Common sense tells us to turn on the fan to cool down. But, doing that may actually be dangerous to your health, especially if the air that is circulating around you is hot air.
“Well, [we turn on] the fan with the air conditioner,” says Denise Beneteau, of Palm Desert. “Never just the fan with just the hot air on. What’s the point?”
But for residents who do not have or cannot afford air conditioning, the fan is their only choice. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently sent out this statement regarding blowing hot air on a person: “We compare it to a convection oven.”
Yup, the same type of convection oven you find in restaurants and homes.
College of the Desert chemistry professor Bob Pellanbarg explains this dangerous result. “You could have a situation in a room where it’s hotter than it is outside. It’d be like sitting in a car,” he said.
The CDC agrees. “By blowing hot air on a person, it heats them up rather than cools them down,” they wrote.
So, what are you supposed to do? Professor Pellanbarg says you should open a window and face the fan outward. By doing so, the fan sucks the hot air out of your house. At the same time, you should open a second window to allow the fresh air to enter.
And, yes, even if the fresh air coming in is hot air!
“The fresh air will be lower in humidity,” said the professor. “It will allow your body to sweat and lose heat through evaporation which is a positive thing.”
The CDC estimates 688 deaths on average each year can be blamed on extreme heat. But, by remembering Professor Pellanbarg’s simple rule — have air moving from outside into the room and out another — could make the difference between staying cool and staying alive.