Custom Display Company Is a Big Fan of Big Fans

July 1, 2001
These 20-foot-wide industrial fans provide needed relief to hundreds of workers in a hot warehouse environment.

Custom Display Company Is a Big Fan of Big Fans

When Chesapeake Display and Packaging surveyed its employees and asked them to list what could be done to make working conditions in its Rural Hall, North Carolina, facility more pleasant, the No. 1 response was, “Do something about the heat!” According to Bobby McFadden, production manager, summertime conditions were uncomfortable. “The building was reaching temperatures of 100 to 102 degrees on its hottest days.”

At Chesapeake Display’s packaging and fulfillment facility, the usual 100-person workforce can grow to 10 to 15 times that number during periods of peak production. The peak periods tend to occur during the summer, which means that an additional 400 to 650 temporary employees are working virtually shoulder to shoulder during the hottest part of the year. While the assembly and packaging of corrugated displays is a process that does not generate much heat, the addition of several hundred bodies per shift packed into the building’s 70,000-square-foot non-air-conditioned production and assembly area can make this workspace simply stifling.

Chesapeake Display found the answer — one that created comfort without excessive cost — in the form of six 20-foot-diameter, high-volume, low-speed ceiling fans. Just six fans were able to get air movement both to workers at individual workstations and to workers whose jobs took them throughout the facility.

The fans use 10 hollow-core extruded aluminum airfoils to optimize airflow. The fans range in size from eight feet to 24 feet in diameter, and move a large column of air very slowly, at about 3 mph, or 260-280 fpm. The effect is that of a gentle breeze, which improves the human body’s ability to cool itself through the evaporation of perspiration, without otherwise annoying employees or disturbing work processes.

At the outset, the most obvious solution to the problem of summer heat was the installation of some form of air conditioning. At Chesapeake Display, the cost — well over $500,000 — was prohibitively expensive.

Adding more oscillating or stationary air circulation fans was not something that would be either practical or effective. Chesapeake Display had been using 28 pole-mounted fans, plus 30 movable floor fans, but air movement was not sufficient to make them very effective.

According to McFadden, several characteristics of the big fans made them the “final answer” to the question of how to create greater comfort at a reasonable cost. The fans had “the most innovative design we’d seen,” said McFadden, and appeared to be the easiest to install, even from a 24-foot ceiling.

Moreover, the fact that the fans used 3-phase voltage but only cost a nickel an hour per fan to operate really closed the sale. In fact, once the fans were up, the 28 pedestal fans and 30 floor fans were removed. In electricity savings alone, the swap was significant.

However, before the big fans were switched on, McFadden felt that his reputation was really on the line. Many employees were convinced that they would never be willing to give up their personal fans. All that changed when the first fan was turned on.

McFadden said, “We turned the first one on over our production lines 1 and 2, which are at the front of our production facility. When the fan started to move, the people working on lines 8 and 9, who are a good 210 feet away from the fan, could feel the impact of just that single fan.”

An additional benefit of the fans: their operation is virtually silent.

High-volume ceiling fans by HVLS Fan Co.

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