Interview by Gary Thomas
Ole J. Stockhausen, Managing Director of Aeratron, talks to Gary Thomas about energy efficient fans and building energy efficiency in a new ‘insights from industry’ interview.
GT: Could you please provide a brief introduction to the industry that Aeratron works within and outline the key drivers?
OJS: Ceiling fans allow high yields of building energy savings when used in combination with existing HVAC systems. This is well understood in the professional world (architects, engineers, strata managers, etc). Yet, it is nearly impossible to find ceiling fans in commercial buildings.
To identify the reasons for the low utilisation of ceiling fans in commercial buildings, the Aeratron team conducted interviews with architects, engineers and potential end-users from Australia and overseas throughout 2009.
The wide majority of interviewees testified that they had considered using ceiling fans in commercial buildings, but decided against specifying them because of noise, strong wind tunnel generation during operation, wobble effects and out-dated designs.
On the basis of these findings, we developed a silently operating, highly energy efficient ceiling fan which creates a smooth, gentle airflow, and does not wobble. The Aeratron fan fuses biomimetic engineering with simplicity, functionality and aesthetic design and has won multiple national and international design awards for its organic, contemporary design and sustainability.
Aeratron users save up to 50% energy and costs on indoor cooling and heating simply by using our patented, low cost solution in tandem with their air conditioning and heating systems.
Because Aeratron fans fulfil key user requirements - namely silent operation, energy efficiency and aesthetic design - they are suitable for residential and commercial purposes. Their gentle and silent airflow delivers compelling socio-economic benefits by simultaneously improving occupant health, living and working conditions and increased productivity.
GT: Could you please give a brief overview of Aeratron?
OJS: We founded Aeratron, based in NSW, in 2008 specifically for the development and commercialisation of ceiling fans using our novel technology. In our team, we complement each other in knowledge and experience which creates great dynamics. Danny, our CTO, designed his first ceiling fan already in 1997.
He came with a lot of product knowledge and contacts from the industry which helped us enormously right from the first day. Mark, our CFO, held positions in small and large companies and is highly experienced in growing small and mid-sized companies. My focus over the past 15 years was the commercialisation of emerging technologies, and growing companies from product idea to international operations.
GT: What are the key environmental benefits of using Aeratron fans?
OJS: Buildings consume more energy than the entire transportation sector. Commercial buildings in Australia alone, use 70% of the energy for HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning). Aeratron first multi-award winning solution, the only silently operating and most energy efficient ceiling fans, allows up to 50% energy savings in tandem with indoor cooling and heating systems. Further benefits are sustainable working and living environments, and increased well-being and productivity. Low waste production and combustible packaging further contribute to a sustainable future.
GT: How are Aeratron fans designed to be energy efficient?
OJS: The blades
Our aim was to generate a smooth, gentle airflow by creating a different blade design. Aeronautical engineers from Airbus Europe provided advice on the design of the 3d aerofoil blade maximising the airflow at limited diameter. After months of experimental research with more than 50 iterations of 1:10 models, the final testing of three 1:1 prototypes exceeded our predicted performance results.
Self-balancing, rotor-coupling system
It is technically impossible to manufacture 3d aerofoil blades of exactly the same weight. Even the slightest difference in weight (1-3 grams) causes strong wobble effects in fans. Some fan manufacturers invested in the development of “complicated and costly” self-balancing systems that never reached full commercial stages. Our own investigations benefited from contacts in the automotive industry and resulted in a (patented) simple, low-cost, self-balancing rotor coupling solution.
The system entirely eliminates wobble and vibration effects associated with fans and 3d-aerofoil blades and simultaneously, reduces the energy usage of (any) fan by 10 – 60%.
One of the main concerns for the use of ceiling fans in commercial buildings was the noise generation during operation. There are two noise sources: the air vortices (air swirl at the blade tip) and the use of AC-motors.
Biomimetic modelling and discussions with aeronautical engineers lead to the development of small winglets at the blade tips. These minimise air swirl and hence noise and reduce the energy consumption of the entire fan by several percentage points. This development is again only possible as a result of the use of the Aeratron self-balancing system.
DC motor and remote control
Green Star rating in the USA requires a 20 year warranty on motors. DC motors are a superior product with a low noise level and high reliability in comparison to AC motors which are cheaper in production. For the manufacturing of our silent fan, we partnered with Halsey Enterprise Co., a leading Taiwanese motor and fan manufacturer of mid to high end fans. Together with Halsey and technical input from electronic engineers in the IT/cooling fan industry, we developed a new, compact DC motor controlled by a PCB (remote control) which runs silently, consumes only a fraction of the energy used by an AC motor and less than any competitive DC-fan motors in the market. It offers 6 speeds and reverse function (instead of 3 speeds and a manual switch at the fan for reverse) and is easy to use.
GT: What is the difference between the e502 and e503 models?
OJS: The e502 has two (2) blades while the e503 has three (3) blades. The biggest difference is “personal taste” as some customers prefer the 2blade model while others are in favour of the 3blade model.
Our e503 model requires less rpm to produce a gentle, smooth airflow is the only silently operating fan on high speed worldwide.
GT: Do Aeratron fans need to be used in conjunction with air conditioning?
OJS: No. Aeratron fans can be used as “stand-alone” fans. Here, these ceiling fans are the only silently operating, most energy efficient, and most design awarded fans worldwide.
GT: What are the other major general benefits to using Aeratron fans?
OJS: There are many studies out there proving a health improvement of room occupants, and increased productivity. A medical study shows a SIDS risk reduction of 72% through the use of ceiling fans. Testimonials from Aeratron customers show that people with sleeping disorders actually sleep through the night when using our fans.
GT: Where are Aeratron fans currently being implemented? What types of climates are these fans used in?
OJS: Aeratron fans can be found in a variety of buildings, from residential to commercial, from bedrooms to school rooms and hospitals. Our fans fit into all climates. They provide a gentle airflow which helps to cool down (the room occupant – evaporation on skin) and save energy in tandem with an AC system, but they can also be used in reverse function to ventilate hot air out of the roof or to save energy in tandem with heating systems in winter.
GT: Aeratron has recently been named as a finalist in the Australian Cleantech Competition 2012 – could you explain a little about this and what it means to the company?
OJS: We feel very honoured. Being finalists at the Australian Cleantech Open confirms that we are on the right track. We put a lot of effort into educating people about energy efficiency at home, at work and about our products. With the Auscleantech Open, we finally saw acceptance from experts and the market which gave us an additional boost in confidence for the future.
GT: Do you feel enough is being done to promote growing cleantech companies?
OJS: I think there are many people here in Australia with great ideas. Australia has so much potential to become a leading nation in clean technology. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough financial support for entrepreneurs to venture into new territories. Consequently, many people went to the USA or Europe.
This has changed particularly in the last few months and support for growing Cleantech companies is steadily increasing. I am confident that there is a thriving industry developing here in Australia.
GT: What is next for Aeratron – are you expanding production in the near future?
OJS: We have a clear focus on international expansion, capturing new, commercial markets and providing a complete product line of silent, energy efficient fan solutions to our customers.