There are lots of different types of fans today but people still often underestimate how important that invention has been for our civilization. More than just a means to cool us down in the summer, electric fans are what keeps planes in the air by forcing air into the low and high bypass in their jet engines, fans are what helps ships sail by acting as their propellers, they keep our computers’ processors and our cars’ engines cool, and so much more.
When were fans invented?
Speaking of fans used exclusively for residential space cooling, the first fan we ought to mention is the Indian punkah. Essentially a handheld fan similar to the handheld fans of today, the punkah was later developed into a manual ceiling fan that was kept in motion by servants or slaves for the enjoyment of their masters.
While this isn’t what people mean when they talk about ceiling fans, the punkah has been used since 500 BC and is the clear forefather and inspiration of modern ceiling fans. So, if you were just wondering who invented fans, the answer is the Hindu.
When was the ceiling fan invented?
The first rotary ceiling fan was invented at the end of the 19th century, specifically between 1860 and 1870 in the U.S. The “When were ceiling fans invented?” question is technically different from that about the first electric fans as those first ceiling fans didn’t use electric motors.
Instead, they were powered by steam generated from running water, a turbine, and a system of belts that would turn the bladed ceiling fans. Quite the complicated contraptions, it’s no wonder steam-powered ceiling fans were quickly overtaken by electric fans.
But when were electric fans invented? And who invented electric fans in the first place?
Electric fans were invented a decade or two after steam-powered ones between 1882 and 1886. They were later commercially marketed by the American motor company firm Crocker & Curtis.
As for who invented ceiling fans and who invented electric fans – both are officially credited to Philip Diehl as his 1882 electric ceiling fans are viewed as the “first ceiling fans” despite the existence of their steam-powered ceiling predecessors. This distinction may seem unfair at first but electric ceiling fans were just that much better than anything that came before them. Philip Diehl patented his creation in 1889.
How and when did fans develop after that?
The first oscillating fan was officially produced in 1902. Around that time Willis Carrier also invented air conditioning.
The first propeller design fan with a cage was introduced in 1932 and was named “The Silver Swan” by Emerson Electric Co. Soon after, in 1940, the Packard became the first car with an optional “factory air” fan in it.
Ceiling fans slowly became almost obsolete after the invention of air conditioning, however, they rose in popularity again in the 1960s when they became more energy efficient. That was especially true during the energy crisis in the 1970s. Their popularity dipped again in the 1990s, however, when AC units became more efficient as well.
Still, ceiling fans, as well as other oscillating or tower electric fans are still used to this day because of how practical and efficient they are.