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Combining Gothic Style with Modern Efficiency
By: Erin Hsu

Built in the 1920s, the gothic-cathedral style sanctuary is the First Baptist Church of Greater Cleveland's crown jewel. But both worshippers and management were feeling the heat—the congregation sweated through summer services in the non-air-conditioned building, and the building caretakers were paying an average of $60,000 in heat bills each winter.

The extraordinary heating requirements were twofold. First, the church's 55-foot ceiling allowed heat to rise well above the congregation, collecting near the ceiling. This basic issue was compounded by the 74-degree minimum temperature the facility must constantly maintain for the benefit of its pipe organ.

"To get it up to 74 degrees below, it's probably 120 up at the peak. Our heater is constantly going, and Cleveland winters are nasty," said Rev. Jeff Gordon, associate pastor. "We had one month, one January, that the heat bill was $20,000. We actually closed the sanctuary that winter and went into another room."

Gordon knew that ceiling fans could be used to move the heat back down. Stratification occurs because hot air is approximately 5-7% lighter than cool air in a space and tends to rise to the ceiling.

"We were in the middle of a significant renovation, and I thought since we have the lift, we might as well put in some ceiling fans," Gordon said. "I was just looking around to see the biggest fan we could find."

The answer was a large diameter, low speed fan. A 12-foot diameter Element fan from the aptly named Big Fan Company was the perfect fit for the First Baptist sanctuary.

Unlike small ceiling fans that struggle to send air to the floor and only create insignificant pockets of air movement, Big 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.

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.

The energy savings achieved from reducing the amount of heat escaping through the roof is similar to turning the thermostat down three to five degrees, which can also translate to a serious reduction in operating costs. In a tall space like the First Baptist Church of Greater Cleveland, these savings add up quickly.

"The fan should easily save us $3,000-$4,000 per year," Gordon said.

In the summer, large diameter fans can work hand-in-hand with HVAC to recirculate cooled air or can stand alone to improve the congregation's comfort in non-conditioned spaces.

"We got the fan for winter heat recirculation, so summer cooling was a benefit that we didn't really expect. But in the summertime, the fan was a lifesaver," Gordon said. "It really makes it much more comfortable. We have sweat through so many services with small box fans in the side windows. They're loud and obnoxious, and this fan is silent. It's not disruptive like the box fans were."

Element was the first large diameter, low speed fan specifically built for use in churches and other quiet places. Unlike fans intended for use in industrial spaces, Element utilizes an oil-free, permanent magnet prime mover that provides high torque at low speeds and eliminates the need for a noisy gearbox.

Finished in a dark bronze color, the fan at First Baptist Church of Greater Cleveland also complements the historic building.

"This is the kind of church that when you say 'fan,' you think it will destroy the aesthetics," Gordon said. "Those beams are hand-carved, and it's a very fine detail. We thought it might look funny, but we're very happy with how it blends in."

By recirculating heat and improving summer comfort, the First Baptist Church of Greater Cleveland's large diameter, low speed fan is beautiful in both form and function in every season.

Erin Hsu is senior copywriter for the Big Fan Company, the world's preeminent designer and manufacturer of large diameter, low speed fans.

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