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Patio Too Hot? Cool Down Your Outdoor Space with Misting Fans
When the weather gets warm, people everywhere like to make the most of it by spending time outdoors. But when the weather gets too warm, that's when people start complaining. There's no need for you and your family members to have to choose between staying indoors or sweltering outside in the heat and humidity-- you can keep your patio comfortable and refreshingly cool with misting fans.
What are Misting Fans?
The average electronic fan is an appliance that uses rotating blades to blow cool air around a space. Misting fans, however, take the concept of a regular electronic fan a step further by introducing a cooling mist to the air that is blown by the fan. Anyone standing in its path will get a refreshing cool down. That said, the mist usually consists of such fine water particles that people standing in front of it don't really get wet unless they're extremely close, usually less than six inches away.
The truth is, you've probably already seen jumbo-sized misting fans if you've seen professional sporting events held outside in hot weather (the NFL frequently uses them on the sidelines) or if you've attended a large outdoor event during the summer months. Amusement Parks also use misting fans to keep their guests cool. In fact, if you've ever seen a tent at a park or event marked something like "chill zone," it most likely had misting fans inside.
How Misting Fans Work
Misting fans are basically regular fans, but with the added element of water (these fans must be connected to a water source). Because the mist from these fans lingers in the air, the space around them can easily be kept up to 40 degrees cooler than the temperature of the surrounding environment, and you don't even need to walk directly in front of one of these fans to feel its cooling effect.
The average misting fan operates using thermal dynamics and water evaporation to lower temperatures. Although other types of cooling appliances that use water evaporation do so by drawing in warm air through water soaked pads (instantly cooling it), the typical misting fan takes a slightly different approach. Here, water is pumped through very fine openings on a nozzle out into the warm open air being circulated in the fan. These water droplets pull the heat energy along with them and create a cooled mist, which evaporates quickly, thereby maintaining the cooled environment around the fan. You can see the pattern of how this works in the diagram shown here:
Installing a Misting Fan on Your Patio
While jumbo misting fans are busy keeping people at large events cool, you can do the same for your patio or deck area with a smaller version. Patio misting fans are lower pressure and quieter than their large, industrial-size counterparts, while still being powerful enough to keep your outdoor space pleasantly cool. Some people with larger patios and/or decks choose to install multiple misting fans to ensure the entire area is covered, although you should know that most outdoor misting fans for your backyard can cover hundreds of square feet (for example, the NewAir AF-520 misting fan can provide cooling coverage for an area up to 500 square feet). So, unless you happen to have an extraordinarily large patio space, you really only need one misting fan.
Tank vs. Hose
As far as the water source goes, some misting fans have a water tank that must be refilled and cleaned out on occasion in order to stay in proper operation. Misting fans with a refillable tank can be a good option for spaces not close to a water source or fans that need to stay portable. However, there are many models that conveniently connect directly to your garden hose for instant access to a water source. If you do happen to have more than one misting fan, you can use a hose splitter (available at most home improvement stores) so you can connect a hose to each appliance.
Misting fans with water tanks do not need to connect to an external water source, but they do have a limited amount of time until they need to be refilled again. Obviously, the amount of water a tank can hold varies from model to model, but the average backyard misting fan can last three to seven hours before they need another water refill.
Now, aside from the maintenance factor of the water tank misting fans, the other factor that sets the two types apart is the cost. Fans that connect to garden hoses tend to be a lot cheaper than their water tank counterparts, and this is largely due to the higher manufacturing costs of water tank systems.
On the other hand, water tank misting fans are a lot more portable than those that connect to garden hoses, although both still need to be connected to an energy source for power.
Using Misting Fans in a Humid Climate
While mild humidity is unlikely to affect misting fans, you should know that higher levels of it can indeed have an adverse outcome. Because these appliances emit water mist into the air, they not only contribute to the humidity in the environment, but their actual cooling power is not as extreme. For example, an environment with humidity above 80 percent will affect a misting fan's power to a point that temperature reductions will be only as high as 10 or 15 degrees. Meanwhile, a drier environment with humidity hovering lower than 40 percent will be able to see temperature reductions from a misting fan as great as 35 to 40 degrees.
Basically, a misting fan will still work in the hot humidity of Miami, but it will be comparatively more effective in the dry heat of Los Angeles.
How do Misting Fans Stack Up to Air Conditioners and Evaporative Coolers?
You may be wondering by now what kind of advantages (or disadvantages) misting fans have over air conditioning units and evaporative coolers, also known as "swamp coolers" or "desert coolers." Air conditioners are primarily used for indoor cooling, but there are certain models that have emerged in recent years that are built for the outdoors. These are effective, but they tend to need more power and do not cover as wide of an area. Do not confuse these with portable ACs, which are typically meant for interior areas only. All in all, air conditioning systems work best indoors and won't be as effective in outdoor settings.
As mentioned earlier, misting fans use the concept of evaporative cooling. When it comes to evaporative coolers, however, the process is slightly more complex. The fundamental design of an evaporative cooler consists of a fan, water-soaked pads, and a vent. The fan draws in warm air through multiple pads that have been soaked in water (evaporative coolers are either connected to a water source, or the water reservoir must be filled prior to use). The air is cooled down as it circulates through these pads. The newly cooled air can then be vented out into open space or a duct system. Both "swamp coolers" and misting fans don't perform as well in high humidity, but are good options if you live in a dry climate (telltale signs of insufficient humidity are frequent dry skin and cracking lips).
Here's a comparison summary of each cooling option for your patio:
|Swamp Cooler||Traditional Air Conditioner|
|Produces a cool environment, pulling heat through fan blades and water mist.||Converts warm air into cool air by passing it through water-soaked pads.||Powerful cooling option that uses electricity to convert warm air to cool.|
|Easy to move around, but covers an extensive amount of square footage.||Uses less electricity than A/C units, but usually more than misting fans.||Adjustable to a wide range of temperatures.|
|Designed for outdoor use. Built to cool patio environments and withstand weather.||Certain models are suitable for outdoor use, but are bulkier and not as convenient.||Because it does not use water, humidity is not an issue.|
|Better for drier climates. In high humidity, the outcome is not as cool.||Best for dry climates. They contribute to humidity and can corrode more easily.||Limited options for outdoor units. Not an efficient option for patios and decks.|
When and Where to Use Misting Fans
Misting fans are a great option during the summer months when temperatures are highest. To be more specific, the best time to run a misting fan out on your patio or deck is going to be between midday and the later afternoon-- the hottest hours of the day. As far as location goes, it's best that you keep a misting fan off to one side of your patio with plenty of space around it (especially if you have kids running around, safety should come first). Make sure it is not up against the side of your house or any other walls.
Misting fans are built to be sturdy and will survive if left outside during a rainstorm, but that doesn't mean they should be left in the open day after day. If exposed to high humidity for extended periods of time, a misting fan can corrode. Fortunately, all you have to do is put the fan in your garage or shed when you're not using it. Allow time for the unit to dry out before packing it away for storage. This will help prevent mildew from forming. Most misting fans come with manuals that advise how best to take care of them and when to use them.