Ceiling fans contribute to greater air conditioning and heating efficiency, decreasing energy use and helping homeowners regulate their body temperature in the process. Integrating HVAC systems and smart technology with ceiling fans has encouraged more intentional usage, conserving both dollars and energy in the process. Following the pandemic, companies also began developing fan technology to help combat COVID-19 alongside additional fan-based methods for improving health within the home.
Technology & Efficiency
In 2022, ceiling fan technology has evolved past the category’s classic AC motor powered option — electric motors driven by an alternating current. Newer DC motors are now commonplace across the industry, which convert direct current electrical energy into mechanical energy. According to Alex Ostrovsky, Director of Sales and Product at Modern Forms, DC motors are highly efficient because of this, consuming a mere third of the energy an AC motor would. Fanimation’s VP of Sales and Marketing, Kristina Christopher, seconds this — she says AC motor fans typically consume about 60 watts of energy, whereas DC uses half of that, between 30 and 32 watts.
With improved motor efficiency propelling the industry toward more “green” product offerings, using HVAC in conjunction with ceiling fans has also become a popular choice — especially with the rise of smart thermostats such as Nest and Ecobee. “Smart” ceiling fans can now integrate with these systems via Wifi, allowing users to consume less energy than they normally would.
“With the introduction of smart technology, you can basically have your fan communicate with your smart thermostat,” Christopher says. “If you set your home to a specific temperature, for example, you can program the fan to kick on after a certain point versus solely relying on the HVAC system.”
Users simply connect their fan to their smart thermostat system via phone or tablet. Once connected, fans can be controlled remotely with a mere push of a button. A downloadable application allows them to schedule various fan settings, on-and-off patterns, speeds and more.
“That’s really where you’re going to get the use out of having the ‘smart’ aspect of it,” Christopher says. “If you’re an energy miser…or if you’re on vacation and accidentally left everything on, you can turn it off from anywhere in the world. We offer the same control capabilities with the fan’s light kit as well. There’s a lot of purpose with the product, and a lot of functionality that can come out of it.”
In addition, Fanimation’s light kits feature temperature select capabilities. This provides customers the option to brighten a room during work hours, or wind down with a cooler hue as the sun sets.
“You can easily adjust from warm to cooler light on each fan’s handheld remote,” Christopher says. “We’ve gotten so many requests from customers who ask for a light kit at 4,000K when our previous models were 3,000K. We listened, and started making light kits that are 3 through 5,000K. Now we’re finding that people are using different colors throughout the day.”
Modern Forms smart fans additionally feature an adaptive learning function, allowing the product to automatically record and adapt to a household’s particular usage pattern. After solidifying a pattern, users receive prompts or suggested usage tips via push notification.
“That’s another tool for those that really want to get into the nitty gritty of conserving energy,” Ostrovsky says. “The technology will say ‘we notice that every day at 6 p.m., you turn off your fan,’ because a lot of people just leave them running. That’s one way that folks waste energy, just by leaving them on aimlessly. With adaptive learning it’ll guide someone to use it intentionally.”
Health & COVID-19
During the COVID-19 peak in 2020, Modern Forms also developed the Ultra Smart Fan, a ceiling fan with a UV-C (ultraviolet germicidal) light affixed to the top. The product is now considered an air purifying device based on tests conducted by an independent CAP and CLIA accredited lab, Innovative Bioanalysis.
“Viruses transfer through air in the upper part of a room,” says Ostrovsky. “As fans operate they circulate air, naturally causing it to rise up. This system helps pull the air up faster into the disinfection zone. The UV light on top of the fan is what kills the virus.”
According to Ostrovsky, placing disinfecting LEDs at the floor level can be harmful to eyes, which is why the Ultra’s design makes it conducive to living and work spaces.
“With this system, the light is up top which makes it safe,” he says. “It disinfects the air through the UV-C system, and then circulates clean air down to the occupants in the room.”
To test the Ultra, the company was required to release SARS-CoV-2 into a room in an aerosolized form. According to the company, testing showed a 99.99 percent reduction of active SARS in the breathable air space after 30 minutes of operation of the system in a closed 8’x 8’x 10’ room.
“The testing method is just dangerous,” says Ostrovsky. “There are only so many places that are willing to do that. But we tested it out and got really good results.”
The Ultra will also be tested against influenza in the near future.
“The CDC always recommends using ceiling fans in conjunction with UV germicidal irradiation lamps that are wall mounted in the top half of a room,” Ostrovsky says. “They know that circulating the air and getting the air across these lamps is effective. This product incorporates the two things they recommend doing, all in one.”
General air circulation can improve the “feel” of a room as well, especially at night. On average, a ceiling fan can make a room feel nearly seven degrees cooler without changing the temperature.
“Typically you can set the thermostat on your air conditioner to a higher temperature because the fan is moving cool air past your skin,” says Steve Register, Progress Lighting’s Senior Product Manager for ceiling fans.
“Fans cool people, not the air. By the same token you can set your heater to a lower temperature and reverse the direction that the fan is rotating. This will move the warm air that is close to the ceiling back down into the room.”
Running a fan in a bedroom can also improve sleep quality and in turn, health, whether it be from air movement or the “white noise” effect that neutralizes sound.
“With smart fan technology, if you want to fall asleep to the fan and have it turn off in the middle of the night, you can do that too,” says Christopher. Smart air purifiers can also be paired with ceiling fans, sanitizing the air and minimizing allergens, pollutants and toxins.
“With the availability of Wifi in both ceiling fans and air purifiers, there are apps that can pair the two units to operate at the same time,”
Register says. “That will circulate more air in the room and will help the purifier be more efficient. You can also purchase a ceiling fan with an air purifier included.”
As the industry continues to advance in both design and technology, Christopher hopes to see these high-tech ceiling fans broaden in appeal.
“Once it gets out more in a mass way that all these things can communicate with each other, people will want it,” she says. “It makes the product more nimble — the look of it is one thing, but it’s also functional. Right now we want to keep coming up with new trends, new finishes and adapting to technology. It’s only a matter of time.”