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How to keep yourself cool indoors

At last! Summer is finally here and the mercury has risen to heights not seen for some time. This is great for sunbathing on the beach if you have the free time, but unfortunately conditions such as this can create an extremely uncomfortable environment for some people. If you are working in an office, or particularly if you are a housebound individual, the indoor temperature can quickly rise to a level considerably higher than that outside, making the environment you have to be in extremely uncomfortable. If you are not lucky enough to have air conditioning in the office or home (few people do in the UK) some advice about how to use a cooling fan to maximise its effectiveness might be useful. We therefore conducted some research to establish the best way to use these fans.

We all know how domestic fans work – they blow the air around the room giving the impression that it is cooling, but is that really the case? If the fan is not positioned correctly all that is really happening is that the warm air is being moved about. This does create a pleasant effect if the draught is directed towards you, but does it actually lower the air temperature?

Placing a fan by an open window will help achieve the objective of drawing cool air in and the warm air out of a room, but have you ever wondered which method of cooling is better, drawing air in or blowing air out? You’d assume that sucking in cold air from outside might have more of a cooling effect, right? Well, perhaps, but blowing the warm air about is another method – a high airflow ensures faster evaporation. This means that even if the room won’t actually be any cooler than with the method of drawing air in, you will actually feel cooler. Why? Because of sweat! Sweat evaporation encouraged by the flow of air from the fan will cool you down.

The best way to test the cooling theory is to conduct four experiments. You will need two control experiments – taking the temperature of the room over a period of time with no windows open, and no fan (I know, it’s hard work – but it’s all in the name of science), then another taking the temperature of the room with the window open.

Next, add the fan to the equation and run it through once with the fan pointing into the room, and again with the fan pointing out of the room. If doing that sounds like it will just make you all hot and bothered, you can see our results below.

As you can see from the above illustration, a tiny fan wouldn’t really make that much difference to the overall temperature of the room. Also, during the recent super-hot weather, the temperature outside was about the same as that inside, meaning that sucking didn’t really bring in much cool air at all. Because there was nowhere to draw any cool air from, blowing out didn’t help much either. Though, as we mentioned before – it certainly makes you feel cooler, whether the temperature reflects that or not. However, it is clear that the fan blowing air out of the room, drawing the hot air away, has a very slight advantage over the other options, so how do we best make use of this fact? That’s where our more complex method comes into play.

In this method, the goal is to create a path for the air to travel along. You really need a series of fans directing air from the coolest part of your house (if you have some north facing windows ensure they are open) towards your lounge area, and another conducting the hot air away. A good way to achieve this is to install a window extractor fan. This will help to expel the warm air from the room that will be replaced by the airflow from the other fans. It might take a bit of experimentation, but we’re sure you’ll figure out the best method

A final tip: placing a dish containing ice cubes in front of a fan will cool the blown air. Alternatively, put some partially filled pop bottles in the freezer. When thoroughly frozen place them in the airflow from the fan.

Keep cool!

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