Destratification and lighting create a more energy efficient warehouse and distribution center

In this installment of What Works, warehousing centers improve energy efficiency with new fans and fluorescent lighting.

WOW Logistics (www.wowlogistics.com) knows its way around a warehouse. As experts in maintaining warehousing and distribution centers for its clients, WOW employees spend a majority of their time within the walls of these colossal metal structures making them well aware of the discomfort associated with fluctuating temperatures and stale air. Home-based in Appleton, Wisconsin, WOW Logistics proposed a corporate green initiative to make its 25 public warehouses throughout Wisconsin, Illinois and Idaho more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. With nearly 7 million sq ft of floor space, including ambient, refrigerated and freezer facilities, this green initiative meant finding a viable solution to aid in employee comfort and preserve the integrity of stored contents.

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According to Matt Oswald, executive vice president, WOW’s green initiative is designed to “improve the work environment and boost productivity, while saving energy and helping the environment at the same time.”

Big Ass Fans knows its way around a warehouse, as well. Big Ass Fans are designed to produce energy-efficient cooling breezes throughout facilities during hot weather and circulate warm air when it’s cold outside.

“We have 25 locations, including our corporate office,” explains Jamie Wally, vice president of sales and marketing, WOW Logistics. “Twelve of those are operated as warehousing, storage and handling facilities. We also have build-to-suit lease properties. We put the fans in 10 locations, one fan per 50,000 sq ft. We also use them in the coolers to get more consistent cooling. Two locations are just coolers. It’s important to make sure you get constant temperatures.”

WOW tested the air from floor to ceiling in colder months. “Our buildings average 45° to 50°,” says Wally. “When they tested, it was within 2°. Previously it was 15° to 18°. We knew we had savings when we first tested the fans.”

WOW is interested in being green. “We’re interested in saving money,” explains Wally. “Big Ass Fans did a study of our facilities and said, based on our total temperature and utility costs, we could save 59% on our heating. The HVLS fans allowed us to reduce the smaller fans we had all over. We went building to building systematically and installed the fans. The fans were about a 1.7-year payback.”

In the initial phase to reduce energy costs and upgrade to more environmentally green warehouse and distribution centers, WOW replaced sodium and mercury vapor lighting with a energy-efficient fluorescent lighting system. “Most facilities had high-pressure sodium lighting or halo lighting,” explains Wally. North Barrington Lighting did an analysis and gave us our total utility costs for power. Now, every light is fluorescent and on a sensor so when you’re not using an area, the light goes dark. The light pops on and stays on for five minutes. Overall, we had a 1.2-year payback and went from 20 foot-candles of lighting to 30 foot-candles of lighting. It’s a better system. It’s a cleaner light with better visibility. We changed over every one of our facilities.”

WOW also replaced hundreds of ineffective and expensive floor fans with 43 Powerfoil fans from Big Ass Fans. “We talked to another company and tested their product,” explains Wally. “They installed a fan. At the end of the day, the Big Ass Fans folks had the best value and were able to show us on paper and through references that they were the best choice.”

Fans circulate large volumes of air, maintaining uniform temperatures throughout the WOW Logistics facility. Within the cool room, the fans reduce the load on the cooling system while providing increased product integrity.
Fans circulate large volumes of air, maintaining uniform temperatures throughout the WOW Logistics facility. Within the cool room, the fans reduce the load on the cooling system while providing increased product integrity.

The installation of Big Ass Fans resulted in an initial annual saving of $134,000. “This is an average savings of 59% on the heating bills compared to 2006, before the ceiling fans were installed,” says Wally. “If you look at the buildings, most of our facilities have a peak or sloped roof, so we have 30 ft. to 40 ft. of clear span or space inside. The temperature differential will be 15° to 20° from floor to ceiling. We need to maintain 45° to 50° throughout the building. Destratification pushes the air down and circulates it. We would have 2° between the floor and the ceiling.”

WOW also put some fans in the coolers to sustain a constant temperature as it’s cooling cheese. “It’s key to have a constant temperature throughout the cooler as the product is aged, so it stays for a period of time,” explains Wally. “For example, parmesan cheese has to age for six months before you can call it parmesan. We keep a constant temperature of 34° to 50°. If we have a building at 38°, we keep it at that exact temperature. Our heaters would be running less often.”

Any new WOW facilities will have the new lights and new fans, explains Wally. From a technical perspective, Big Ass Fans operate on a simple physical principal: unlike small, high velocity fans that produce small, turbulent air streams, which dissipate quickly, a 24-ft diameter Big Ass Fans uses a small, 2-hp motor with 10 patented airfoils with winglets designed to move a vast amount of air slowly. The air current from the fan approaches floor level in a cylindrical column of a size equivalent to the fan’s diameter and then turns into a horizontal flow that radiates out in all directions. The horizontal air flow continues until it reaches walls or airflow from another fan, at which time the airflow turns upward and back toward the fan. This produces convection-like air currents that gather inertia as the fan continues to spin and moves the air down and out.

Oswald couldn’t be happier with the results at WOW. “The decision to use Big Ass Fans in our WOW distribution centers came down to three components,” he says. “The primary reason was that the Big Ass Fans offer superior energy efficiency over the standard ceiling fans that we had in operation. Second, the ability of the Big Ass Fans to destratify was important to us, and finally the quality of the Big Ass Fans was second to none.”

Thanks to the installation of the new fluorescent lighting system and Big Ass Fans, the warehouse giant’s green initiative has led to a reduction in energy consumption leading to increased savings on energy bills, and improved worker comfort has led to increased productivity, something from which any company can benefit.

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