The Physics of Fans – Understanding Perceived Cooling and Its Impact on Comfort, Productivity, and Safety

The Physics of Fans – Understanding Perceived Cooling and Its Impact on Comfort, Productivity, and Safety

Fans have been used for centuries to provide relief from heat and to create a cooling effect. Despite not lowering ambient air temperature, fans can make people (and animals) feel cooler and more comfortable. And quickly. Perceived cooling, provided by fans, is based in physics. This article will explore the phenomenon of perceived cooling and the science behind how fans create the sensation of cooling, which leads to a more comfortable, more productive, and safer workplace environment.

CONVECTIVE COOLING: Moving Air to Disperse Heat

The most basic principle behind fan-induced cooling is through convective heat transfer. When you are hot, your body releases excess heat through your skin to maintain a safe and stable internal core temperature. If the surrounding air is stagnant, heat can accumulate, and your body cannot remove this heat effectively. This convective heat transfer occurs when air moves across the skin, carrying heat away from the body’s surface.

Fans facilitate convective cooling by circulating air and replacing the warm air radiating from your skin with cooler ambient air. As a fan blows across your skin, it enhances this heat transfer process, allowing your body to dissipate heat more efficiently. This movement of hot air prevents the formation of a warm air boundary next to your skin, which in turn makes you feel cooler.

EVAPORATIVE COOLING: Enhancing The Cooling Effect

Additionally, fans also improve the process of evaporative cooling. Evaporation is a natural cooling process that takes place when a liquid (sweat) changes into a vapor. When a person sweats, the moisture on his skin evaporates into the air, carrying excess heat away from his body.

Fans accelerate this process, sweat evaporation, by increasing air movement around the skin. The constantly moving air helps carry away the water vapor, allowing ‘room’ for sweat to evaporate. This leads to a more effective cooling process, especially in environments with low humidity.

WIND CHILL EFFECT: Perceived Temperature Reduction

The wind-chill effect is a well-known phenomenon that contributes to perceived cooling. Even if the actual air temperature remains unchanged, the presence of moving air (wind) can make you feel colder due to the uptick in convective heat transfer. In a windy environment, like a windy day, the combination of air temperature and wind speed creates a perceived lower temperature. This is why a gentle breeze from a fan can make you feel cooler, even if the fan (or wind) does not lower the temperature of the air itself.


There is no way to stop naturally-created wind; you can’t customize its impact. But you can customize the perceived cooling effect provided by a fan. Unlike central air conditioning, which cools an entire space, fans allow personalized and localized cooling. Individuals can adjust the direction and speed of a fan to suit their particular preferences and needs. In short, the ability to control airflow direction and rate allows a user to create a micro-climate. Employees in a particular area of a warehouse or manufacturing facility can position a fan to blow more directly on his workstation, ensuring that he remains comfortable, productive and focused exactly when and where he desires.

At the end of the day, fans are a by-product of physics. By facilitating convective cooling, enhancing evaporative cooling, and creating a wind-chill effect, fans can play a vital role in helping our bodies regulate internal temperature and dissipate heat more efficiently. Personalizing and customizing this cooling effect puts the power of comfort, quite literally, in your hands – which makes a fan an affordable, practical, versatile, and effective solution for staying cool in various settings. Whether used alone or in conjunction with other cooling methods, fans provide a cost-effective and energy-efficient way to improve comfort, productivity, and safety in hot weather conditions.

HIGH VOLUME, LOW SPEED: Harnessing The Power of Perceived Cooling

HVLS fans, like the ones developed, designed, and distributed by Big Ass Fans have emerged as game-changing solutions to the challenge of creating more comfortable, more productive, and safer workplace environments. These colossal fans move vast amounts of air at low rotational speeds, significantly improving airflow dynamics, especially in large spaces like warehouses, factories, and commercial establishments.

The basic idea? Move more air with less power. The key elements that make HVLS fans efficient and effective:

  • Large Diameter: The oversized fan blades enable these fans to displace more air in a single rotation than smaller fans.
  • Airfoil Blades: Airfoil-shaped blades, similar to those used in aircraft, are designed to minimize air resistance and maximize lift, which allows these fans to move a massive amount of air even at low speeds.
  • Rotational Speed: HVLS fans are purpose-built to rotate at slow speeds, which generates a gentle breeze that prevents disruptive airflow and minimizes energy consumption.
  • Air Distribution: HVLS fans are strategically placed to ensure uniform air distribution throughout large spaces. This balanced air movement helps eliminate hot spots, which helps maintain a consistent temperature.

HVLS fans are a groundbreaking innovation. By harnessing the power of moving air with less power, these big fans create a more comfortable and consistent indoor environment while significantly reducing energy consumption. With a wide range of applications, HVLS fans can make a positive impact on a myriad of industrial applications while also promoting sustainability and enhancing overall workplace comfort, productivity, and safety.

So, the next time you’re feeling uncomfortably warm, turn on a fan and don’t just beat the heat, blow it away.

About Big Ass Fans

At Big Ass Fans, we’re driven by our mission to create safer, healthier, more productive environments worldwide. What started as a big idea in airflow became a revolution and is now the best practice for designers, managers, and business owners across every imaginable industry and application. Today, our products are proudly spinning and serving more than 80 percent of the Fortune 500 in 175 countries. From factories to homes and everywhere in between, Big Ass Fans delivers comfort, style, and energy savings to make life more enjoyable. With more than 235 awards, 350 patents, an experiment on the International Space Station, and the only HVLS Research & Design lab in the world, we go big every day. For more information, visit

By: Russell Schaumburg

Media Relations

Gretchen Bright
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