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Bladeless ceiling fan uses vortex airflow to regulate room temperature

By

November 8, 2012

How the Exhale fan looks - very different than a traditional ceiling fan

How the Exhale fan looks - very different than a traditional ceiling fan

Image Gallery (7 images)

The core design of ceiling fans hasn't altered in the 150 years or so since they first made an appearance. Most ceiling fans cool by blowing air straight down, which is fine if you're standing directly underneath the blades, but of less use for regulating and homogenizing the overall air temperature in the room. Nik Hiner, via his company Exhale Fans, is trying to disrupt the industry with an innovative new design.

The Exhale fan, developed by Hiner with help from Richard Halsall, works differently from normal ceiling fans. The spinning of the flat discs that make up the Exhale fan creates laminar movement which moves the air out and down the walls. This means air circulates around the whole room pretty evenly. Another advantage is that the fan is virtually silent, with even the motor powering it being designed to be as quiet as possible.

Once the air molecules have completed their circuit around the room they're swept back up to the center of the fan in a vortex pattern, as demonstrated by the GIF embedded below.

In theory this 360-degree movement of the air around the room should eliminate the hot and cold spots associated with traditional ceiling fans. The whole thing is powered by a high-efficiency DC motor with a 6-speed wireless remote.

extensible table

Hiner was moved to invent a new kind of ceiling fan after becoming disheartened by the look and performance of those currently in his house and available on the market. His Eureka moment was thinking "Cyclonic air movement," and after studying how Nikola Tesla's bladeless turbines operated, he created his first attempt at a bladeless ceiling fan. That was back in 2005, and Hiner then spent the next few years adapting the design and constructing numerous prototypes before settling on the finished product.

The Exhale fan is now on crowd-funding site Indiegogo, with a minimum of US$250 required to score one unit upon release. The money raised from the crowd-funding campaign will be used for finalizing the tooling, designing the packaging, buying the raw materials needed to make the fans, and seeking UL (Underwriters Laboratories) approval. The first Exhale fan is expected to roll off the production line in February 2013.

The video below is Hiner's Indiegogo pitch.

Source: Indiegogo via Dvice

About the Author
Dave Parrack Dave is a technology journalist with a ravenous appetite for gadgets, gizmos, and gubbins. He's based in the U.K., and from his center of operations writes about all facets of modern and future technology. He has learned more in his five years writing for the Web than he did in 11 years at school, and with none of the boring subjects thrown in to the mix.   All articles by Dave Parrack
26 Comments

You are not quite right on how a normal ceiling fan operates. A fan has two directions, one for cooling a room, and the other for warming. If a fan is blowing down, it is circulating warm air down from the ceiling to mix with cooler air near face/chest level. Switch it in the opposite direction and it will pull cooler air from the floor and mix it with the warm air you're breathing, helping to cool you off.

This does look like a cool design, though. Efficient.

Clifton Golz
8th November, 2012 @ 08:44 pm PST

Well I am glad that they aren't really calling this an invention or innovation merely applying century-old invention (I hate the word technology, when something is just an invention (Using traditional machining, or other production methods), not a development of a whole new technology itself..).

Credit to the inventor of the bladeless turbine.... NT.

MD
9th November, 2012 @ 02:08 am PST

fans do not regulate temperature. (unless they are used in conjunction with a thermostat of some type). fans do not cool or warm they provide air flow which in a closed room will eventually result in a median temperature for the room ie the airspace will be the same temperature at most if not all locations in the room. it would be interesting to know the maximum ceiling height or draw height to see how useful it really is.

another innovation based on 100 year old tech. wonder if they will get

a new patent too lol.

Brad Needham
9th November, 2012 @ 02:17 am PST

As far as reversing the direction goes, the inventor noted in the video that they selected a DC motor for the fan design. Given that reversing a DC motor is trivial, and that there seems to be no reason why the cyclonic movement of air could not be reversed as well, it's reasonable to assume that production models will incorporate this feature with almost no additional cost for production.

SiteGuy
9th November, 2012 @ 03:56 am PST

WOW! Just what I wanted... a huge, deep three foot wide fan hanging way down in the middle of my living room!! What a wonderful idea!!

JoeB
9th November, 2012 @ 05:12 am PST

I have a ceiling fan in my bedroom,and in summer,when it is quite hot,I run the fan in reverse to do the same thing as this new one does.The result is a cooling steady breeze across my bed.I don't need my A/C on at all!

michael_dowling
9th November, 2012 @ 06:35 am PST

why not insert the exhale fan into a dropped ceiling arrangement where only the (smaller non protruding) vortex opening is visible in the center of a room and small vent slits (possibly hidden by moldings) at the perimeter of a room.

ukrauskopf
9th November, 2012 @ 08:28 am PST

I have seen something similar in a Bar it's called a smoke eater, they are designed to remove cigarette smoke from the air and when running wobbled like a old wagon wheel. and look like a blast to keep clean. go for a dark color if you plan on getting one !

POOL PUMPREAPAIR guy longwood
9th November, 2012 @ 08:28 am PST

JoeB,

I reached up and stretched in my mothers condo a couple years back and broke off two blades on her ceiling fan. There may be a market for these....

PrometheusGoneWild.com
9th November, 2012 @ 08:35 am PST

Intriguing - I wonder if the blade (it looks like a helicoid single blade in the movie) gather dust like my current traditional ceiling fan does.

As for reversing direction in the manner of a traditional fan - I don't see how that can work; the helicoid is not going to "suck air inward" from the ceiling area and push it downward. Or, more specifically, it's not going to suck air up from the outer walls as a reversal effect of the one shown. Seems to me reversing the fan's direction will be useless.

Bob Fately
9th November, 2012 @ 09:17 am PST

If AeroVironment had developed blades for ceiling fans as they intimated they might during the Gossamer years, then much of the inefficiency of existing ceiling fans may have been overcome. But they didn't. This is a fan with a non-reversing flow (even if you change rotation) that operates like a normal ceiling fan in winter mode, but perhaps more efficiently. Cleaning will be fun, and I hope the fan has a quick disconnect that lets you take the blade outside for a quick wash and rinse. And it is not a good changeout for those fans that include a light kit, unless there is a top ring of LEDs beyond the blade circumference.

Bruce H. Anderson
9th November, 2012 @ 09:26 am PST

SiteGuy,

There is no reverse in this design, Regardless of what direction the discs spin the flow will be from center to outside edge.

Kevin Crowley
9th November, 2012 @ 09:45 am PST

@ SiteGuy: Why would you need to reverse this fan? Based on how it moves air, it would be just as effective in drawing heat from floor ducts upwards as it would be drawing cooler air up and forcing hot air down.

Rolf Hawkins
9th November, 2012 @ 11:10 am PST

As I sit beneath my ceiing fan which is currently blowing air downward and creating a nice cool breeze as I compose this comment, I am reminded that in my 26 years as an electician has taught me anything, it is that people believe whatever they choose to believe.

First things first - ceiling fans neither 'heat' nor 'cool' - unless the manufacturer specifically includes a heating element or a mechanism to actually lower the air temperature within the space the fans occupies. Ceiling fans either creates updrafts or downdrafts - nothing more.

Warm air rises. Cool air sinks. This stratifiction of air temperatures is addressed by using ceiling fans. When the fan is set to move the air downward as mine is, I perceive the breeze moving across my skin as being cool because of mild evaporation even though the air temperature at ceiling height is warmer than at desk height. This perception varies with ceiling height and from people to people. Try getting two people agreeing with which direction of blade movement is 'forward' and which is 'reverse'!

When I reverse the rotation of the fan blades so that the air is pulled up from the floor to the ceiling, the warm air is pushed up against the ceiling and is deflected downward by the rooms walls. The idea is to force the warm air downward without creating a noticeable draft, yet effectively raises room temperature enough that the thermostat is satisfied at a lower temperature.

All reversable ceilng fans - including this one - operate on the same principal. The only thing new here is the absence of fan 'blades'.

NK Fro
9th November, 2012 @ 04:10 pm PST

See Dyson desktop fan, only a ring pumping out air, No blades.

Stephen N Russell
9th November, 2012 @ 06:11 pm PST

From the video it looks as thought the discs are spinning. If I am correct what about the liability issue. You have several spinning discs that will act like meat slicers if touched. Why no guarding? Can't say no one will get near it, remember Murphy's law....it will happen and the law suits will start.

Geoffrey Grinnell
10th November, 2012 @ 04:44 am PST

You think cleaning the blades on a regular ceiling fan is hard? Wait till you try one of these!

Ken Dawson
10th November, 2012 @ 02:42 pm PST

Ken Dawson, the spinning disks are within an enclosure. I'd be more surprised if the product designer failed to consider the need to clean the fan.

Geoffrey, the spinning disks are in an enclosure. If I were concerned about product liability, conventionl ceiling fans pose a greater risk for injury.

nkfro
10th November, 2012 @ 05:24 pm PST

There's a better method for homogenizing air temperature.

Actually, it's one method for storing heat inside a "solar" house (a house with lots of windows that collects much solar heat).

The goal is to harvest and store solar energy for the purpose of re-heating the home when the sun goes down.

In order for this to work, when you build the ceilings in your solar house, you have to make them peaked. In the peak you install a collector, which is a perforated pipe that runs the length of the peak and is connected with a suction fan.

The fan draws all that hot air from the peak and pipes it down to a large insulated "thermal mass", which is sort of a thermal battery. This can be anything, but generally it is an insulated bed of gravel that you had fabricated underneath your foundation. The gravel is laced throughout with the air pipes.

So now here's the goal. During the day you'll collect all the solar energy you possibly can. Normally leaving the windows wide open on a sunny day would make the house unbearably hot, but you rely on the fact that hot air rises to collect the hottest air in the ceiling peak and then you pull that hot air away and use it to warm up an insulated gravel bed underneath the house.

Then, whenever the sun goes down or behind clouds, the thermostat shuts the collection system down.

And then, whenever the house is too cold your HVAC system has a two stage scheme. First stage is it pulls the heat back out from the gravel bed for as long as it can until the gravel bed plays out. Second stage, you create heat as normal using a furnace.

Grunchy
10th November, 2012 @ 11:07 pm PST

Fans are popular because they produce a cooling breeze and are cheap to buy and run. How does this compare? 250 bucks is a lot of doe for a ceiling fan that only sucks. I don't think I'll bother....

nutcase
11th November, 2012 @ 06:30 am PST

Saw an alternative idea, that has a very cheap DIY version. A hollow column in one corner, openings either end, small internal fan. Runs up or down. DIY: small fan on the floor in one corner, either directed up the walls (too vertical and a standard fan's bearings will burn out) or deflected up with an angled surface.

Works like a charm; sucks cool air off the floor and mixes with/displaces warm ceiling air. In best case, can cut heating/cooling costs by 40% (cool air doesn't have to fill house from botttom up, warm air doesn't have to push cold out from top down). Occupants and thermostat quickly get to draftless median temperature.

I've used the above for 20 years after reading an article in an architectural mag. Costs $10-15 every few years for a new fan.

Brian Hall
11th November, 2012 @ 05:37 pm PST

@ Stephen N Russell

Dyson should never have gotten the patent for that fan. It is all but identical to a device shown in a mid-1970s article in Scientific American about the Coanda effect.

@ Brian Hall

Why not make the tube L-shaped and mount the motor with its axis horizontal in the horizontal part? This should save the motor bearings.

rocketride
12th November, 2012 @ 08:34 am PST

Search "Fan Death". 80% of South Koreans beleive that a conventional fan's blades "chop" the air, breaking it's molecules down into toxic gasses to a degree that one will die if they sleep in a closed room with the fan running. Dyson's "Air Multiplier" claims that it does not "Chop the air" even though it has a fan hidden in its base. This marketing seems to address this fear. My guess is this ceiling fan will also sell well in South Korea.

John Hagen-Brenner
15th November, 2012 @ 06:17 pm PST

What connects those spinning disks, one to another. We only see it spinning, and can't really tell. Spinning disks alone will not sling air outward. Could there be something like squirrel cage fan blades connecting the spinning disks? Would these not "chop the air" to some degree? Those concerned about "Fan Death" should take a second look.

John Hagen-Brenner
15th November, 2012 @ 06:26 pm PST

Having read this article and people's comments, there seems to be a great misunderstanding of how fans actually produce a cooling effect.

A ceiling fan will not actually cool the air. All it will do is to mix hot and cold air. This is not an ideal situation, and it would be better to leave the hot air at the top of the room if possible. However, the cooling effect is purely caused by evaporation of moisture from the body (latent heat of evaporation) I would say that horizontal fans are more effective than ceiling fans, as they do not suck in hot air, which by convection is in the upper part of the room.Dyson fans do have blades but they are not visible.

Don't forget how they use fans in the Far East: large paddles moved slowly by hand.

windykites1
30th July, 2013 @ 07:56 am PDT

@John Hagen-Brenner

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesla_turbine

MG127
7th August, 2013 @ 05:13 am PDT
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