Big Ass Fans Win Big Awards

A convergence of electrical, mechanical, aerospace, and software engineering brings a series of space-age fans to the energy-efficiency market.

I have a friend who’s the Environmental Health and Safety Leader at a local manufacturing plant. He recently gave me a tour of the facility, highlighting the company’s efforts to become more sustainable. Among other things like minimizing water usage, reducing waste, and using recycled stock whenever possible, the shop also employs a number of energy efficient technologies. LED lights have reduced electricity bills, while the higher quality of light has increased productivity and improved safety.

Perhaps the most memorable upgrades that he pointed out were the Big Ass Fans on the ceiling. “Seriously,” he said, “that’s the name of the company: Big Ass Fans.” I’m not a marketing guy, but even I know that Big Ass Fans is a catchier sobriquet than Very Large Air Transfer Units or their original name, the HVLS Fan Company (High Volume, Low Speed). Regardless of the corporate moniker, proper sizing and placement of ceiling fans can reduce HVAC costs throughout the year. And that’s not just company spin…

Big Ass Fans Win Big *** Awards

Energy Manager Today recognized Big Ass Fans with two awards: Top Product of the Year (Haiku with SenseME) and Top Project of the Year (Cassidy Elementary School, Lexington, KY). A quick glance at their press release page suggests that the company may need some big *** shelves to display all of its awards.

Haiku Fan with SenseME Technology

Big Ass Fans started with commercial and industrial fans, and eventually expanded the product line to include residential ceiling fans. Its flagship residential product is the Haiku, which now includes SenseME technology and a slew of energy-saving features.

Inside the Haiku Fan

Inside the Haiku Fan

The Haiku fan has seven discrete speeds that can be set manually or controlled automatically by the on-board microprocessor. Manual controls are changed through a dedicated remote, a smartphone app, or a wall-mounted controller. For energy management, the intelligent fan uses SenseME technology – built-in temperature and occupancy sensors – to help control the fan’s operation.

The Haiku can be programmed to turn on when someone enters the room and turn off when the room is unoccupied. It features a Sleep Mode that progressively lowers the fan speed over time and a Gradual Awake Mode that does the opposite. It even has a “Whoosh Mode” that simulates natural breezes by randomly varying the fan speed. (All they need now is a “beach scent” mode.) In Smart Mode, the microprocessor learns and adapts to the customer’s lifestyle, much like the Nest thermostat does. In fact, the Haiku can integrate with the Nest and other IoT devices as part of a complete home energy management system.

The Haiku’s efficient permanent magnet DC motor, along with its patent-pending control algorithm, draws a paltry fifteen watts at full speed, and only 1.5W at its lowest setting. If it ran at full speed for ten hours every day, the fan would cost roughly $5 a year for electricity. An optional LED light fixture has sixteen brightness settings. And to put an exclamation point on the company’s commitment to sustainability, the blades are made from sustainably harvested bamboo.

A case study by Big Ass Fans determined that a Haiku fan with SenseME technology can reduce air conditioning costs by twelve to one hundred percent, depending on the AC setpoint.

It’s Not Just for Cooling

Ceiling fans help keep the chill in the summer, but since heat rises, they can also reduce winter heating costs by pushing warm air down from the ceiling. Research at the Harvard School of Public Health has shown that a Haiku fan running at its slowest speed can significantly reduce temperature stratification without creating a noticeable draft.

Cassidy Elementary School in Lexington, KY renovated its library, which features 10 meter (33 foot) ceilings. In the winter, the school’s heating system did extra duty trying to maintain a comfortable temperature at ground level, while the heat naturally rose to the ceiling. The school first installed large industrial fans to push the warm air downward but found the noise unacceptable. Big Ass Fans sent their engineers to help. They selected and installed a pair of Essence fans from the company’s commercial product line.

Essence Fan

Essence Fan

In this application, the Essence fans run at slow speed, helping to destratify the heat without creating a perceptible breeze. As a result, floor-to-ceiling temperature differences decreased by 72 percent and HVAC energy consumption was reduced by almost sixteen percent. The new system worked so well that the school is using the library’s data to help reduce energy consumption in other parts of the building.

Like the Haiku, the Essence features a gearless direct-drive DC motor, providing quiet, energy-efficient operation. To improve aerodynamic efficiency and reduce blade tip noise, the Essence has winglets on the tips of its blades. It can be controlled manually, but maximum energy savings will result from its automated Winter and Summer Modes, which use Big Ass Fans’ SmartSense technology.

Industrial Use

Manufacturing operations often require enormous fans (Hmmm – what’s another way of saying enormous fans?) to reduce the demands on the HVAC system. For that, customers may choose something from the company’s industrial product line. These Big Ass Fans include powerful AC motors, helical gears, and energy-efficient variable frequency drives (VFD), and their controls can be integrated with a Building Automation System.

A Big Ass VFD

A Big Ass VFD

I’ve always been a big fan of energy efficiency; now I can say I’m a “Big Ass” fan.

Images courtesy of Big Ass Fans


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