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Luck Stone Improves Maintenance Shop Comfort and Efficiency With Proper Circulation and Some Big Fans.

By Mark S. Kuhar

Maintaining comfortable conditions in your quarry’s maintenance shop can be an expensive undertaking. This is especially true during the winter months when loaders and haul trucks fill up a lot of workspace. But a familiar, albeit oversized, concept can be put to work in these facilities to increase technicians’ comfort and reduce the shop’s energy usage in every season.

Large-diameter, low-speed fans ranging up to 24 ft. in diameter can use their immense size, rather than speed, to efficiently move a massive amount of air throughout a space, from ceiling to floor and wall to door. Depending on the fan’s speed, this gentle, nondisruptive airflow both cools in the summer and improves heating efficiency in the winter.

Heat From Above
Workers subjected to excessively cold temperatures can suffer a loss of dexterity, and may require additional clothing to cope with the cold. This might put them at risk for entanglement or other perils. Allowing breaks for workers to warm back up and giving chemicals more time to dry in cold temperatures can also affect productivity. But there’s a simple solution to efficiently bring heat back down to the occupants’ level.

Luck Stone of Manakin-Sabot, Va., experienced firsthand the power of a large-diameter, low-speed fan manufactured by Lexington, Ky.-based Big Ass Fans (see sidebar) in its large equipment service center. In the winter, the shop was heated to 70 F, but all the heat rose to the top of the 30-ft. ceiling, leaving technicians shivering below, particularly when the four large bay doors were opened to move equipment. The temperature differential between the floor and a second-story loft was frequently 8 or 9 degrees.

Stratification occurs because air from a heater is approximately 5-7 percent lighter than cool air in a space and tends to rise to the ceiling. Unlike small fans, in the winter, Big Ass Fans are slowed, not reversed, to efficiently destratify heat by slowly 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.

“We were basically heating the rooftop of the shop,” said Project Manager Mark Endries.

“It’s just not a smart way to run your business. We recognized we needed a way to improve the comfort level of the mechanics working in the shop, while being operationally efficient and environmentally conscious too.”

Luck Stone tried typical small ceiling fans, but they didn’t make any difference in the tall space. “We tried several different things to bring that heat down here and provide comfort, with limited success,” Endries said.

Luck Stone ran the numbers and saw that a large-diameter, low-speed Big Ass Fan in the shop would recirculate enough heat to pay for itself within three years. A 20-ft. diameter Powerfoil X was put into service. Although a mild winter of 2011 skewed their actual heat usage in the first six months after installing the fan, Endries was thrilled with the fan’s performance. “It was something we never tried before and for us to take that risk and be so happy with it is fantastic,” he said.

Comfortable Workers Are Productive Workers
As well as providing winter heat recirculation, Big Ass Fans also work all summer, providing air movement that can make a person feel 10 F cooler. That 10 F can make a big difference when it comes to worker safety and comfort.

When temperature and humidity levels rise, the body’s natural ability to cool itself decreases. Government standards indicate temperatures of 100.4 F and above are dangerous for workers, while air temperatures that exceed 95 F significantly increase the heat load on the body.

Discomfort issues have a negative impact on productivity and the bottom line. Research shows that elevated temperatures affect our potential for both mental and physical work. Hot working conditions affect worker morale, absenteeism, turnover, quality of workmanship, and the frequency of both accidents and grievances.

At Luck Stone, the Big Ass Fan is used to keep employees comfortable on hot days as well as cool. The single overhead fan replaced several noisy floor fans that cluttered the shop.

“Taking out the floor fans cleared up some space and got cords out of the way,” Endries said. “Our people used to take breaks to get water or cool off in front of the floor fans, and I think our productivity may have been a little off because of them needing to cool down. The Big Ass Fan really helps to keep them cooler and more comfortable by having the air moving.”

In air-conditioned spaces, Big Ass Fans work hand-in-hand with HVAC systems to augment cooling with minimal energy. Because the perceived cooling effect of air movement can make a person feel up to 10 F cooler, managers 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.

Big Ass 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.

The Big Ass Fan keeps Luck Stone’s technicians comfortable year round, and has become standard equipment in the shop.

“In the winter the Big Ass Fan pushes down the warm air at the ceiling very effectively, and in the summertime it created a breeze,” Endries said. “That fan runs every day that we’re working.”

Information for this article prepared by Erin Hsu, senior copywriter for Big Ass Fans.

Big Ass Fans. Really?
Yes, that’s the company name. Big Ass Fans develops, engineers, tests, ships, receives, markets, sells and celebrates fans all under one roof in Lexington, Ky. The company was ranked among the top 25 Best Places to Work in Kentucky in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. This prestigious award recognized the company for maintaining an outstanding work environment, allowing employees to meet professional goals, learn new skills and most importantly, have fun.

At Big Ass Fans, employees can shoot pool, play foosball, shuffleboard, air hockey and ping-pong without even leaving the office. Monday and Friday mornings there is an all-you-can-eat cereal bar, along with a self-serve coffee and tea bar at all times. The company also offers employee lunches and company BBQs on a regular basis.

Big Ass Fans employees are committed to giving back to the community as well. They participate in numerous philanthropic activities throughout the year including benefit walks, and various clothing and food donations. And if you like being an ass, you can don the Fanny suit (Fanny is the company’s donkey mascot) for the charitable events they support.