For most industrial facilities, the arrival of winter her- alds two problems: cold employees and high natural gas bills. A solution to those problems can be found
in large, overhead fans already in use in many facilities. Not
only do fans cool employees when it’s hot, they also keep
them warm in winter, drastically lowering heating costs in the
Copier and printer manufacturer Ricoh USA is the perfect
example of how fans destratify the air — that is, eliminate temperature variances from floor to ceiling. With summertime temperatures reaching 100 degrees F, and winter averages in the 20s
and 30s, the company’s 200,000-sq-ft warehouse in Nashville,
TN, was prone to uncomfortable conditions in both seasons.
In summer, the building trapped heat from sunlight that
came in through the massive east- and west-facing bay doors,
which compounded the sweltering humidity that already
bogged down workers. In winter, the same bay doors made it
easy for heated air to escape the facility.
Ricoh USA worked with Big Ass Fans to purchase and
install Basic 6 fans throughout the distribution center. Six
fans were installed in the shipping and receiving docks, and
four more were installed in the central warehouse to combat
the sweltering summertime conditions. Not only do the fans
provide a cooling breeze, but they complement the facility’s
ventilation system, creating facility-wide air movement.
However, Ricoh soon learned Big Ass Fans are beneficial
in winter, too, keeping employees comfortable and lowering
heating costs by eliminating thermal stratification.
Stratification is the layering of different temperatures of
air at different heights. The principle behind the problem is
simple: heat rises. Hot air is 5 percent to 7 percent lighter than
cold air. As heaters pump hot air into the space in the winter,
the hot air becomes trapped at the ceiling, leaving employees
at ground level cold.
The higher the ceiling, the worse the problem — and Ricoh’s
ceilings are 40 feet. In a typical facility that size, heaters run
nearly constantly, which is necessary to saturate the space with
warm air and provide comfort to workers on the ground.
Big Ass Fans’ Basic 6 eases the strain on Ricoh’s heaters
by pushing hot air downward and mixing the air to create a
uniform temperature facility-wide. The fans reduce heating
use and costs by up to 30 percent, and significantly increases
comfort and speed up “recovery time” — the time it takes the
docks to warm back up after the bay doors have been opened.
Ricoh’s Basic 6 fans are each 24-feet in diameter — in
large, open areas such as warehouses, huge fans are ideal
because they move a lot of air even at low speeds. Prior to
installing the Big Ass Fans, Ricoh used smaller, higher-speed
fans that were so ineffective employees couldn’t feel them at
Even if they could, breezes that cool employees in the
summer can become uncomfortable in the winter, making
high-volume, low-speed fans preferable. Large fans operating
at low speeds mix the air and warm employees without creating a draft. Basic 6 includes variable-speed controls — the fan
can be operated anywhere from one percent to 100 percent of
its top speed.
Traditionally, fans are thought of solely as a way to cool
off when the weather is hot. However, fans can improve
employee comfort and lower heating costs in the winter, as
well. Through the use of ceiling fans, Ricoh USA created
comfortable air movement for employees in the summer and
efficiently distributed heated air in the winter.
Ricoh USA Keeps Employees
Comfortable in Summer and
Winter with Fans