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Should we be using electric fans? 17/02/2014

Here’s a question. You work in an office, retail area or a factory – should you turn on a fan?

According to a recent scientific study, fans might be a pretty bad idea. That’s according to London-based academics who looked into whether electric fans had any effect during heat waves.

What they found was particularly interesting once temperatures reached those that you see in parts of the Middle East. The team concluded that electric fans actually contributed to heat gain above 35C, making the entire situation worse than it was before.

Further, they found that in high temperatures, standard desk rotary fans can even lead to health problems. The problem, the study concluded, is that while evaporative cooling systems work by adding moisture to the air that it is cooling, the act of merely moving dry air about with a fan is not a guarantee of cooling it, and just encourages the subject to sweat more, and become dehydrated.

Stressing that more research needs to be done, the team said that the study “does not resolve uncertainties about the health effects of electric fans during heat waves”, meaning that it is not in a position to say whether their use is good or bad. It said that people making decisions about electric fans should consider the evidence available, and gauge local condition when choosing either a fan or another air conditioning service.

Of course, it’s all down to local conditions and whatever cooling system you use. However, when temperatures reach heat wave proportions, our personal experience is that it is abundantly clear that no amount of moving air about with a fan will actually reduce the temperature. We’ll admit to having a commercial bias in this argument, but for high ambient temperature conditions that you see around our base in the Middle East, an evaporative cooling system trumps a mechanical fan every time.

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