Fancy term for comfortable
Thermal comfort is what design engineers refer to when they are designing a space with people’s comfort in mind. Breaking it down in terms of general comfort, it’s important to understand that the sensation of feeling comfortable is not just dependent on air temperature alone, although that is a strong contributing factor. 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 amount of clothing.
In non-air-conditioned spaces, installing code-minimum ventilation systems can bring the required amount of outdoor air into the space, but does not address thermal comfort needs imperative for a safe, healthy environment.
Conversely, you can cool the air all you want with air conditioning, but if you cannot get that cool air to all of the occupants, they are not going to be comfortable. According to Christian Taber, senior applications engineer for the Big Ass Fan Company® in 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. 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,” he said.
Anything but cool
Take McQuay International, the world’s second largest heating, ventilation and air conditioning company. Despite their line of work, employees were still subjected to the same debilitating conditions faced by most warehouse-based facilities: a stagnant, hot warehouse that was severely affecting productivity. Workers felt they had enough air, but the small box and floor fans at their disposal were insufficiently distributing the air, creating a crowded, noisy and messy work environment. Appreciating the delicate balance between facility temperature and worker production, Jim Douda, Minnesota facility engineer, recognized the value in promoting a comfortable environment and installed twelve 24-ft. diameter large diameter Big Ass Fans®. “We saw that the employees were concerned before; now, they receive a high level of satisfaction and a more comfortable working environment from these fans,” Douda said.
The effectiveness of a 6- to 24-ft. diameter, slow speed fan lies in its ability to move large volumes of air slowly and gently without disrupting the facility’s atmosphere. In the hot summer months, with the fans operating between 60 to 100 percent of capacity, the additional air movement does not cool the air, but rather creates a cooling sensation as the breeze passes over occupants’ skin, reducing the chance of heat-related illness.
A fan of cool
Studies have shown that occupant comfort leads to increased productivity, specifically indicating worker productivity decreases as temperatures rise above 77 F.1 Further, OSHA standards indicate temperatures of 100.4 F and above are dangerous for workers, while air temperatures that exceed 95 F significantly increase the heat load on the body.2 When temperature and humidity rise, the body’s ability to cool itself decreases. The gentle, non‐disruptive, non‐turbulent airflow aids in the evaporative cooling process.
Fans at work when you’re not
Ceiling fans have gone through a transformation over the past few years, for the first time landing technology and design on an equal playing field. While ceiling fans offer enhanced thermal comfort to the occupants of industrial spaces, it’s important to understand as well how advanced engineering can provide silent comfort to commercial and residential spaces. Magnetic motors and high-efficiency airfoils now provide maximum efficiency without disrupting ambiance, making contemporary ceiling fans far more appealing than their predecessors.
For Basic Urban Kitchen & Bar owner Jon Mangini, restoring his circa 1912 warehouse space into an inviting nightclub and restaurant was a challenging endeavor. The popular nightclub and restaurant in San Diego, Calif., needed to make its HVAC system more effective.
“When I designed the space I put in a lot of air conditioning units and I thought I’d have enough,” he said, “but when you have an industrial space like this with 300 people in here at a time, it really heats up.”
The air conditioner, even when running at full speed, was unable to do the trick. With the installation of a silent, 12-ft. diameter low speed Element® fan from Big Ass Fans, Basic found one of its coolest design features yet.
When cool is not just a frame of mind
Ice-cold lemonade, tank tops, natural breezes, a little HVAC and the positive effectives of evaporative cooling all contribute to a healthy state of mind. With new technology and advanced engineering, along with improved airfoil and motor designs, ceiling fans are no longer an alternative but rather a necessary component for healthy living and comfort in any building project.
1 Seppänen O, Fisk WJ, Faulkner D. 2003. Cost benefits analysis of the night-time ventilative cooling. In: Proceedings of the Healthy Buildings 2003 Conference, Singapore 2003.
2 Occupational Health and Safety Administration Technical Manual, Section III: Ch. 4; Heat Stress. 1999
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