Stall-Fan Safety

Fans tied to the front of horse stalls is a familiar site to all of us. Often bungeed into place, the fan is often a simple, inexpensive product from a local discount store. And few of us give it another thought. But that’s a mistake. Not all fans are intended for barn use, a dusty, dirty environment even in the most pristine barns. And a fan that isn’t designed for a barn setting can lead to fire.

A properly mounted stall fan is positioned so the horse cannot access the fan or the wiring. Cords are neatly tied together with an electric-safe cable.

OK, Then What Fan?

A fan suitable for continued use in a barn needs a sealed/enclosed motor, so it can’t suck dust up into it.

Just look at the back of an ordinary fan, and you’ll likely see the glint of the copper wires in the motor. That tells you the motor isn’t sealed.

If hay or another combustible material reaches the hot parts of the motor the fan may catch on fire or it may short out. It may produce enough heat to melt the plastic parts of the fan, which could drip onto hay or even result in some small flames . . .

Unfortunately, the fan package won’t say it’s safe for a barn. And the customer-service representative you call at that 800 number may not know either. But, if you check the package or call the company, you may find what you need: a motor that is totally enclosed and/or sealed. Fans that are also outdoor-rated or waterproof also qualify as “sealed.”

We also like fans that have a thermal overload protector that will shut off the fan if the motor overheats. The protector re-sets when the fan cools and turns it on again. Another option to consider is a fan with a fused plug, which will disable the fan if there is an electrical short or overload.

Go Commercial

Because our horses’ fans tend to run continuously for months on end, durability is extremely important. Fans that are designated as “commercial” tend to be more long-lived.

A fan that has an airflow rating of approximately 2,000 cubic feet per minute (CF/M), on the high setting, is right on the money for most stalls. Much more than this is likely to cause too much dust rise and may even make the horse too cool.

Aim the fan so that the horse can get out of the air flow if he wants to do so, and be sure the fan is mounted securely. The stall front is usually the best location because the fan can be mounted to blow horizontally.

If you don’t have a grill/mesh stall front, you can use a post along the wall or in a corner of the stall to install the fan with a wall mount.

You can also use a beam above the stall and mount a ceiling fan. It will need to be out of the horse’s reach. A height of 12 feet (higher for very tall horses) allows airflow while keeping the horse from messing with the fan.

Place any fan (including ceiling fans) below the really hot layer of air that forms just under the roof. In many barns this hot layer will flow up and out through vents or a cupola and you don’t want to disrupt that flow or blow the hot air back down in the barn.

If the fan is on the stall front, route the cord around the back of the fan, then up out of reach, and be just as careful about getting the cord back down to the plug. Self-closing cable ties can help.

If you use choose to use zip plastic ties, select ones that are rated for electrical cords and don’t cinch them too tight. Avoid extension cords if you can, but if you need one get a heavy-duty cord intended for contractor or heavy-duty use.

Bottom Line

Nothing can totally prevent barn fires, but you can lessen the odds with the right fan. A barn fan needs to have a sealed motor. We would consider springing for commercial quality, made for use in outdoors and/or wet, dirty areas, and expect to get more than one year out of it.

And, if you are pulling that fan out of storage for another year, be sure you look it over carefully – commercial quality or not. Clean it (unless you were very good and did that before you put it away), check the wiring and cords. Replace any that are stiff or cracked. Better yet, consider replacing the entire fan. Remember, only you can prevent barn fires (thank you, Smokey Bear, we couldn’t resist).

These companies carry fans suited to a barn environment:

Fan mounts made for horse stalls can be found at: