When thinking of fans, you likely envision summer. Fans have become synonymous with beating the heat. After all, moving air is cooler air – hence why it's referred to as a "cool breeze." Well, actually that's not quite accurate.
While fans can (and often do) cool you down, their primary function is simply air circulation and they can also work to spread warm air. If you have a fireplace that only heats the two square feet around it, a fan can help amplify the warmth.
A little science: Understanding how airflow works
The common belief is that heat rises but, according to Energy Vanguard, this was not exactly true. While hot air is lighter than cold, heat will go wherever it is directed – up or down. That said, heat particles are generally more spread out than colder ones, making them lighter. This creates a layering effect where hot air inevitably sets itself on top of cold air. But this balance can be easily disrupted.
With this knowledge in mind, you can better stop that cold air from settling but continuously disrupting it in one of two ways. The first is to blast the warm air down into the cold, the second is to draw the cold air up into the warmth. So, while air in your face is a great idea during summer, it would be better to direct elevated fans toward the floor in winter.
Energy Star stated that ceiling fans can have their blade direction reversed to send warm air down from the ceiling. Pointing your fans at the ceiling will have a similar effect.
The best fans for circulating air
A wide variety of fans exist that specialize in promoting an air current within a room. These air circulators have been designed to be easily placed and versatile, with most models equipped with pivoting heads. They can be wall-mounted or stuck on the tops of counters and shelves. Since most of these units are made of plastic, it is not recommended that they be placed directly on top of a fireplace without some sort of buffer.
Remember that these fans do not have to be on high to be effective at spreading heat.
Humidifying the air to avoid dry skin
Fans have a tendency to dry the air they're circulating, which is fine – in summer. In winter, however, the air already has low humidity. If you're heating your house with a fireplace and using fans to spread that warm current, you're going to reduce the moisture in your air. Luckily, there's a couple solutions to this problem.
The first is the simplest: place water on top of your fireplace – preferably in a safe kettle-like container. The fire will heat the water just like you were making tea. If left alone long enough, the water from the kettle will begin to steam upward, putting water vapor into the room and humidifying the air.
However, this method can be messy or even dangerous if you choose the wrong container. A quality humidifier is the most effective way to ensure that hot air does not necessarily mean dry air.
Armed with your fans and humidifier, you have everything you need to enhance the effectiveness of your fireplace without suffering the ill effects. While they cool in summer, a good fan can be just the thing to help keep the cold away.
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