How HVLS Fans Enhance Workplace Facilities

By Jeff Watson, Hunter Industrial Senior Vice President & General Manager

Your facility’s indoor air quality, in many ways, sets the tone for your workforce––from improving employee productivity, to creating a safer working environment to streamlining energy efficiency.

In large facilities like industrial warehouses, manufacturing plants and distribution centers, managing this air quality can be challenging. There are a number of conventional options—ranging from exhaust fans, HVAC units and high-speed floor fans to swamp coolers––but these traditional routes often fail to provide comprehensive solutions. High-volume, low-speed (HVLS) fans, however, are known for their ability to mobilize and de-stratify large volumes of air in a way that truly “clears the air” of any facility.

Lower Cost + Higher Efficiency

Designed with longer blade lengths than conventional fans, HVLS fans have wing spans that can range from 7-24ft and move large volumes of air with minimized energy consumption per sq ft. In fact, one HVLS fan can mobilize as much air as 10-20 floor fans or 12, 48in barrel fans, resulting in enhanced coverage area and efficiency and a 10- to 12-degree perceived temperature difference. This all translates into reduced operations costs—HVLS fans cost under $1 per day to operate.

Aaron Bowersock, Project Manager for mechanical contracting firm The Comfort Group, lives and works in Nashville. The high temperatures of a summer in Nashville can often feel unbearable, especially when working in a sheet metal fabrication shop, like Bowersock does. Determined to make his workplace more comfortable for everyone, Bowersock recently invested in Hunter Industrial’s Titan HVLS fan for the shop and has since seen the benefits of installing an HVLS fan.

“Some of the benefits I’ve noticed are in the comfort level—it pushes air throughout the whole shop,” Bowersock said. “We saw a reduced cost with the performance of the fan, because we’re able to turn off our main HVAC unit system and rely solely on the fan.”

After installing an HVLS fan, summers won’t be so harsh for Bowersock or his team and neither will the winters. Buildings with high ceilings often experience significant heat stratification in the winter months, where warmer air rises to the ceiling, while cooler air remains at floor level. This phenomenon forces a facility’s heaters to work two-to-three times harder to keep employees and building occupants adequately warm, while most of the heat continues to be trapped above their heads. It’s been estimated that air temperature can increase 0.5-1.5 degrees Fahrenheit per ft in ceiling height––meaning that, if it’s 65 degrees on the floor, it could be 85-90 degrees at the roofline. HVLS fans, however, can essentially stir the pot, circulating air so that warm air trapped at ceiling level is cycled down to the floor. This allows HVAC systems to work more efficiently and effectively, potentially saving up to 30% on heating costs.

Improve Workforce Productivity

By creating a more comfortable, healthier work environment, we have seen companies experience reduced absenteeism and employee complaints, coupled with boosts in overall productivity. Numerous studies have drawn the link between indoor air quality/temperature and productivity.

In research conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, workplace performance increased when indoor temperatures were between 69.8 degrees and 71.6 degrees with the highest level of productivity at 71.6 degrees. When indoor air temperature dropped or rose above this range, the human body typically prioritized keeping warm over fueling the brain.

Additionally, a month-long Cornell University study found that chilly workers made more errors, and cooler temperatures could increase a person’s hourly labor cost by 10%. When office temperatures rose from 68 degrees Fahrenheit to 77 degrees, the study found that typing errors fell by 44% and typing output increased 150%––suggesting that an evenly heated facility could save employers approximately $2 per worker per hour.

One manufacturing and logistics company echoed this sentiment after installing seven 24ft HVLS fans in their 300,000-sq ft warehouse. Keeping their HVLS fans running 24/7, the company’s Vice President of Supply Chain noted, “[HVLS] fans provide uniform comfort year-round for our nearly 230 employees, which has in turn increased worker productivity…They are essential in creating an optimal, healthy environment in our facility from ceiling to floor.”

Additional Benefits

Even after discussing what HVLS fans can do for your facility, you still may be questioning the differences between these fans and more conventional options. For starters, HVLS fans have a cordless design, which allows for a safer environment by eliminating trip hazards––an important factor considering many plant and facility managers identify cords as one of the top workplace hazards. In fact, the overall direct interaction between an employee and a fan is virtually eliminated with many HVLS models. This feature is compounded by the maintenance-free aspect of those HVLS fans with direct drive motors, which also eliminate the risk of oil leaks posed by traditional gearbox motors.

This brings us to another differentiator between fans: Some HVLS fans have gearbox motors, while others have direct drive motors. With a direct drive motor, you’re going to see significant reductions in the amount of noise they generate; the maintenance that goes into their workability; and their weight. Direct drive motors have fewer parts and hardware but still maximize performance. In simple terms, they move more air for less money.

Conclusion

Regardless of the industry, a building’s indoor air quality and temperature are critical factors influencing everything from the heating bill to an employee’s health. HVLS fans are viewed as a valuable comprehensive solution to improve indoor air conditions and ultimately optimize a facility’s efficiency, comfort and savings––translating into bottom line impact. WMHS

About the Author:

Jeff Watson is the Senior Vice President and General Manager for the Hunter Industrial/Commercial Division. Prior to Hunter, Jeff was the Vice President of Product Management and Marketing for Ingersoll Rand/Trane North America. Watson earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Clemson University in mechanical engineering. Learn more at www.HunterFan.com/Industrial.