MKThink completed Phase 1 of a research-based guide to ceiling fans CLICK FOR FULL GUIDE. The energy efficiency study is part of the Asian Pacific Research Initiative for Sustainable Energy Systems, a joint project between The University of Hawai’i Manoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology and the Hawai’i Natural Energy Institute for which MKThink serves as principal investigator.

The guide is the first comprehensive report to evaluate and compare ceiling fans currently available on the market—standard fans, dual head fans, HVLS (high-volume, low speed), smart fans. Fan profiles cover key hardware components (blades, motors, controls), air movement of flat blades and airfoils. Additionally, they provide recommendations for single and multiple ceiling fan sizing related to room dimensions and placement guidelines that factor in vertical and horizontal obstructions. Each profile outlines energy consumption to estimate operational costs. Occupant thermal comfort is assessed based on air speed, direction, and intermittency.

The guide provides designers and planners with a valuable resource to inform space planning, design, and product selection based on research, space constraints, and physical characteristics. The report compiles information from government, academic, manufacturer, and trade organization sources.

Integral to the study are evaluations of HVLS (high volume, low speed) ceiling fans. These energy-efficient fans have assumed a leading role in the green building movement. Initially designed as a system to cool dairy cattle, HVLS are being used as solutions to cool students in Hawai’i classrooms, where the tropical climate poses a major challenge to thermal comfort. Beyond schools, commercial applications for HVLS fans include shopping malls, churches, office buildings, airport terminal buildings, and fitness centers.

Many companies discontinued production of fans in the 1960s. Window and central air conditioning became the preferred method of climate control. With increasing awareness of the cost of electricity and the amount of energy used to heat and cool homes, ceiling fans have become increasingly popular again due to their energy efficiency.

Ceiling fans have been shown to reduce energy usage by as much as 40% in the summer and 10% in the winter. They do this by creating air movement that expands the acceptable comfort range of the space. Fans offer the added benefit of alliesthesia—pleasure as a result of variations in skin temperature created by localized stimuli. Like a wind breeze on the face on a hot day.

Phase 1 laid the groundwork for Phase 2 of study. In Phase 2, MKThink will install, test, and evaluate ceiling fans in situ in Hawai’i, a living laboratory for energy research and innovation.