A new metric for fan efficiency is set to revolutionize how commercial and industrial fans are regulated and considered for utility incentive programs.  It will drive significant energy savings and technological improvements, and it will also help consumers, including system designers, contractors, and facility engineers, to properly select fans.

The current metric has limitations when comparing and assessing fans of different types and sizes with combinations of motors and controls. The new metric, the Fan Energy Index (FEI), will replace the old one and will allow many different types of fans to be compared on equal footing—and with motor and control combinations.

Courtesy Greenheck Fan Corporation

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced its intent to regulate fans but has yet to publish an efficiency standard. As part of the rulemaking process, a public negotiation among stakeholders generated an agreement to measure fan efficiency by using the FEI. The Air Movement and Control Association (AMCA) International and its member companies have been working with regulators, advocacy organizations and other associations on AMCA Standard 208, Calculating Fan Energy Index, and on energy efficiency education and training. In the absence of federal action, the State of California has begun its own regulatory proceeding for the energy consumption of these products, also relying on FEI.

The paper “New Efficiency Metric for Fans Enables New Approaches for Efficiency Regulations and Incentives,” by Michael Ivanovich, Mike Wolf and Tom Catania, explains some of the recommendations that will maximize energy efficiency, optimize buildings’ air movement systems, and maintain product utility at a reasonable cost to the industry and to customers. The paper is available at www.amca.org.

The FEI allows consumers to more easily compare fans, because the metric focuses on the energy consumed by a fan at the operating conditions where it is applied. “It can be used by regulators and purchasers alike to make a price-sensitive market favor true energy efficiency,” the researchers wrote. “This can help consumers see how a fan can be affordable and efficient at the same time. Additionally, the FEI can provide manufacturers with concrete assurance they are creating energy-saving products that will appeal to their market. It is an all-encompassing, high-level solution to a complex problem.”

Fans differ from other appliances in that their operating efficiency varies significantly based on how they are used, the researchers note—a fan that is the least efficient option in some situations may be the most efficient in other situations. The FEI will paint a more accurate picture of this efficiency.

One of the organizing principles of the Erb Institute is to deploy the power of private enterprise and markets to create a more sustainable world.  The development of FEI and the industry’s proactive involvement with energy efficiency advocates and government regulators is a good illustration of these principles in action. Several quadrillion Btus of energy are expected to be saved in the United States alone as the market, through the FEI rating, more clearly understands the energy-saving opportunity when choosing the correct fan for specific operating conditions.