LIGHTFAIR 2019: How Smart Fans are Circulating to Commercial Buildings

May 23, 2019

As we discuss ways in which smart home technology encroaches on the commercial market, smart fans should be included. At LIGHTFAIR International 2019, we highlight one smart fan product and how the technology as a whole can benefit commercial buildings.

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At LIGHTFAIR International (LFI) 2019 in Philadelphia, a technology that caught our attention was the smart fan.

A smart fan is a ceiling fan that, through sensors, can measure the temperature in the room and adjust fan speed, while being remotely controlled, for greater energy efficiency.

(Photo: Smart fan from Modern Fans. Credit: Sarah Kloepple)

This year’s LFI conference highlighted plenty of ways a building can control its own climate, particularly through lighting controls. HVAC units, luminaires and thermostats aren’t the only types of equipment that can monitor a building’s climate. Smart fans can, too.

[From LIGHTFAIR: Light Fixtures Improve Acoustics in Open Work Spaces]

Smart Fans in the Commercial Sector

As we discuss ways in which smart home technology moves into the commercial market, smart fans should be included. They’re already sought after in the residential market, as many can be connected to a home’s smart thermostat, but they serve a purpose in the commercial realm, too.

For example, “in Texas, there’s a lot of apartment buildings or facilities where they’ll run fans down the middle of a hallway, but they don’t want [occupants] to control them. Traditionally, there was no way to do that. So the FM would have to run down the hallway, pulling all the chains,” says Jesse Couillou, national smart fan trainer for Modern Forms.

[Also from LIGHTFAIR: Control Lighting From Your Phone]

But smart fan technology—particularly Modern Forms’ grouping technology—“makes it a lot easier to control multiple fans simultaneously,” he adds.

A 2016 study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that the ideal office design for traditional ceiling fans should include:

  • Open-office floor plans with ceilings at least 9 feet high
  • Interior or desk partitions less than 54 inches tall
  • At least 2,000 cooling degree days and full daytime business hours
  • No existing features—like lighting fixtures or HVAC ducts—that might interfere with the fan blades
  • Current cooling set point lower than 75 degrees, and no regulatory or technical prohibitions against raising it

Smart Fan vs. Traditional Ceiling Fan

The goal is energy efficiency, and that’s what smart fans aim to bring to the table over a traditional ceiling fan. They can turn off automatically when a space reaches a preset temperature or is unoccupied.

BUILDINGS Express Listen

Lighting’s Ability to Disinfect a Space


At LIGHTFAIR International 2019 in Philadelphia, PA, Sarah Kloepple spoke with David Korow, senior lighting specialist with Current by GE about the evolution of the technology behind lighting’s ability to disinfect spaces.

He also touches on the installation process and what facilities managers need to know. Listen here >>

Couillou says Modern Forms’ line of smart fans offers six levels of fan speed, as well as luminaires with different color temperatures, which the user can control through an app. “Traditionally, you buy a fan, and you get whatever color temperature or whatever [lumen] output it is.”

At the Modern Forms booth, we also noticed that their smart fans are extremely quiet—practically silent. That’s because they use a DC motor over the traditional AC motor. Couillou says that also means the fan is a quarter of the weight of an AC motor-operated ceiling fan, making it easier to install.

Looking Ahead

As the smart fan moves into the commercial market, it could be the solution your building or facility needs for greater energy efficiency. The upfront cost is higher than a traditional ceiling fan, but more affordable options continue to become available.

More LIGHTFAIR 2019 coverage:

About the Author

Sarah Kloepple | Associate Editor

Sarah joined the BUILDINGS team as an associate editor in August 2018. She is a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, where her focus was magazine writing. She's written and edited for numerous publications in her hometown of St. Louis.

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