Large-Diameter, Low-Speed Fans Ensure Comfort, Reduce Energy Use in Gym

Oct. 1, 2010
Work in tandem with facility's air-conditioning system

With seven locations in Houston and surrounding communities, Fitness Connection offers health-club memberships, personal training, nutritional assistance, supplement products, specialty classes, and more. Its facilities are a mix of renovated box stores and new construction, featuring vast, open layouts and large square footage (30,000 to 55,000). The facilities are open 15 to 20 hr a day.

Seeking a way to keep members comfortable without increasing the tonnage of its air-conditioning units, Fitness Connection installed several Element and Isis large-diameter (8 to 20 ft), low-speed, commercial-grade fans from Big Ass Fans.

"In wide-open spaces, the amount of ductwork required to effectively distribute conditioned air across the space can be extremely expensive," Christian Taber, applications engineer for Big Ass Fans, said. "Large circulator fans turn the air in the space over several times per hour, ensuring good air distribution with minimal ductwork, and the fans can be used to generate a cooling effect, which decreases the energy consumed by the air-conditioning system."

With onboard electronic controls that eliminate electronic interference, Big Ass Fans' commercial line is engineered to accommodate upgrades to electronic equipment. Equally important is the oil-free, silent-operating permanent-magnet prime mover driving the fans. Designed exclusively for Big Ass Fans, it provides high torque at very low speeds, eliminating the need for a noisy gearbox.

Fitness Connection has experienced improved comfort and significant energy savings with the fans.

"Even though the air conditioners were keeping it 70 to 71°F, the air was stagnant," Fitness Connection General Manager Tim Vaughn said. "As a result of the fans, the air movement also allowed us to increase the thermostat set point on our air-conditioning system up 2 degrees."

Though large and powerful, Big Ass fans are energy-efficient, relying on motors that are small, particularly relative to the volume of air movement.

Energy Star estimates that using a ceiling fan in tandem with an air-conditioning system allows the air-conditioning system to use 20- to 50-percent less energy to cool, utility giant Exelon Corp. notes.

"We retrofitted one existing club to see how the fans would work for us," Vaughn said. "With the success of that installation, we now engineer for Big Ass Fans to be a part of all our projects."

Information and photographs courtesy of Big Ass Fans.

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About the Author

Scott Arnold | Executive Editor

Described by a colleague as "a cyborg ... requir(ing) virtually no sleep, no time off, and bland nourishment that can be consumed while at his desk" who was sent "back from the future not to terminate anyone, but with the prime directive 'to edit dry technical copy' in order to save the world at a later date," Scott Arnold joined the editorial staff of HPAC Engineering in 1999. Prior to that, he worked as an editor for daily newspapers and a specialty-publications company. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Kent State University.