NBAA Convention News

More Than Just a Big Ass Fan

 - October 22, 2013, 6:15 AM
Big Ass Fans has found a niche in the aviation market, where its fans are used to circulate and cool air in hangars. Some of the models can be equipped with security cameras, fire-suppression equipment and LED lights. The company’s booth at the show is being cooled by an 18-foot ceiling fan.

The firm started in 1999 as the HVLS Fan Co., an acronym for high-volume low-speed fans. That name accurately described the design and efficiency of the company’s products, but after three years in business, according to the Lexington, Ky.-based manufacturer, “we finally had to bow to the sentiments of our customers and concede that we do, in fact, design and manufacture some Big Ass Fans.” Hence, the current brand name.

At the NBAA show (Booth No. C13016), Big Ass Fans has proof, indeed, that its fans are both large and efficient. Overhead and working is an 18-foot ceiling fan, and as proof that not everything is “big-ass,” there are also several samples of smaller floor models.

According to government and aviation sales manager Cederic Johnson, these fans are not to be confused with your typical residential ceiling fan. In addition to a 100,000-sq-ft manufacturing facility in Lexington, the company operates 44,000 sq ft of research space where engineers have developed everything from winglets to composite shapes. In fact, he added, Big Ass Fans’ largest product is a 24-foot fan with winglets. The design, he said, allows a single fan to cover an area from 20,000 to 30,000 sq ft. The smallest Big Ass Fan is a four-foot floor model and the smallest ceiling fan is six feet in diameter.

Prices range from about $2,000 for a floor model up to $7,500 for the 24-foot Powerfoil Plus, and they can be customized to meet clients’ needs, with addition such as winglets, fire-suppression equipment, cameras and LED lights. The fans are also available in a broad range of blade shapes and a multitude of colors.

“Green” Certification

Installation of Big Ass Fans products can also contribute to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification by the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council. LEED certification is a rating system used to evaluate the design, construction, operation and maintenance of green buildings, homes and neighborhoods. One instance of such certification is LEED Platinum-certified Hangar 25 at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, Calif. The structure employs seven, 24-foot Powerfoil Plus fans.

According to Johnson, the overhead fans help cool the hangar in warmer months and provide heat de-stratification in the colder months, allowing comfortable working temperatures for employees. “The aerodynamic design of Big Ass Fans allows them to move vast amounts of air very efficiently at slow speeds, using very little energy,” he said. This air distribution also inhibits heat loss through the roof in colder months and delivers gentle, cooling breezes in the summertime.

Because the steady mixing of air creates a uniform temperature throughout a structure, it assists a heater or air conditioner to maintain the same thermostat setpoint with less effort. Big Ass Fans claims that can result in a reduction of operating costs of more than 30 percent in some cases, with a one- to two-year return on investment.

Rapid Growth

The growth of the company has most recently brought its employee level to nearly 500 in its three Lexington facilities, and expansion has added a 10,000-sq-ft facility in Tingalpa, Australia, with administrative, sales and marketing offices as well as applications engineering and warehousing facilities.

Johnson said the business has been growing and the company has more than doubled in size since the recession began in 2008. And no small part of that growth has come from the aviation sector, including general aviation facilities. Among its customers are NASA’s Langley Research Center and Alcoa Fujikara, the latter having installed Big Ass Fans in its 10,000-sq-ft corporate hangar at San Antonio International Airport.

Johnson admits that the name of the company continues to garner chuckles, something that the company does not object to and even encourages. In fact, its mascot is a stuffed donkey (think ass, here), and the staff takes delight in dressing the mascots in various costumes, from angels to zombies.

But Johnson points out that, humor aside, Big Ass Fans devotes a lot of time to engineering, design and technology. “It may be a silly name,” he said, “but it’s a very serious product.”