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Large Diameter, Low Speed Fans Work Year-Round for Manufacturing Spaces

Tue, 07/17/2012 - 2:04pm
Erin Holaday Ziegler

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Many manufacturers face challenges with energy costs, employee comfort and product integrity year-round. Large diameter, low speed fans go to work to overcome these challenges in industrial facilities around the world. As a means of effective air circulation, big fans reduce condensation, improve overall air quality, disperse localized fumes and keep workers comfortable with smooth, non-turbulent airflow.

Getting to work
Cost-effectiveness is a key consideration supporting the benefits provided by large diameter fans. Following that same agenda, businesses are able to keep workers comfortable in a far more energy-efficient manner, reducing operating costs and dependence on expensive heating and cooling systems. Studies have shown that improved occupant comfort leads to increased productivity, with worker productivity decreasing as temperatures rise above 77 F.

Comfortable employees can spend more energy on the task at hand without experiencing heat discomfort or exhaustion. With fewer days missed due to accidents and illness, increased worker productivity positively affects the bottom line.

The sensation of feeling comfortable is not dependent on air temperature alone. Human thermal comfort takes into account numerous environmental factors, including temperature, thermal radiation, humidity and air speed as defined by ASHRAE Standard 55-2010 (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-conditioning Engineers), along with personal factors including activity level and clothing.

When the temperature and humidity rise, the body’s ability to cool itself decreases. Reducing the amount of clothing insulation and incorporating natural ventilation where applicable are both highly valuable for increasing comfort. Reducing activity level is not generally an option in a manufacturing environment, so other solutions, such as applying gentle, non‐disruptive, non‐turbulent airflow from large diameter, low speed fans aids in the evaporative cooling process, can be used to help maintain occupant comfort, even in hot conditions. 

In non-air-conditioned spaces, ventilation systems can bring the required amount of outdoor air into the space, but do not address thermal comfort needs.

In settings with air conditioning, reaching all occupants in a space becomes a challenge. According to Christian Taber, senior applications engineer for the Big Ass Fan Company of Lexington, Ky., there are several important factors to consider when choosing a cooling system.

“In densely occupied spaces, air conditioning systems are generally not capable of effectively distributing conditioned air to all occupants,” Taber said. “Large circulator fans turn the air in the space over several times per hour, ensuring good air distribution and generating a cooling effect that increases occupant comfort.”

Year-round savings
Overhead fans aren’t only useful to provide cooling. Over the past decade, the cost of fuels used to heat large facilities, such as warehouses, has increased dramatically. This increase has stimulated interest in heat destratification as a way to improve efficiency while maintaining employee comfort throughout the winter. The use of large diameter, low speed fans has proven to be an effective means in which to equalize air temperatures between floor and ceiling levels, contributing significantly to a decrease in the amount of fuel needed to keep occupants comfortable in the space.  

Federated Co-operatives Ltd., occupies numerous warehouses to stock retail shops, fueling stations, building material supply centers and refineries in western Canada. Trevor Carlson, Federated’s Environmental and Technical Services manager, predicted a fair amount of heat was being wasted at the ceilings of these large facilities. By bringing this heat down, he thought, they could decrease the rate at which their buildings were shedding heat through the roof.

Carlson conducted pilot tests in the 80,000 sq. ft. loading dock of their 300,000 sq. ft. Saskatoon warehouse, installing of five 24-ft. diameter, low speed Big Ass Fans®. 

“We calculated our heating index for the year prior and the year after installing the Big Ass Fans,” he said. “After a very short period of operation, we noticed multiple benefits.  The workers in the warehouse actually wanted the temperature decreased in the winter because they were too warm. That was very encouraging for us as we were able to change the set points on the thermostats because the fans were bringing the heat down, keeping workers comfortable while reducing our costs.”

The bottom line
Industrial fans can affect a manufacturer’s earnings in terms of product integrity as well as energy use. Corrosion costs the metal fabrication industry millions of dollars annually, especially during the fall and spring months when temperatures vary widely from day to night.

Air movement disturbs the thin film of air on the metal surface, which in turn dramatically reduces the likelihood of condensation to form. This also prevents the stagnant warm, moist air from being cooled below its dew point by the cold surface of the metal.

Air movement produced by the fan speeds the evaporation rate of the moisture on the metal’s surface by one-third, decreasing the time in which corrosion has to form, and in turn saving inventory.

Other product problems prevented or reduced by the air movement created by large diameter, low speed fans include paperboard weakened by humidity and mold growth on materials such as wood. Both of these issues can be ameliorated by increasing air movement.

A no-brainer
With an increasingly difficult economic environment, many medical device manufacturers are challenged to cut costs without cutting quality. Large diameter, low speed fans help manufacturing facilities meet these challenges with energy savings, increased worker comfort and improved product integrity year-round.

Erin Ziegler came to the Big Ass Fan Company with a background in higher education and public relations. She is frequently published in trade/industrial B2B magazines and online media outlets focusing on the impact of High Volume, Low Speed (HVLS) fan technology.

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