December 13, 2016

Alternative Energy vs. HVLS Fans – Subsidy vs. Immediate Savings

There are basically two ways to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gases: either Alternative/Renewable Energy or Energy Efficient solutions.  The latter has an additional benefit of reduced energy costs and often numerous other benefits.  Not sure about Renewables.

In fact I would argue if you look closely, Renewables make little or no economic sense - at least in the short term. Of course argument can be made as to long term impacts that no doubt have financial and other benefits e.g. cleaner air, stemming the impact of climate change etc.

But Renewables are not currently economically possible without substantial taxpayer and/or ratepayer subsidy.  And in reality they are, and are projected to continue to be, a small fraction of the supply of usable energy.

Somebody pays. 

I recently attended a Massachusetts energy conference.  Speakers included the Lieutenant Governor and the State Energy Secretary.  It was a great event, I learned a lot, and it was clear the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, like so many other states, is serious about reducing energy use and greenhouse gases.

One of the speakers worked for one of the larger utilities.  Her topic was a layman’s breakdown of a typical consumer utility bill.  Sure the major components were fuel and power transmission (including amortization of the substantial capital costs as well as the administrative overhead).  But what really stood out was the breakdown of the pieces of the bill that went to subsidize the cost of Renewables, the cost of utility rebates, and the cost of state and local energy saving grants and other initiatives.

All of these things added up to 23% of the total bill!

Somebody pays.

Take Windmills.  They are engineering marvels (maybe not to the birds).  And they do generate electricity when the wind is blowing (but not when blowing too much…).

Yet just imagine the real cost without subsidy. For the blades and the power unit, and the shipping, and the site purchase and prep, and the installation, and the future repairs whether under warranty or not, and the legal costs of issues that always seem to surface.

Somebody pays.

Let me describe three windmill scenarios with which I am familiar.

One involves a windmill that was installed near where a friend lives in another state. In the first year its main gearbox failed.  So to fix it they had to gain access (after installation) by acquiring land rights and building a roadway to get to it so they could replace the bus-sized gearbox.  I asked my friend who paid and he said it was under warranty.  Well I have no doubt substantial warranty costs are built into the purchase cost.

Somebody pays.

Another example is my local municipality put one in.  It was a big deal. Plenty of back patting press.  But in reality it took a lot of DPW and other municipal leadership time and resources to get it done. Plus lots of legal costs to try to address various concerns, some of which are yet to be resolved.  Sure it offsets the town’s electric costs when it is running (it has been down a lot).  But in the meantime while folks were dealing with this the local roads have been going to pot.

Somebody pays.

My last example is I used travel to Scandinavia and Europe where windmill farms have been operating for many years in the energy resource challenged parts of the world.  Those governments put lots of financial resources into making those farms feasible. Where do you think those resources came from.  All I can say is have you ever paid for a gallon of gas over there? Or even a beer?

Somebody pays.

Don Quixote may be a big fan of these big fan-like things, but I don’t think the real payback for these will occur in my lifetime.

Somebody pays. 

What about Solar?  

Sure under the right conditions and the right structure, and especially if the capability for storage of the energy generated can occur, these too can be a great source of renewable energy.

But even with a finance/accounting MBA and a CPA, I have yet to figure out the economic benefits and related attractiveness of payback periods without significant subsidy of some sort.

Somebody pays.

Having served on a local decision making board or two I have had the opportunity to look very closely at the economics of several solar installation opportunities.  In all cases the payback periods were many years.  And that was ignoring the fact that whatever was going to be installed would likely be obsolete within a few short years.  Also ignoring what would be involved with future panel replacement including any facility issues like roof replacement/repair. Ratepayer and taxpayer subsidy was the only way it would work.

Somebody pays.

Then there are the low hanging fruit of energy efficiency initiative like lighting replacement, smarter thermostats, VFDs on equipment, usage monitoring and smoothing, and other smart efforts. Usually done thanks to utility rebates and other financial grants and incentives.

Somebody pays.

So where am I going with all this? Simple.

HVLS fans are smarter than alternative and renewable energy sources. 

I believe the smartest and most economically feasible way to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions is by installing HVLS fans. They are truly the low hanging fruit in the energy saving world.

Whether it’s in new facilities or as retrofits in facilities that already have other solutions that will either be used less or made more effective.

Sure there are upfront costs – which by comparison are relatively very low.  And there are often utility incentives available (thanks to somebody else paying).

But in reality, the economics are there with or without any incentives.  The payback periods are very short.  And the ongoing financial benefits from lower energy use coupled with the comfort and many other benefits realized will enhance the bottom line and the work environment for many years to come.

Somebody pays – but with HVLS fans the secret is it is the utility that pays via less revenue!

When I exhibit at energy conferences among all the latest energy saving and usually taxpayer or ratepayer subsidized widgets, I tell people we have the greenest thing in the room that can go to work saving energy costs and providing benefits right away.

We came up with the following rendering that I think says it all:

HVLS fans are the smartest way to go green.  Get comfort.   Increase productivity and safety.  Save lots of dough on energy bills.  All while making the world a better place! 

Peter Caruso | T 508-653-3500 | |

November 04, 2016

HVLS fans: Why you should not assume anything

You know what they say. If you assume something you are only making an a## out of u and me.

That old adage rings true in the HVLS fan industry.

Let me give you three examples.

Years ago when I was running the other guys we had a customer that was a nationwide big box retail chain.  They had two 140,000 square foot distribution centers in the northeast that were nearly identical.  They ran multiple shifts in these DC’s.  Each one had 7 big HVLS fans.

One of the facilities ran the fans 24/7 365 days a year.  And loved the summer cooling and winter comfort.  The facility guy didn’t see the heating bills but knew from his boss they also enjoyed significant winter heat savings.

Well we assumed the same was happening at the other facility with the same basic climate and operating conditions.  But lo and behold, we learned they only ran the fans during the heat of the day in the summer.  It was eye opening for us to think that place had not been getting the most out of their fans.  And so a quick tutorial was in order.

In another example of this old axiom, when we first came out with our new variable pitch fan, I was amazed at the number of folks who would ask if they had to go up and change the pitch manually.  We assumed it was obvious in our literature and our design that the pitch was adjustable from the low voltage wall box while the fan was running.  So in future discussions with potential customers we needed to adjust our own “pitch” to be sure the customer understood the features available.

My favorite example from which we really learned the perils of making assumptions was a customer in the northeast who had put two of our fans in a 30,000 square foot high bay helicopter repair hangar.  We went to visit after they had had the fans as while.  It was late winter and a cold day. The place had ceiling heaters and poorly insulated walls and bay doors – perfect for HVLS fans and their heat destratification benefits.

The facility guy told us that he was tracking heat cost savings on the order of 25% from the prior year, which he thought was great.  We actually expected higher savings…

We also met the head mechanic who told us how great the fans were in the summer and how they really made a difference in the winter where it was warm and much more comfortable at the concrete floor level but also no longer hot and sweaty when he was up working on top of a chopper.

Clearly they were enjoying the benefits of heat destratification.

But then we took a look at the wall boxes where we saw there was still quite a bit of difference in temperature between the floor and the ceiling, which didn’t make a lot of sense.  Then we noticed they were running the fans at low pitch angles.  I changed the pitch to 20 degrees and within minutes we saw the difference in temperature going down quickly.  They were now going to find even greater savings and comfort by making the best use of their variable pitch fans.

So boy oh boy, here we were dealing with helicopter folks – of all people we expected they would truly understand and appreciate how the variable pitch of our fan works.  Yet they needed to be educated further.  We had assumed too much.            

The moral of these stories is that we want to be sure folks take full advantage of the features and benefits of their HVLS fans.  We can’t just assume they know how.

Peter Caruso | T 508-653-3500 | |

October 25, 2016

Heat Destratification: Why it's important to blow air upward with HVLS fans 

One of the biggest reasons to use HVLS fans in colder seasons is to achieve heat destratification.  I am not sure you can find that word in the dictionary, but it sure is a good one to understand if you are spending any money heating a large facility.

In its essence, heat destratification captures heated air that has risen towards the ceiling and gets it back down to floor level.  It also helps ensure that the hot air that rises doesn’t get wasted by escaping through the ceiling and roof.

HVLS fans accomplish this by moving and mixing the air masses within a space such that the temperatures are more uniform at all height levels.  In doing so thermostats set at certain temperatures to control heaters get bathed in the mixed and warmer (and more comfortable) air such that they call on heating systems to run less frequently.  With heaters running less frequently big savings can be realized.

But what’s the best way to destratify the air in a space?

Some HVLS fans are designed to just blow the air downwards in an air column that purportedly then moves along the floor and circulates back upwards when it hits a wall or the air flow created by another fan.  Often these fans have blades with airfoil shapes that the manufacturer has design from model airplanes, sailplanes, truck spoilers and other such shapes where the original foil design was for maximum flight lift with least air resistance.  Most of these fans operate in one direction to blow the air down.

Some do have reverse capability, but as aviators often say, you can’t fly a plane backwards, or in the case of these HVLS fan solutions the air movement effectiveness of the airfoil is considerably diminished when operating backwards and upside down.

I am a firm believer that blowing air upwards for heat destratification is the better way to go.  The US Patent Office and the MIT trained engineers I work with seem to agree.

Obviously one avoids a chilling breeze that HVLS fans typically cause when blowing downwards.  A simple comfort benefit can be realized by mixing the masses of hot air without feeling it happening.

More importantly, particularly in high ceilinged spaces, blowing upwards gets the heated strata of air captured toward the ceiling more effectively than trying to pull it down.  The objective is to “destratify” the different “strata” of stacked air up there.  I often liken it to old submarine movies where the skipper takes the sub below the thermocline to hide from the enemy.  Hot air strata are sort of like that – layers of heated air with their own characteristics that can be difficult to get at and mix. Thus much of the heated air can be more likely to be wasted if not moved and mixed by pushing air upwards.

And in really big spaces where you are trying to move and mix lots of air it can be advantageous to alternate blowing upwards and downwards for more complete mixing of warm air.

So I think it is a better feature of HVLS fans that can blow air upwards, and even more so if they are designed to be just as effective blowing up and down.

Oh, and while at it, rather than having a narrow column of air trying to do the work of air mixing as can be seen with older fan designs, I also believe using greater pitch enables broader areas of impact and larger volumes of air moved and mixed for the same effort. Picture a larger area of impact from a conical dispersal of air versus a straight down column of air. But that’s for a future post.

Clearly HVLS fans are ideal for year round comfort and energy savings and efficiency.  Having upward air flow capability designed in, maximum effect can be more readily realized.  It’s the smarter way to destratify.

Peter Caruso | T 508-653-3500 | | 

October 10, 2016

When can you enjoy the benefits of HVLS Fans? 

It’s simple.  Use them all year long.  No matter where you are, no matter what season, no matter what climate, no matter what kind of facility you have.  They will serve you well providing improved and enhanced comfort, productivity, IAQ, and energy savings and efficiency day in and day out.

The benefits HVLS fans provide are numerous.  First of all, HVLS fans are air movement systems, not just cooling systems.  They move and mix lots of air.  As a result of the masses of air they move they are very effective in aiding cooling, heating (through heat de-stratification) and ventilation.  They also mix bad and noxious air, including humid air, reducing damage and waste (and disease) due to unwanted moisture, and creating a healthier atmosphere to breathe.  As a side benefit they help eliminate birds and bugs and all the environmental damages they cause.  And with all the energy they can save you can argue they ultimately make the world a better and safer place!

As you learn more about HVLS fans, you will find the major benefits of their quiet and gentle airflow are -
  1. Summer Cooling - Large masses of air are moved at an optimal speed to create an evaporative cooling effect of 6 to 14 degrees or more.  A cooler environment is created more effectively over large areas with HVLS fans, while replacing many other air movement solutions that typically require much greater power and energy.
  2. Winter Heat De-stratification - At least 20% or more (often much more) in heat savings is realized in colder seasons.  The industry rule of thumb suggests that there is about a 3% - 5% savings in energy required for every degree of thermostat reduction.  Heat de-stratification doesn’t result in thermostat reduction but results in less frequent heater cycling, creating the same basic effect.  Most high roof facilities (usually with heaters in the ceilings trying to blow the naturally rising hot air down) have a 15 to 30 degree differential or more from floor to ceiling.  HVLS fans mix the air to make a more easily maintained uniform temperature and help eliminate heat loss from infiltration through ceiling and roof materials.
  3. As an alternative or supplement to Air Conditioning - where air conditioning is present, HVLS fans provide comparable cooling comfort while enabling 3 to 8 degree thermostat increases with 3% to 5% energy reductions per degree.  All while eliminating costly ducting and air conditioning tonnage (and related costs to install and maintain).
  4. Year-round Ventilation and Related IAQ - HVLS fans efficiently and more effectively mix incoming fresh air with stale air, reducing the need for more costly solutions while also minimizing the volume of air needing to be replaced (and corresponding loss of warm or cool air).  And as big air mixers they are phenomenal at dispersing fumes and moisture concentrations throughout larger air volumes, reducing their undesirable effects.
As they get the better and more comfortable air in more places, they result in productivity increases while reducing energy usage.  Greater productivity using fewer energy resources is one of the best ways to “go green” - with a bonus of more comfortable and healthier work environments.

Simply put, in summary, HVLS fans with their gentle and non-disruptive air movement create an evaporative cooling effect of 6 to 14 degrees or more in hot environments.  In cold environments they de-stratify hot air rising to ceilings, enhancing comfort, and, more importantly, reducing heat loss and related energy costs by 20% to 80%.  Similar savings are experienced as a supplement to A/C.  As a bonus, their highly effective air mixing and ventilation result in drier, cleaner, fresher, and healthier air.  Energy and operating costs go down while productivity goes up.  Payback periods are short (often less than a year - look for more on energy and related cost savings in a future blog) and ROI very high due to significantly reduced operating costs and elimination of energy waste and loss.

Improve comfort while saving money 365 days a year - how can you go wrong?

Peter Caruso | T 508-653-3500 | |

September 17, 2016

What is an HVLS Fan? – An Intro to the Basics  

If you aren’t familiar with these large industrial ceiling fans, better known as High Volume Low Speed (HVLS) Fans, you may find this brief introduction to basic HVLS Fan features helpful.

These big fans normally range in size from 8ft to 24ft in diameter.  Some patented designs enable smaller size fans - like 9ft, 12ft, and 15ft - to give the same performance of larger fans.

In spite of their size, due to their slow speed (see RPM below) they usually only require 1 to 3 HP motors to provide the necessary performance.  I won’t go into the physics of these machines, but suffice it to say by moving slowly, with their large size, they have enough power to do what they are designed to do.  As fan speed increases, the power needed increases exponentially; so slow and steady is the energy efficient way to go.  Most manufacturers provide designs which can be used with multiple power sources.

August 31, 2016

Beat the Heat with HVLS Fans 

As the dog days of summer wind down, hopefully you were fortunate to enjoy the benefits of big industrial ceiling fans known as High Volume Low Speed (HVLS) Fans.

Varying in sizes from 8 ft to 24 ft depending on the facility space, these big fans use small motors requiring relatively little electricity compared to other cooling solutions to give a gentle breeze that provides cooling comfort over very large areas.

This comfort - called evaporative cooling - typically happens when the breeze passes over and helps dry perspiration on the skin. (If the boss comes out of his/her air conditioned office and complains all they feel is hot air ask them to stick around a bit in your environment to fully appreciate the cooling benefits before they complain too much).

You may be in a distribution-center/warehouse, or a manufacturing plant, or a hangar, or an auto repair facility or other large facility space where A/C usually isn’t the most cost effective solution to keep folks cool and comfortable and productive.