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Fans are widely used in industrial and commercial applications. From shop ventilation to material handling to boiler applications, fans are critical for process support and human health. Fans are also found in many wastewater treatment plants and are essential for the activated sludge treatment process. In the U.S. manufacturing sector, fans consume approximately 79 billion kilowatt-hours per year, representing approximately 15% of the electricity used by motors[1].

In manufacturing, fan reliability is critical to plant operations. As a result, system designers often oversize fans to mitigate uncertainties in production. However, this creates problems that can increase system energy and maintenance costs while decreasing fan reliability.

Energy-efficient operation of industrial fan systems requires attention to the needs of both individual equipment and the entire system. A “systems approach” takes into account how the individual components interact, thereby shifting the focus from individual components to total system performance.

Top Five Energy Efficiency Measures for Fan Systems

  1. Shut down fans when not needed by manufacturing processes
  2. Use variable speed control on fan motors instead of modulating dampers or inlet guide vanes for airflow control
  3. Ensure uniform airflow before fan inlet and after fan outlet to avoid swirls and vortices in the ducts
  4. Replace standard V-belts with cogged belts
  5. Operate close to Best Efficiency Point

You can read related TIP SHEETS AND PUBLICATIONS to improve performance and save energy, accumulated over time by the DOE Advanced Manufacturing Office.

Learn more with the FAN SYSTEM INFO CARD, explore additional resources specific to Better Plants partners, and connect with the fans-subject matter expert below.

[1] Improving Fan System Performance: A Sourcebook for Industry. April, 2003.


Subject Matter Expert - Thomas Wenning

Thomas Wenning is a program manager for industrial energy efficiency at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). As a member of ORNL’s Energy and Transportation Science Division, he manages ORNL’s domestic and international industrial energy efficiency technology assistance and deployment activities. He also supports the DOE’s Better Buildings, Better Plants program and the Federal Energy Management Program by providing industrial sites with technical assistance activities, energy assessments and training, and energy management guidance. Tom also manages the student activities for the US DOE’s Industrial Assessment Center program. He has led numerous international industrial energy efficiency workshops, trainings, and assessments on behalf of the US DOE. Tom is a registered Professional Engineer, a Certified Practitioner in Energy Management Systems, an SEP-Performance Verifier, and a DOE Qualified Specialist in the areas of steam, pumps, and fans.

You can reach Tom with fan systems-related questions at