburners). Even heat pumps and fan heaters, which do a pretty good job of evenly spreading the warmth, can end up pooling wasted heat up high. Don’t have a ceiling fan? Use a plug-in pedestal fan next to your heater instead. It’ll help spread the heat through the room faster and more evenly, and still should help you save on power.

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Geoffrey H.
14 Jun 2020
Heat pump as fan

I've used my high ceiling mounted heat pump on Fan mode each winter for this purpose sucessfully for years. I have a wood burner and once it's lit and putting out the heat, I switch the heat pump to fan-only mode and direct the louvers downwards. Makes for a warmer room faster. I do the same with the heat pump in the hallway to move the wood burner heat throughout the house.
(If you stand on a stool and put your hand up near the ceiling, you get a sense of the amount of trapped heat up there.)

Leslie O.
20 Jun 2020
Circulating Heat

Use our Heat Pump fan the same. Leave door to hall open and in helps heat rest of house to a higher temp. Particularly overnight.

Vivian N.
14 Jun 2020
Ceiling fan to help create more even heat in a room

We took up your recommendation the evening we read how beneficial ceiling fans can be in distributing heat from heaters. We have a high stud and a heat pump and sure enough, the room was quickly so much more comfortable and we soon lowered the temperature setting of the heat pump. It works, and am sorry we didn't think up the idea!

13 Jun 2020
Apparently only works if you have flat ceilings

I looked into this some time ago, as I have very high pitched ceilings. The existing fan has no winter mode. I asked the fan installation people, and they said it wasn't worth replacing existing fan with a reverse cycle one for that reason. Be interested to know if anyone else has had similar advice

Bonnie C.
14 Jun 2020
Works great on cathedral ceiling

I've always used fans in upward (winter) mode for my high ceilings. Works great. I can't imagine why someone would say it wouldn't.

Rachel K.
13 Jun 2020
Fans without winter mode?

Great graphic of the temperature gradient. How much would the turbulence from a ceiling fan on low without winter mode help? Or can I get an electrician to replace the switch to offer a winter mode in the existing fan?

Diane K.
13 Jun 2020
High pitch

We had a fan in a house with a steep pitch many years ago and found it made a big difference. we had a woodburner. It may depend on where the fan is placed. Try using it the summer mode anyway. Check on the side of the fan itself above the blades, that's where the switch for winter mode will be.

Consumer staff
15 Jun 2020
Fans without winter mode?

Hi Rachel,
We didn't try out a non-winter mode with our fan but I think it would still work really well if you use your fan on it's lowest setting. It'd be an interesting winter experiment for you to try on consecutive cold nights to see if it makes a real difference in your home.
I'm not too sure if an electrician can make those adjustments for you, the fan model itself might not be able to do it, but it's probably worth giving them a call to find out.
Kind regards
James le Page - Technical writer

Dawn B.
13 Jun 2020
Great tip

Thanks. This makes sense and sounds like a good option to boost heating.

Leslie O.
20 Jun 2020
Circulating Heat

Brought some cheap thermometers and have placed them round the house so can see what warm airflow difference it makes. Up to 5 deg. in back of house. Only !00 m2..