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Creating Soothing Sanctuaries
By: Erin Hsu

By A sanctuary space aspiring to inspire with its size can also be uncomfortable, with inconsistent temperatures leaving some worshippers in the cold.

Gentle, nondisruptive air movement augments both heating and air conditioning in large spaces. The simplest and most energy efficient way to add air movement on a massive scale is a familiar concept—a ceiling fan.

Large diameter, low speed overhead fans aren’t only for summer cooling in nonconditioned spaces—they also enhance the effectiveness of HVAC systems, thoroughly mixing air throughout a space to create consistent temperatures from ceiling to floor and wall to wall.

Give HVAC a Helping Hand
The relationship between large diameter, low speed fans and HVAC systems is a marriage of efficiency and comfort.

In the summer, fans provide an additional boost to air conditioning systems. Because the perceived cooling effect of air movement can make a person feel up to 10 degrees cooler, managers of conditioned buildings can raise their air conditioning setpoint and utilize energy-efficient fans to make up the difference. Customers and employees will feel the same level of comfort, which the building can maintain with far less energy.

“In large spaces, HVAC systems are generally not capable of effectively distributing air to all occupants,” explained Christian Taber, senior applications engineer and LEED accredited professional for Big Fans. “Large circulator fans mix the air in the space, ensuring good air distribution, creating uniform temperatures that increase occupant comfort and minimize stratification.”

Large fans can be added to many existing structures, where they often are used to help qualify the building for energy-saving incentive programs. In new construction, specifying large fans when the HVAC system is designed can also help facilities eliminate a significant amount of ductwork, saving on initial building costs before the fans are ever turned on.

In the winter, stratification occurs because air expelled from a heater is approximately five to seven percent lighter than cool air in a space and tends to rise to the ceiling. In the winter, large diameter fans can be used to destratify heat by moving large volumes of warm air off the ceiling without creating a draft.

The steady mixing of air creates a uniform temperature throughout the space, which can help the heater to maintain the same thermostat setpoint with less effort, resulting in a serious reduction of operating costs.

Unlike small ceiling fans that struggle to send air to the floor and only create insignificant pockets of air movement, large diameter, low speed fans gently mix air to stabilize air movement without creating a draft in winter, using patented airfoils and winglets to allow the fan to operate in the forward direction without causing a draft.

Case in Point
South Bend, Indiana, experiences the full effect of all four seasons, including hot summers and cold, snowy winters. The city’s 70-year-old Holy Cross Parish was struggling with an ancient boiler system and lack of air conditioning.

With multiple small-diameter ceiling and floor fans, Kevin Hamill, parish maintenance supervisor, and his congregation were experiencing a lot of noise but little comfort.

“The ceiling fans did a lot of spinning, but had no effect,” Hamill said. “And the floor fans were just loud.” 

Adding to the discomfort, installing air conditioning was cost-prohibitive and structurally difficult in the historic space. 

The congregation needed a way to move air quietly and efficiently, ensuring year-round comfort and improving the effectiveness of the furnace in the wintertime.

“I knew that while the fans would help with a bit of creature comfort in the hottest part of the summer, they would also help with the efficiency of the furnace by bringing the warm air back down in the winter,” he explained. “Fans were definitely the best option for our situation.”

Holy Cross installed two 16-foot diameter aluminum-alloy Element fans by the Big Fan Company. With a patented gearless prime mover, Element and Isis are the only silent, energy-efficient solutions for air movement in large worship facilities. By increasing the fan speed, Element gently pushes columns of air throughout the church, providing a cooling effect for the congregation throughout the warmer months. 

Hamill and the congregation were quite pleased with the operation of the fans they described as “helicopters,” especially by the summer’s end. 

During the winter, Element fans are slowed to silently circulate the hot air trapped at the ceiling down to the occupant level, keeping costs to a minimum and parishioners comfortable and undistracted.

“The priests were a little concerned about noise, but with Element, there’s no distraction,” said Hamill.

Large diameter, low speed fans provided the answer to Holy Cross’s conundrum, providing the necessary comfort to the parish’s full congregation throughout the seasons. With their new fans, congregants now have the ability to focus on the message, instead of the microclimate.

Erin Hsu is senior copywriter for Big Fans, www.bigfans.com.










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