Ceiling fans: what do they really do for comfort—and what else should we know about them when it comes to our buildings, offices, facilities, and homes?
Typically, the ceilings fans you have in any office or building work by giving you that comfortable breeze and airflow created to cool the skin—or to help distribute the warm air in the winter.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at how to best utilize your fan for increased comfort and how you can begin to navigate future fan purchasing decisions.
How Your Ceiling Fan Really Works
Electricity is of course what drives your fan’s motor. When you turn it on, that electricity runs from the electrical wiring to the fan motor. The result? Your blades start to turn!
That kind of constant rotation in the room is what combats “stale air” and it also helps to increase airflow in your room; in turn, that can help contribute to increase comfort in any room or space when people are present.
Just as you would probably guess, we call it an updraft when the air moves forward; it’s considered a downdraft when the air moves downward (1). One thing many people don’t realize is the need to adjust the fan during seasonal changes.
Specifically, in the summer, you want your fan to blow air downward on the room. Of course, in winter months, that would feel like a draft, so you would want to reverse it to blow the air upward. Typically, your fan is controlled by some sort of motor housing, or your wall switch. It may seem inconvenient to reach it each seasonal change, but changing the switch will do you major favors in improved comfort (4).
But Do Ceiling Fans Really Cool the Room?
It can be slightly confusing to learn that your ceiling fan isn’t exactly cooling the room despite being called a cooling device; rather, the rotation is what allows for more circulation and a greater chance for your body temperature to be lowered as a result.
Think of it this way: often times, the benefit you are seeing when you are in a room with a ceiling fan is the fact that it is moving air over your skin. That change in airflow aids in convective cooling and evaporative cooling (2, 3).
If you stand (or even sleep) near a fan, you tend to feel that the air is cooler. But, in essence, the air is moving around you and your body temperature is what is cooler. That’s because the downdraft is helping your body cool. For example, if you are in a hot gym and you stand near a large ceiling fan, that ceiling fan will be helping your sweat evaporate quicker—and as a result, your body temperature will be lowered.
In the winter months, ceiling fans can be utilized to move the air for better airflow as well. Specifically, fans can help to move air that is “trapped” near the ceiling. With a clockwise motion, that air can be better distributed throughout the room, and that can help to improve heat distribution in your home, facility, or building (1).
What to Remember About Fan Maintenance
Just like other aspects related to the comfort of your air and your overall indoor air quality, your fan actually does need to be properly maintained.
You want the blades to stay as clean as possible; since they tend to collect mites, dust, and other debris, make it a habit to clean them as much as possible or to be sure your cleaning service does so. In busy facilities or offices, this should be done at least on a weekly basis (1).
Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidance on how to lubricate the ceiling fan so that the parts work as optimally as possible. If there are any sounds such as squeaking, clicking, or other unusual noises, take note and examine the fan as it may mean there is a problem or it is nearing the end of its mechanical life (1).
Other signs you may have a problem can include: wobbling blades, off-pitch blades, or even blades that show signs of warping. All of these things can happen over time, but you want to be sure that you look into it before any serious injury or damage occurs (2).
How Can I Tell How Well My Fan Is Performing?
Today’s fans are sold with efficacy labels so that you can see the output and input quantities. You can also get information about how efficient your fan is right on its label, which is critical when making your purchasing decisions.
That efficacy number is going to be a measure of how much air flow you will get from the electrical energy that is put in—typically measured in cubic feet per minute or air flow per watt of electrical power (3). That efficacy will essentially tell you how great that fan is at performing; you obviously want a higher number, and you may need a higher number depending on your type of facility where you are putting the fan.
Your Ceiling Fan’s Efficiency
This relates to another topic: efficiency with your ceiling fan. Since fans aren’t cooling spaces per se—they are just cooling people and helping people to feel more comfortable—it makes sense to turn off a fan when people are not going to be in the room.
(There are exceptions to this in certain applications where machinery or other equipment does in fact need fans and air circulation.) However, for most home applications, it does make sense to turn off fans when you leave a room.
When looking for an energy-efficient ceiling fan, there are many brands that represent both energy savings and comfort, so be sure to shop around before purchasing. Since all fans are required to give you information about their effectiveness, efficiency, airflow, and more, take a look at these factors to find huge savings over time.
We found that the top blade and motor designs are as much as 3 to 9 times as efficient as the worst models (4), so that tells you just how much you may want to look into different models. You can also always visit the ENERGY STAR website (www.energystar.gov) to learn more about certain models and recent innovations such as new fans that even contain filters for your air (4)
Greater Comfort is Here to Help You Find Increased Comfort
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Our qualified technicians offer a special brand of expertise and customer service to every job we perform. From commercial spaces to residential, we’re able to design and deliver heating and cooling solutions that meet your every need. Call our 24/7 team at 859-491-4915 or contact us here.