Ceiling fans may have made it into our top 10 ways to keep your house cool, but boy is it hard to find one that doesn’t look like a ridiculously over-ornate blob. True, Collin’s batman ceiling fan was pretty awesome, and the sycamore-shaped ceiling fan has a certain something to it, but for a product with such potential to save energy, the ceiling fan could sure do with a makeover if we want it to remain mainstream. Maybe our readers could help…
My wife and I have long marveled at the white, eighties ugliness of the ceiling fans that came with our home. They look like there’s some kind of alien flying wedding cake levitating in the middle of the room. But, try as we might, we’ve found very few alternatives that look any better.
Type “ceiling fans” into Google and then search through the top entries or head down to your local hardware store, and you’ll most likely see what I mean. It seems that whoever designs ceiling fans seems to think that fake, retro country antique or ultra-modern space age minimalism are the only too directions you can go. (Let’s leave out the Jimmy Buffetesque palm leaves and such for now, we don’t even need to go there…)
This may just come across as a frustrated rant, but there is a serious sustainability question at stake here. As the rise of local organic food has shown, green will only become popular if it offers a superior experience to the mainstream. Sure, people might not care if their HVAC system out the back of the house looks ugly, but if we are asking folks to hang a gigantic contraption from the center of their living room in order to save energy, we sure as heck should be able to make one that looks good.
But then it hit me. TreeHugger is blessed with wise, sophisticated and tasteful readers, so why not throw out the challenge—surely somebody, somewhere must know of a ceiling fan that doesn’t suck. Please share your knowledge in the comments below.
UPDATE: Fellow Treehugger Chris alerted me to Web Urbanist’s round up of cool and unusual ceiling fans. With the exception of Fanimation’s sophisticated looking fans, however, most of these look like the designer was on drugs. I’m still looking…
More on Ceiling Fans and Green Home Cooling
Sycamore Ceiling Fan: Works Smarter, Not Harder
Holy Ceiling Fan, Batman!
10 Overlooked Low-Tech Ways to Keep Your House Cool
Rocket Stove Science
NPR has a great piece covering both the principles and the politics of the rocket stove. The article is a useful starting point for anyone wondering why rocket stoves are quite so efficient:
“The stove is made from a steel 55-gallon drum, but that belies the precision engineering of what’s inside. A well-insulated combustion chamber made out of a special steel alloy concentrates the fire of just a few sticks of wood. The combustion is more complete than what you’d get in an open fire, burning the particles that usually become smoke. The hot gases are directed around the cookpot. As the water boils, the stove’s metal skin and stovepipe barely get warm, an indication of how little heat is wasted.”
Rocket Stove Politics
Besides the mechanics of the stove though, there is also a philosophical debate underway. On the one hand we find traditionalist NGOs like Aprovecho which have championed open-source, locally-built cook stoves, with the idea that by seeding micro-entrepreneurs around the Globe you can both hone the efficiency of stoves, and also create economic development in the process.
On the other hand, however, are people who argue that the need is too urgent, and progress too slow, not to opt for a more commercial solution:
“There have been thousands of stoves programs; I’m familiar with hundreds of them,” says Bryan Willson, a professor of mechanical engineering at Colorado State University. “And it’s hard to identify programs that have been successful.” Willson says it’s time to bring 21st century capitalism to bear. “There’s a global need for 500 or 600 million cookstoves,” he says. “And nobody is willing to write a big enough check to donate our way to that solution. So we really need to be able to develop products that people will want to buy.”
Willson and his team started a company called Envirofit which manufactures clean-burning cookstoves for the developing world—and even Aprovecho has developed a stove-manufacturing arm.
Ultimately, as with so many things, it seems to be a false choice between the open-source, grass-roots approach of teaching people to build their own stove, versus the centralized, commercial yet efficient approach. Most likely both will serve their purpose in different communities, and with over half the world still cooking with solid fuels, the main thing is to get moving.
More on Efficient Cook Stoves
Envirofit & Shell Create Efficient Cook Stoves for India
Rocket Stoives: Build Your Own Ultra-Efficient Cook Stove (Video)
Rocket Stoves Aid Relief Effort in Haiti
The New Yorker on Efforts to Hone Efficient Cook Stove Design