The Big Ass Fan Company designs, engineers and manufactures what it calls “the world’s most efficient ceiling fans” for residential, commercial and industrial settings. Designed to move the maximum amount of air with minimal energy consumption, Big Ass Fans use energy-efficient motors with airfoil technology to circulate large volumes of air. More than 100,000 Big Ass Fans have been installed worldwide in applications such as homes, hotels, health clubs, schools, restaurants, manufacturing plants, distribution centers, agricultural facilities and stadiums. Despite the funny name, the company takes their work very seriously. The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) talked with Carey Smith, founder and chief big ass of Big Ass Fans, to find out how the company works with interior designers and to learn about its recently launched Haiku fan.
How has your company evolved and how would you describe it today?
For more than a decade, you heard the name Big Ass Fans and instantly recognized what we made: gigantic ceiling fans for the largest industrial spaces. Unlike our slow-moving industrial fans, the business’ evolution has been quick. While displacing inefficient floor fans in factories and distribution centers, we recognized that large, air-conditioned spaces could benefit from the same principle of air movement. Then in 2012, we shook up a dormant industry by introducing the world’s most energy-efficient residential ceiling fan. (The Haiku fan has since accumulated 19 international design and technology awards.)
Today, Big Ass Fans are used in thousands of residential, commercial and industrial applications in more than 80 countries worldwide. The fans use energy-efficient motors and patented airfoil designs, which are inspired by airplane wings, to move large volumes of air quietly and efficiently. Ranging in size from five to 24 feet in diameter, Big Ass Fans are manufactured, inspected and tested in Lexington, Ky., where the company is headquartered. Employees also work in regional offices across the United States and internationally in Australia, Hong Kong and Malaysia.
Nearly 40 degreed engineers drive innovation and product development, and the company holds 93 patents with 144 patents pending. We also own the world’s only research and development lab built specifically for testing large-diameter fans.
What do you consider most valuable in your relationships with interior designers?
Our strategic partnership with ASID affords us unique insight regarding trends in the design industry. Because professional designers have a direct connection to clients — who are our potential customers — they can provide input that’s integral to our product development efforts.
Where are your products used?
A: Our products have an extremely wide range of appropriate applications in the commercial and residential sectors, including schools, churches, retail spaces, health clubs, restaurants, hotels and anywhere imaginable in the home. We are proud to have engineered products not only aesthetically appropriate for spaces, but that are also functional, energy-saving technologies. In fact, many end-users save as much as 30 percent on heating and cooling costs by using Big Ass Fans.
What to do you see as the biggest challenges affecting the interior design industry?
In general, people underestimate the power of design. I believe Starbucks is a great example of a business that gets it; it has turned its stores into welcoming places — an experience that goes beyond the utilitarian exchange of money for goods. On top of that, its stores are designed to be extremely energy efficient without sacrificing comfort or aesthetic appeal. It’s impossible to argue with the company’s results, and I think that makes a big statement about the power of design.
Another challenge is the proliferation of brands and products, which is simply the nature of an increasingly competitive business climate. Because of the growing number of options designers have when specifying products, it’s important that businesses clearly and concisely communicate the information needed to make the best decisions.
Can you give an example of an ideal collaboration with a designer?
A: We not only have a direct sales force, we have employees who focus exclusively on our relationships with interior designers. Because of that direct line to designers, we’re able to forge relationships that are more than transactional. At the end of the day, both the manufacturer and the interior designer want the same thing, which is client satisfaction. Collaboration is the only way that’s achievable.
Do you offer a ‘to the trade’ program or a discount specifically for ASID members?
A: While we don’t typically discount our products, Big Ass Fans offers a 20 percent discount to all ASID members — indicative of the importance of our relationship.
Tell us about Haiku, your new commercial and residential fan, it seems like a bit of a departure for your company?
Everything about Haiku is different from the common residential fan, which really hasn’t changed over the past century. With its minimalist profile and premium materials, Haiku has won 19 international design and technology awards, including the prestigious Red Dot. Haiku’s revolutionary motor offers nearly twice the efficiency and none of the noise of conventional ceiling fan motors. In fact, Haiku has been rated by ENERGY STAR as the most efficient ceiling fan in the world, exceeding the program’s requirements by 450 percent. Additionally, each Haiku is individually hand-balanced and is guaranteed never to rattle or wobble.
While traditional ceiling fans have only three speeds, Haiku has 10 unique settings, including sleep, timer and the exclusive Whoosh mode that simulates natural breezes to make you feel up to 40 percent cooler. And just this year, we introduced Haiku’s new patent-pending LED module. The new option is 80 percent more efficient than traditional bulbs, and its digital dimmer offers 16 unique brightness settings.
While it’s certainly a departure from our large industrial fans, the quality, energy efficiency and innovation of Haiku closely mirror its Big Ass brethren.
What’s next for Big Ass Fans?
You’ll see a lot of new things from us in the next six to 12 months. We’ve made a serious commitment to engineering, and our relationship with interior designers only helps guide our product development efforts. We’re actually working on several technologies that don’t exist today, and we expect those projects to have a big impact on the way spaces are designed.