it’s a common sight: A box fan bungeed to a stall door during the summer?the same thing that’s often the initial suspect after a barn fire in summer. Why’ Not all fans are intended for barn use.
Part of the problem is the preference for box fans. We found a number of Air King fans that meet our specifications for barn fans, but we couldn?t find a box-fan model.
So, we called Lasko, which makes Air King fans. The representative said, ?Lasko and Air King Box fans are designed for residential and light commercial use, respectively, and should not be used in agricultural settings including horse barns or stalls.?
Most companies won?t print that on the fan box. And, unless you really pursue the problem, not all customer-service representatives understand the difference either. So, as always, caveat emptor.
WHAT?S THE DIFFERENCE’ A? fan suitable for the dusty, dirty environment that is within even the most pristine barn should have a sealed/enclosed motor. That means dust won?t get sucked into it.
If you look at the back of an ordinary box fan You’ll likely see the glint of the copper wires in the motor. That motor isn?t sealed.
If a bit of hay or combustible dust (like from horse feed) reaches the hot parts of the motor it can burn and/or short out the fan. It may even produce enough heat to melt the plastic parts of the fan, which could drip onto hay or even result in some small flames . . . you get the point. Bottom line: A sealed motor keeps out the dust best.
The package won?t say ?barn safe,? but it may state that the motor is totally enclosed and/or sealed. Fans that are also outdoor-rated or waterproof also qualify as ?sealed.?
If you’re placing a fan in an area where it could get wet, like a wash rack, get a waterproof fan, wash-down fan or outdoor-rated fan.
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.
Some fans have a fused plug that will disable the fan if there is an electrical short or overload. It then must be repaired. If the fan you’re considering doesn’t have a fuse, ask the vendor if the fan should be plugged in to a Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupt or a plug-in GFI, which is a good idea for wet, dirty areas like barns but is rarely installed, especially in older barns.
CONSIDER COMMERCIAL QUALITY. Because barn 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. One of our commercial fans is still going after 10 years. It cost $40 (comparable fans are $80-$100 today), which seemed like a lot of money at the time, but it’s been worth it.
FAN SIZE AND LOCATION. 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 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 and be sure it’s 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 or 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, out of the horse’s reach.
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.
Air King reports that installing one of their fans in air hotter than 140° can cause the thermal overload switch to shut off the fan. Check the overhead temperatures with a large thermometer by hanging it where you plan to put the fan or by putting the thermometer on a (non-conductive) pole and holding it up where the fan is to go.
Obviously, the horse shouldn?t be allowed access to the electrical cord. 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. Velcro 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.
Hard-wired ceiling fans are inherently safer than plug-in fans, although this isn?t always possible and it makes it much more difficult to target them as effectively to cool a particular horse.
If you do choose a ceiling fan, be sure it’s rated for outdoor use (many are) and have them wired to the electrical supply by a professional.
BOTTOM LINE. Nothing can totally prevent barn fires. Accidents happen. Taking the extra steps can help, though. Dust is the enemy. Keep your fans clean. Outdoor and waterproof fans can be washed, but don’t blast the seals and lubricants with a hard spray. Use a gentle force. Before using a fan, check the wiring and cords. Replace stiff, cracked wires or the entire fan.
Article by Contributing Writer Judy Myers.