How Ceiling Fans Work

Turning on a Ceiling Fan

Once you finish installing your ceiling fan, you can cool yourself below it.
Once you finish installing your ceiling fan, you can cool yourself below it.
Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock

As you've already seen, ceiling fans are made up of a few basic parts: the base plate, the motor (with housing) and blades. So how do the parts actually work together to provide the cooling sensation that people love?

When you turn on your fan, electricity runs through the electrical wiring to the fan's motor, which begins turning the blades. The rotation of the blades creates airflow throughout the room. You can change the settings on the fan to create an updraft (air moving upward) or a downdraft (air moving downward), depending on the type of airflow you want. (A downdraft is desirable in summer, while an updraft is helpful in winter. But we'll discuss that in more detail later.) If a fan is accessorized with a lighting kit, it will typically have two pull cords hanging from the decorative casing, one for the fan and one for the lighting. When you pull the cord to turn on the lights, the electricity will travel the same way through the fan to the light bulb itself. These fans may also have two separate wall switches for each function as well.

The cooling sensation that you feel when you stand under a fan is also quite interesting. It feels as if the room is becoming cooler, but in fact, it's your body that is cooling. The reason it feels cooler is because the downdraft of air is actually helping to evaporate the perspiration on the surface of your skin and pushing away the body heat that you expel. So, when your fan feels like a cool summer breeze, it actually is.