If you are struggling to keep your house cool in the warmer months then you might want to consider a ceiling fan. But how do they work? And what are the different speed settings? Keep reading to find out more.

How do ceiling fans work?

Before you can understand ceiling fan speeds, you need to know how ceiling fans work. A lot of people think that ceiling fans cool down the air in the room, similar to an air conditioning unit.

This is not the case. The ceiling fan circulates the air that is already in the room. If the air is circulating, the temperature of the room will drop.

Hot air is lighter than cool air, which causes it to rise. The warmer air meets the ceiling fan, which has a mechanism to further attract the warm air upwards.

The ceiling fan has rotating blades which slice through the hot air and disperse it, pushing it back down into the room. This process is continuous, keeping the air circulating throughout the space.

The faster the fan circulates the air, the quicker the room will cool down. The efficiency of a ceiling fan is measured in CMM – cubic meters per minute.

If a ceiling fan has a CMM of 230 then you know that the fan can circulate 230 cubic meters of air every minute. This is considered to be a good performance. Anything below 200 CMM is considered to be a lesser quality of performance.

How do you measure ceiling fan speed?

The speed of the ceiling fan plays an important role in the overall efficiency and performance. Ceiling fan speed is measured in RPM – rotations per minute.

If a ceiling fan has an RPM of 300, this means that the fan makes a full rotation 300 times every minute. Most standard ceiling fans have an RPM of between 300 and 350, but you can also get high-speed ceiling fans that have RPMs up to 390 and low-speed fans that have an RPM as low as 40.

Ceiling Fan Speeds (1)

What is the difference between high-speed ceiling fans and low-speed ceiling fans?

As well as standard ceiling fans that are used in most domestic situations, you can also buy high-speed and low-speed ceiling fans. But what is the difference between them?

High-speed ceiling fans can reach much higher RPMs (rotations per minute) and tend to have a higher CMM (cubic meters per minute). This means that they can cool down a larger space much faster. This is why you will often find them in larger spaces like warehouses, or big office spaces.

Using one or two high-speed ceiling fans to cool a large room is often more cost-efficient than using 4 or 5 standard ones.

Low-speed ceiling fans are better for small spaces and are often cheaper to run, making them more economical if you don’t need to cool down a large room.

What are the different speed settings on a ceiling fan?

Most ceiling fans come with different speed settings. This allows you to control the temperature of the room by adjusting how quickly the air is circulated throughout the space. The exact speed settings will vary depending on which brand and model of ceiling fan you have installed in your home or office.

Most ceiling fans will have three basic settings – slow, medium, and fast. Some also have additional settings such as night mode which keeps the fan at a slower speed and operates as quietly as possible so that you are not disturbed by the noise.

How do you change the speed of your ceiling fan?

There are two main ways of controlling the speed settings of ceiling fans. A lot of ceiling fans have a pull cord that you can reach from a standing position. Pulling it once turns the fan on to the lowest setting, pulling it a second time increases the speed, pulling it a third time increases the speed even more, and pulling it a fourth time turns the fan off.

Modern ceiling fans have a remote control which means that you can change the speed settings of the fan from anywhere in the room. It also means that you choose which setting you want right away rather than having to cycle through each different speed setting.

Which speed setting is best?

You might assume that the faster speed settings are always the best, but this is not necessarily the case. If you have a small room and you put your ceiling fan on the highest setting, you might find that it gets too cold. You need to think about what temperature you want the room to be, and how large the room is.

Faster settings can also cause more powerful airflow – if you are working with paper documents then they could be disturbed and blow around, which is inconvenient. This means you might prefer to put your ceiling fan in a lower setting.

You should also consider energy efficiency. If you can achieve the desired temperature at a lower setting, why use a higher setting and waste energy? This will just increase the cost of your utility bills.

Some people put their ceiling fan on a high setting for a little while to cool down the room, then switch to a lower setting to maintain the desired temperature.

What other settings do ceiling fans have?

Depending on how modern or advanced your ceiling fan is, you might have other settings to choose from as well as speed. Some ceiling fans have a ‘winter mode’ or ‘reverse mode’ which causes the blades to rotate in the opposite direction. This encourages the warm air down into the room rather than up towards the ceiling, keeping you warmer.

This can help save on energy costs as you are using the heat already in the room.

Other settings might include directional tilts to have better control over the flow of air, and night modes that reduce noise and keep the fan running at a slower speed.


Most ceiling fans have a low, medium and high-speed setting. The exact speeds of each setting will depend on the fan.