Flair Fans: Mimicking Nature to Improve Efficiency

Long-time members of the Bioneers Community may recall hearing from Biomimetic inventor and scientist Jay Harman over the years at Bioneers Conferences. Jay and his company Pax Scientific have just announced a new product, poised to transform a key component of the industrial world that we all interact with daily, whether we realize it or not: the fan.

Jay Harman fell in love with skin-diving and fishing when he was 10 years old.  As he says, “When I saw the efficiency and power of how fish swim, compared to my clumsy efforts, I was captivated and knew I’d learn from nature the rest of my life.”

And learn he has. Jay recognized that nature always uses whirlpool shapes, or vortices, to swim and fly and move liquids and gases – and nature sips energy, while humans guzzle it. His self-admitted obsession led to years figuring out how to reverse-engineer a whirlpool so he could recreate nature’s efficiencies. That led to the founding of PAX Scientific, an engineering firm that applies natural geometries to improve industrial equipment.  Jay has spoken about his developments and inventions at PAX Scientific in several appearances at the Bioneers Conference.

For over 20 years PAX has worked behind the scenes to help change the industrial world to more efficient design. For example, with the power of just three light bulbs, a four-inch by six-inch PAX mixer can circulate 10 million gallons of stagnant drinking water (like a football field, 30-feet deep). It’s now the number-one specified product in North America for maintaining drinking water quality in the municipal distribution system, with thousands of installations.  

But Jay and his team are impatient to make change happen faster, especially with the news that July 2019 was the hottest month in recorded history. 

When it gets hot, people turn on fans. But fans are running around us all the time – using 22% of the world’s electricity. That’s a staggering number. Generating the electricity to run fans dumps as much CO2 emissions into the atmosphere as all of the world’s cars, and fan design hasn’t fundamentally changed in 100 years.

PAX’s calculations showed that it’s possible to save a billion tons of CO2 emissions every year from more efficient fans. They got to work and designed Flair, a new fan that uses up to 85% less electricity and quietly circulates air to increase comfort and reduce heating and air-conditioning costs year-round. That’s important, because air-conditioners and heaters are heavy users of power, consuming nearly 50% of household energy.  The problem is that in the winter, expensive heated air accumulates near the ceiling while you sit in colder air, and in the summer, cooler air sinks to the floor while you sit in warmer air. Flair’s ring-vortex circulation destratifies the air, so you can change your thermostat and save more than 25% of your heating and cooling costs per room. 

Rather than selling the Flair design to a big manufacturer, PAX decided to take it to the people. As Jay says, “The world needs urgent action, but it’s hard for big corporations to change quickly enough to mitigate climate change. No matter how well-meaning the CEO or VP of Sales is, or how much he or she loves their grandchildren or nature, climate isn’t in their companies’ mandate, objectives, or priorities. By launching Flair through a crowd-funding campaign, we can show big manufacturers that people want high-quality, super-efficient products. Our campaign runs through the end of October, and it’s a great chance to make a real and practical step to combat climate change.”

Learn more about Biomimicry and Jay Harman’s work in this episode of the Bioneers Podcast: Sharkskin, Hippo Sweat and the Wood-Wide Web: From Flat Earth to Whole Earth Thinking.

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