Anytime Fitness in Faribault, Minn.
By Nina Wolgelenter
Fitness centers are notorious for fluctuating temperatures. With patrons running half marathons on treadmills, aerobics classes at full capacity and well-intentioned folks standing around contemplating a workout, Chad Larson, manager of Anytime Fitness in Faribault, Minn., knows how hard it is to maintain a comfort level for all. You can't control all variables, but Larson found a quiet, energy-saving solution that allows high humidity, equipment safety and patron comfort to be managed easily.
When you get right down to it, Larson was having trouble circulating air within his 3,500-square-foot facility. "When you get a bunch of people in here doing cardio and sweating and doing group fitness, it gets real muggy," Larson said. "Sometimes it would be so busy the mirrors would actually steam up in here because we didn't have good circulation."
After unsuccessfully toying with his air conditioning during the summer and his economizer during the winter to increase air circulation and maintain steady temperatures, Larson began to look for an alternative solution. What resulted was the installation of an 18-foot Powerfoil fan from Big Ass Fans.
Ranging in size from 6 to 24 feet in diameter, these fans effectively circulate air either in tandem with an HVAC system or on their own, significantly improving the stale, stagnant air conditions that are often prevalent in workout facilities of any size. In addition, constant, steady air movement eliminates condensation and humidity problems, helping to ensure a safer, healthier environment for Anytime Fitness.
The key to the effectiveness of the fans is their ability to move huge volumes of air, providing quiet, gentle, non-disruptive and non-turbulent air movement. Though large and powerful, they are also remarkably energy-efficient because they use very small motors, particularly relative to the volume of air movement they generate.
According to the National Bureau of Standards, energy savings of at least 3 percent can be achieved for each degree the thermostat is lowered during the heating season or raised during the cooling season. If a facility owner using a Big Ass Fan is able to adjust the thermostat several degrees, energy savings can be up to 24 percent or more year-round. Moreover, the cost of operating one of the fans is pennies-per-hour, a negligible amount compared to the extraordinary costs of heating and cooling using conventional HVAC systems.
"I think buying the [fan] is by far the best way to keep costs and energy down from what we had before," Larson said. "Along with keeping the costs down, people like having a nice breeze, it's almost like you are outside."
It's that outdoor breeze that helps create a "feeling of coolness" by evaporating moisture on the skin. The more you perspire, the cooler you feel. By speeding up the evaporation process, people feel more comfortable. "I keep the A/C down now due to the fan because it actually feels cooler in here," Larson said. "It feels like it's 65 in here, even though the temperature is set at 70."
In the wintertime, Larson said he now keeps the heat set at 62 degrees instead of 65 because of the fan's ability to recirculate heat trapped at the ceiling level down to the occupants.
Another advantage of moving large quantities of air within a fitness club is the humidity factor. High moisture content in the air prevents moisture from evaporating. The fan keeps the air moving, resulting in lower humidity and therefore less moisture buildup on fitness equipment. Good air circulation and low humidity add to the lifespan of sensitive fitness equipment, preventing rust and mildew. And in the case of Anytime Fitness, they no longer have to worry about mirrors fogging up.
Ultimately, the sleek and silent fan improves air circulation and workout comfort while reducing costs. And while comfort and air circulation might not be on the minds of prospective members when they first visit a facility, they can certainly feel the difference once inside. "I think every gym should have one of these," Larson said. "Everybody loves it."
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