On the back lot of the ClosetMaid facility in Ocala, FL sits a tractor-trailer filled with high-velocity air circulation fans—just about 200 of them. These fans were excised from the hundreds of work stations located in the storage area of the wire shelving product manufacturer’s 400,000-sq-ft facility, in a radical move that measurably improved working conditions.

The improvement in the facility’s thermal environment was actually achieved by transplanting other fans within the space once occupied by the 200 high-velocity fans. However, the replacement fans were 20-ft-diameter, high-volume, low-speed fans made by HVLS Fan Company (Lexington, KY), and the exchange rate was on the order of one to 15. In other words, just 14 of the HVLS fans were able to provide the air circulation and comfort conditions for which the 200 high-velocity fans had previously been used.

Hot Processes Drive the Search for Cool Solutions

ClosetMaid’s Ocala, FL facility employs approximately 700 people. Located near the Everglades, in central Florida, the facility is not air conditioned, and the working environment, particularly during Florida’s blistering summers, can be stifling.

Compounding the problem was the amount of heat generated by the manufacturing processes, causing the realization by plant management that something had to be done to improve the working environment.

ClosetMaid’s management became committed to expending the resources to finding the solution that was the most feasible, the most economical, and that would make the most difference possible in comfort conditions in the facility.

According to John Cole, facilities manager, the company performed several engineering studies to determine how to improve thermal comfort conditions within the facility. The studies concluded that improving the airflow would have the most impact.

More Small Fans Mean Big Additional Cost

ClosetMaid’s management was anxious to follow the recommendations of the engineering studies and to get more air moving in the building. The problem was that none of the solutions they considered — including buying more high-velocity fans — would solve the problem. While, at least initially, buying more small fans seemed the least expensive solution, it was clear that they could not create enough air movement to improve comfort to any great degree, particularly since their range was really limited to individual work stations.

Upon hearing of Cole’s dilemma, engineers with HVLS felt certain that their big fans could make a big difference. They convinced Cole to try a single 20-ft-dia fan. After operating the fan for a very short period, Cole’s team realized that the HVLS fans were the solution they were seeking.

They recognized that several of the large fans could take the place of the hundreds of small fans located throughout the facility, would generate greatly improved airflow, and would save considerable energy dollars. By the end of the summer, ClosetMaid had purchased an additional 13 20-ft-dia fans and removed approximately 200 high-velocity fans.

The patent-pending HVLS fans use 10 hollow-core extruded aluminum airfoils to optimize airflow. The aerodynamically designed blades can be made in lengths ranging from 4 ft to 12 ft, creating fans that range in size from 8 ft to 24 ft in diameter. Unlike a high-velocity fan, which moves a lot of air by rotating quickly and stirring a small amount of air over and over again, the HVLS fan moves a lot of air by moving a very large column of air very slowly, at about 3 mph, or 260 to 280 fpm.

The fans can move from 15,000 cfm (8-ft-dia fan) to 122,000 cfm (24-ft-dia fan) of air, and will cover an unobstructed area of up to 20,000 sq ft with no significant reduction in the air velocity at the outer perimeter of the column of air. The effect throughout the area of coverage is that of a gentle breeze, which improves the human body’s ability to cool itself through the evaporation of perspiration, without otherwise annoying employees or disturbing work processes.

Placing the Big Fans

For ClosetMaid, purchasing the fans was part of a plant-wide workspace improvement effort to achieve improved productivity. The area in which the fans were installed also was cleaned and painted. The ceiling was replaced and new lighting was installed. A roof cooling system, designed to remove the roof as a source of heat gain into the building, was also installed. The redesign of the interior of the facility incorporated the installation of the big fans.

Based on the information supplied by HVLS Fan Company regarding the nature of the airflow generated by the fans, the CAD operator laid out the fans to maximize the area of coverage. Care was taken to maximize the airflow to the ClosetMaid employees, taking advantage of the fact that the big fans are, indeed, personnel fans, not personal fans.


Ultimately, John Cole and the employees at ClosetMaid have all become big fans of the big fans. “I even get e-mails from people telling me the difference that the fans have made in the plant. And I notice that as soon as it starts to get warm, they start turning on these fans,” he said. During the recent unusually cool winter, with temperatures in the 30s and 40s for several weeks, ClosetMaid also discovered that the fans could move the warm air that collected at the ceiling level and circulate it throughout the facility, eliminating uncomfortable cold spots — an unanticipated benefit of the big fans, but a welcome one for a facility with no auxiliary heat.

An additional six fans were recently purchased for installation in a new warehouse, bringing the total to 20. For ClosetMaid, HVLS fans have become an integral part of their improved building environment.