Ceiling Fans: The Overlooked Appliance; Not anymore!

Ceiling Fans: The Overlooked Appliance; Not anymore!

From Superfan, India’s first super energy efficient ceiling fan

Congratulations to ceiling fan users and manufacturers, that’s literally everyone in India! A red letter day for Fan Industry in India as mandatory star labelling starts from this day, 01-01-2023. It has taken exactly 10 years since India’s first super energy efficient ceiling fan, Superfan was officially sold to its first customer on 01-01-2013. We have fond memories of Mrs. Abha Shukla, IAS who was instrumental in including Versa Drives in discussions at the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE). Soon after Dr. Ajay Mathur, then DG of BEE always had time to meet us and guide us on interactions with Power Ministry and BIS to bring Super Energy Efficient(SEE) ceiling fans to the mainstream. The current DG of BEE, Mr. Abhay Bakre was decisive in implementing mandatory labelling for ceiling fans. Dr. Ashok Kumar, Mr. Sourabh Diddi, and Mr. Sameer Pandita provided timely support at BEE. They all at BEE must be proud today. CLASP (Mr. P. K. Mukherjee) and PRAYAS played vital roles in these efforts. The persistent involvement of the staff of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) brought about much-needed revision in the standard for domestic fans which enabled BEE to revise the star ratings.

Indian Railways and Power Grid Corporation took the lead in changing their tender specification to push SEE fans into usage. EESL, Tata Power and Reliance Energy sold SEE ceiling fans to their consumers. Many organizations and societies like TERI, IGBC, Shakti Foundation, UNIDO, AEEE, IAEMP, SEEM, Auroville, and several others actively promoted. Private educational institutions like KL University, Kalasalingam University, and Excel were early users in sizeable numbers. All the efforts culminated in this success, when IFMA, led by its then president, Sriram Rangarajan, participated in effecting the necessary change. While Superfan led the technology for super efficiency and product features with numerous patents and awards, Atomberg made huge strides in commercial success inviting large sums as an investment. Several new entrants contributed to this positive effort by getting into the SEE ceiling fans market. In the market, the dealers and distributors were enthusiastic about putting up SEE fans upfront in their display. Every consumer who was aware of SEE fans adopted them. In my opinion, it was a lack of awareness that kept the SEE fans market small.

From today, the maximum energy that a ceiling fan can consume is 50W which would be rated 1-star, delivering a minimum of 220CMM air flow, for a 1200mm span. There are plenty of 5-star ceiling fans that use BLDC motors which consume anywhere from 35W to 25W to deliver 230CMM airflow.

Let us see the impact in numbers using the same safe assumptions which may be close to actual data. In the calculations here, anyone interested can change the numbers if better data is available. A regular ceiling fan using an induction motor with a No-star rating that delivers 230CMM would consume 75W. At medium speed, this fan would consume 42W, the same for a 5-star SEE fan is 14W. According to a survey of MOEF, the average ceiling fan usage is 2520 hours in a year and at medium speed. Assuming in the calendar year 2022 that 30 million No-star ceiling fans were sold, the energy these fans would consume in one year is,

One No-star regular fan’s consumption in a year = 1 x 2520 x 42 = 105840Wh or 105.84Units/year

For 30 million No-star fans sold in 2022,

The energy consumed in a year = 105.84 x 30 x 106 = 3.175BillionUnits.

One 5-star SEE fan’s consumption in a year = 1 x 2520 x 14 = 35280Wh or 35.28Units/year

If 30 million 5-star SEE fans were sold in 2022,

The energy consumed in a year = 35.28 x 30 x 106 = 1.058BillionUnits.

One 1-star fan’s consumption in a year = 1 x 2520 x 39 = 98,280Wh or 98.28Units/year

If 30 million 1-star fans are sold in 2022,

The energy consumed in a year = 98.28 x 30 x 106 = 2.948BillionUnits.

Note: (1 Unit = 1kWh)

For our country, the savings every year with a 1-star fan is 0.226BillionUnits. My take is that the 1-star fan is not capable of delivering the 230CMM airflow expected by consumers and therefore will be rejected in the market. Typically, living in a tropical country, we need 230CMM of airflow in Summer and on sultry days. This fan performs poorly at medium and lower speeds in terms of energy consumption and power factor. The 5-star fans with high savings in electricity bills and comforts like remote control, and no-heat motor should do well with aspiring consumers. The next round of revision of the Star rating by BEE after two years should result in the current 1-star fan going out of the market and only SEE fans would be made and sold. This would result in savings of 2.116 billion Units and more year on year! We need to see this number considering 700 grams of coal being burnt to use 1 unit of electricity and this savings is almost 8% of electricity generated by NLC in 21-22!

In 2010, at a conference, Sanjeev Keskar, then at Freescale, mentioned that we should develop an electronic drive for the BLDC ceiling fan motor as we are drive experts. A couple of days later, back at our factory in Coimbatore, Durga walked into my room to say that he came across an article “Ceiling fans: an overlooked appliance” by Prayas, Pune, and was astonished by the numbers presented on the ceiling fans. The discussions followed and it was decided to take it up as a project considering the potential energy savings. After we developed the drive, we realized there are no motors available in the country to make use of our drive. By this time we had gotten into the motor design when Ravi Nagaraj joined us. This multifaceted team could develop a motor and drive and surpass their target specification which still holds good. The cost, the elective policy on star rating, and their timid approach were a deterrent to traditional manufacturers to adopt the technology. Therefore at Versa Drives we decided to launch a complete ceiling fan under the brand name, Superfan, and did it on 12-12-2012 in Chennai.

The first Superfan was delivered to Mr. Durairaj, Trichy who ordered first on 01-01-2013. The very first model – Super X1 – showed to the market that at just 33W consumption, 230CMM airflow can be achieved. It had several innovative and never-before-seen features like a drop-safe remote control, low-voltage operation (120Vac), immune to supply fluctuation, no-heat motor, and ten fun colors with recyclable plastic-free and thermocol-free packing. The first major award came from the Department of Science and Technology when Superfan was chosen as the most innovative product of the year at India Innovation Initiative 2013. Then came several national and international awards to Superfan, most notably from Dupont, the Global Sustainability Award 2015. Superfan continues to improve the products in energy efficiency and costs. The Super Q model, which consumes 25W, was chosen as the most efficient ceiling fan in the year 2020 by BEE and is still the most efficient fan in India.

An account of the decade of super energy efficient fans and Superfan in India written by Sundar Muruganandhan (Managing Director of Versa Drives and co-founder of Superfan) on the eve of the implementation of mandatory star labelling for ceiling fans in India.

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