BESS Lab Clears the Air Surrounding Fan Choices

by 5m Editor
22 January 2004, at 12:00am

URBANA - If you've ever been inside a livestock confinement building, you can appreciate the importance of air movement--not only to help reduce smells, but to minimize the health risk of inhaling dust-laden air.

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To help producers make wise choices in agricultural ventilation systems, thousands of people in the livestock and poultry industry worldwide have relied on a unique research lab at the University of Illinois.

"We are the "Consumer Reports" of ventilation fan testing," said Steve Ford, a research engineer in the U of I Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering.

Ford is manager of the Bioenvironmental and Structural Systems (BESS) Laboratory. The BESS lab assists equipment manufacturers in developing better products and provides unbiased engineering data to aid producers in selecting agricultural ventilation fans.

Ford estimates that the lab has done more than 2,500 tests over the last 13 years. "We work with manufacturing companies around the country. We've tested fans from Europe and even Australia. We're fairly well known throughout the ag ventilation industry."

Because ongoing health concerns make efficient ventilation systems essential to producers, Ford and his colleagues consider the quantity of air delivery and energy efficiency the most important criteria when performing their tests.

Manufacturers can rent the lab for a day, which Ford says is the most economical option. "Companies bring their fans to the lab, along with one or two people to assist with the set-up. We can do about 10 or 12 tests in a day, for around $100 a test, so it's pretty reasonable."

Manufacturers then have the option of listing their test data in "Agricultural Ventilation Fans: Performance and Efficiencies," a publication that Ford and his colleagues compile every two years. This publication includes a discussion of the basics of fan selection and provides performance data for over 300 commercially available ventilation fans ranging in sizes from 8 to 54 inches in diameter. The fans are grouped according to size, so comparisons can easily be made between manufacturers and models.

The book can be purchased for $9 plus $3.50 shipping and handling from the BESS website at The Midwest Plan Service also carries the book and the National Food and Energy Council catalogues it in their publications as well. A supplement is published in the off years and can be purchased for $3.

When the BESS lab first opened in 1990, it received a critical boost from the Wisconsin Farm Electric Council. At that time, the Council offered a substantial rebate to consumers who installed new fans with a prescribed level of energy efficiency.

"Dealers always like to emphasize rebates, so if a manufacturer wanted to sell his fans in Wisconsin, he had to get them tested," said Ford. "That was just the kind of push we needed. Then we produced a couple of publications, our name got out and people just kept coming back.

"Today we are mostly self-supporting," he concluded, "with the majority of our funding coming from testing fees."

Source: ACES News - 21st January 2004

5m Editor