A ceiling fan is the predominating comfort provider in tropical regions worldwide. It consists of an assembly of an electric motor with 3–4 blades suspended from the ceiling of a room. Despite its simplicity and widespread use, the flow induced by a ceiling fan in a closed room has not been investigated, and sub-optimal designs are in wide use. There is vast potential for energy conservation and improved comfort by developing optimized fan designs. This work develops a fundamental understanding of the flow characteristics of a ceiling operating inside a closed room. Using smoke from thick incense sticks, the flow field created by the ceiling fan is visualized. In most regions, the flow is periodic and three-dimensional. Vortices are seen to be attached to the blade tip and hub, which reduces downward flow and increases energy consumption. Only the middle 75% of blade actually pushes the air downwards, and the comfort region is limited to a cylinder directly under the blades; velocities in this region were measured with a vane anemometer. Winglets and spikes attached to the blade tip disrupted the tip vortex, and increased downflow by about 13% without any increase in power consumption.

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