6 Ways HVLS Fans Improve Productivity in Industrial Facilities
Energy savings and employee comfort are among the benefits of high volume, low speed fans.
Manufacturing facilities and warehouses can be places of unruly climate swings. In the summer, they range from stuffy to downright sweltering. In the winter, workers freeze on the floor while all of the heat rises to the ceiling. And, that is without even mentioning the effects of condensation outbreaks.
But if you manage an industrial facility, do not despair — there is a climate-control superhero on your side. Whether you assemble, fabricate, repair, process, maintain, wash or bottle your product, you can turn to high volume, low speed (HVLS) fans — alone or in tandem with a comfort-cooling system — to control energy costs and reduce condensation while enhancing comfort. Here are six ways you can benefit from HVLS fans in your industrial space.
1. Cooling Breezes
With some models reaching 24’ in diameter, HVLS fans have the power to move air throughout the entire space, from ceiling to floor and wall to wall. They can circulate airflow up and over obstructions such as machinery and stacked product to ensure conditions are consistent throughout.
Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) standards indicate temperatures of 100°F (38°C) and above are dangerous for workers, and air temperatures that exceed 95°F (35°C) significantly increase the heat load on the body. When temperature and humidity levels rise, the body’s natural ability to cool itself decreases. While air movement does not lower the actual temperature of a space, the airflow created by an HVLS fan can make people feel up to 10°F (5°C) cooler.
For instance, employees at the Marathon Petroleum receiving warehouse in Robinson, Ill., continuously battled stifling heat during humid summer days. Like most warehouses, the facility lacked air-conditioning, and the receiving doors were open only at select times. That left little air flowing through the space.
Managers tried to cool the space with small misting and box fans, but they dampened and blew away paperwork. To address the problem, the company installed a 12’ HVLS fan.
“During the summer, working in our warehouse was like working in an oven, but now the space is so much more comfortable,” said J.D. Branson, Marathon’s warehouse foreman. “Employees are happier. They no longer complain about the heat and aren’t forced to wear coolant wraps around their necks.”
2. Heat Destratification
The comfort benefits of high volume, low speed fans do not end when summer comes to a close. The airfoils also can be used to move large volumes of heated air for better circulation and more even temperatures all winter long. The comfort heating and cooling industry often calls this destratification.
Air from heaters is approximately 5 percent to 7 percent lighter than cool air, so it tends to rise to the ceiling. In the winter, a slow-moving HVLS fan can mix air efficiently without generating a chilly draft. Recirculating heat trapped near the ceiling back down to occupants improves comfort and can reduce heating costs.
3. Lower Energy Costs
High volume, low speed fans are not just for non-conditioned facilities. By using energy-efficient fans in conjunction with air conditioning, building managers can raise thermostat setpoints to save up to 30 percent on cooling costs without compromising comfort. HVLS fans also reduce the workload on heating systems to continue the savings year round. Incorporating HVLS fans during new construction can also help builders reduce HVAC tonnage and ductwork, saving money before the fans are even turned on. Recirculating conditioned air allows the thermostat to be set higher in summer.
The same is true in the wintertime. Facility owners can save up to 30 percent on heating costs by using fans, which lessen the burden on the heating system, by allowing it to maintain the same thermostat setpoint with less effort. That is why Corrosion Monitoring Services turned to HVLS fans. The company’s industrial warehouse in St. Charles, Ill., measures about 100,000 ft2, and it generated extremely high heating bills throughout the winter. Ron Preston, executive vice president, was interested in finding a solution to this problem.
So, Preston installed four 24’ fans. He then decided to look at heating bills for a facility next door for comparison. At about a quarter of the size of the Corrosion Monitoring Service warehouse, the heating bills at the smaller facility were more expensive.
Providing a quick return on investment is more than enough to make you feel all warm and cozy inside. But there’s more: Because HVLS fans are more energy efficient than multiple standard overhead or pedestal fans, facilities that upgrade can often take advantage of energy-saving rebates.
4. Reduced Risk of Condensation
That glistening sheen of water droplets on your cold can of soda may be a happy sign of summer, but when condensation hits industrial spaces, the accumulation of those little water droplets is a big problem. Condensation occurs when warmer, moist air contacts a colder surface. In the spring and fall, temperature swings and the accompanying condensation can wreak havoc on unconditioned workplaces.
Condensation is not just annoying — it destroys inventory and creates a potentially hazardous environment for employees as they walk and operate mechanical equipment. These risks can prompt shutdowns, impacting the bottom line.
Take WestWind Logistics, for example. The humid Omaha, Neb., warehouse was the perfect environment for mold, and wood is among mold’s favorite places to set up shop. It was a recipe for disaster that forced the company to rewash thousands of wooden pallets soon after sanitizing them, tying up employees and resources.
“At one point, we had 4,000 pallets in the warehouse and over half of them got moldy,” Vincent Hoy, facility manager, said. “We have to rewash anything that has mold on it or touching it, so that’s two days of work lost.”
Mold spores are ubiquitous in both indoor and outdoor air, but growth can be controlled by controlling moisture. The air movement provided by high volume, low speed fans prevents the buildup of moisture on surfaces that might harbor mold by continually disturbing the thin sheet of stagnant air surrounding each pallet.
Rather than using dozens of small fans to blow directly on the ends of the pallet rows, HVLS fans efficiently and effectively circulate air throughout the space. After installing two 20’ fans, WestWind Logistics’ rewash rate dropped from more than 50 percent to only 5 percent for pallets stored under the fans.
Condensation is a threat to more than just equipment or products. It also creates a potentially hazardous environment for employees on foot or operating mechanical equipment. According to the National Floor Safety Institute, the majority of workers’ compensation claims are attributed to employees falling on slick floors, and these accidents also are the leading cause of occupational injury for people between the ages of 15 and 24. Rectifying such issues can help businesses operate more efficiently and effectively (and help avoid costly claims).
5. Improved Air Quality
The airflow pattern of high volume, low speed fans ensures air reaches all corners of an industrial space, maintaining consistent conditions throughout and eliminating condensation and stagnant areas where product integrity is a concern. It is also more pleasant for the employees working in a space.
Spirits and wine company Brown-Forman learned that the hard way. After moving three bottling lines into a refurbished warehouse that lacked air conditioning, management recognized that they had a problem. With a dated building structure and a total lack of air movement, stale air encompassed the facility, and the 50 employees working in the space were less than pleased.
John Willis, the company’s reliability manager, did not take the problem lightly. Aware of the importance of employee comfort, Willis explored HVLS fans. The company installed six 24’ fans and one 20’ fan above the bottling lines. Aside from the cooling effect they have on employees, the fans sweep stagnant air away from occupants, which improves indoor air quality and increases employee comfort levels.
6. Happier Workers
With happy, comfortable employees, Willis does not have to worry about employee morale or lack of productivity due to a poor work environment. HVLS fans boost air quality and improve worker comfort year-round by creating cooling breezes in the summer months and recirculating heat all winter. Studies indicate comfortable workers are safer and more productive. Happy workers are also less likely to leave, reducing costly and time-consuming turnover, which may be the best reason of all to consider HVLS fans for an industrial space.