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What is a Misting Fan?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 16, 2024
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Anyone who has attended a large outdoor event or watched the sidelines during a televised football game has most likely seen a misting fan in action. Sometimes this type of fan is surrounded by open canvas flaps and promoted as a chill zone. The air around these fans can be up to 40° Fahrenheit cooler than the ambient temperature, turning an unpleasant 100°F (38°C) workday into a very tolerable 75°F (24°C) within minutes of operation.

When used in a closed environment such as a greenhouse, a misting fan initially cools the general area, then provides a high degree of humidity for thirstier plant species. Some specialty produce stores may also use these types of fans to keep their offerings fresh for customers. The air-conditioning effects can also make for a more pleasant shopping environment for outdoor produce stands.

A typical misting fan works on the principles of thermal dynamics and evaporative cooling. If you place a wet towel in front of an electric fan, you may notice the area around the towel becomes noticeably cooler. As the water from the towel evaporates, it takes a certain amount of heat energy along with it. The fan circulates the cooler air around the room, acting like a rudimentary air conditioner. Misting technology takes this idea of evaporative cooling and makes it much more efficient and productive.

It all begins with the water. Special high-pressure pumps generate enough water pressure to reach a rating of 1000 PSI (pounds per square inch). Extremely fine nozzle openings reduce the outbound water to micron-sized droplets. This action creates a thin mist which evaporates almost immediately upon contact with the warm ambient air and sunlight. As the individual droplets pull heat energy along with them, the air temperature can drop significantly. An electric fan blows this supercooled air and mist combination for several hundred yards or more.

Because the mist created by a misting fan system is so fine, few beneficiaries of this cooling effect actually become wet. The effect is similar to standing in a light fog on cool mornings — the water vapor may condense on cold surfaces, but will barely register on human skin. Only those standing less than 6 inches (15 cm) away from the water nozzle may experience significant wetness. The water supply of the fan is usually filtered for impurities before entering the nozzle, and the total amount of water used is rarely more than 1 or 2 US gallons (about 3.8 to 7.6 liters) per hour.

Although most misting fan systems are used to cool crowds of people in outdoor arenas or stadiums, smaller units for home use have become more popular. Some outdoor pool owners find it more comfortable for swimmers if the area around the pool is kept cool as well. Those who like to work in backyard gardens or outdoor garages may also benefit from the cooling effects of this type of fan. Mowing a small yard doesn't have to involve long, hot stretches on a riding mower anymore. These home misting fan systems don't require special equipment, since the built-in water pumps and nozzles are already calibrated for maximum performance.

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Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to HomeQuestionsAnswered, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By liz1103 — On May 26, 2011

The personal misting fans are really cool, no pun intended. I have a deluxe hand-held model. It’s refillable and can be used for almost three hours if you don’t leave it on constantly. It has three feet of tubing, which is pretty flexible. The tubing has a clip for convenience. It is also easy to coil up so it fits right in the mesh carrying bag.

I do a lot of biking recreationally. The personal mister is a must-have for outdoor activities in the summer. You can even add ice cubes for a cooler sensation. The whole thing only weighs 2 pounds. I’m sure that varies from model to model, but mine is pretty light to tote around. It also fits in the bottle holder on my bicycle! If you don’t have a cup holder, you can always use the strap it comes with.

By jellies — On May 23, 2011

I didn’t know you could get misting systems for personal use. That is great! I really want a patio misting fan. I have done a little virtual window shopping. From what I’ve seen, there are patio misting systems for reasonable prices. Some of the sites say they are easy to install and use.

What a great addition to back yard bar-b-ques and summer time get-togethers. Getting one of these could really make my place the favorite hangout for my friends and neighbors. I love hosting. I really need to invest in one of these patio misting sets.

By trekker — On May 21, 2011

I have seen these outdoor misting fans set up at fair grounds. They really are nice on hot summer days at the fair. I can’t believe they use so little water in a typical hour! They provide a great way to cool off and aren’t wasting a bunch of water. I am also surprised to learn how fair the cooled air and mist is blown.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to HomeQuestionsAnswered, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a...
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