Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ceiling Fans: Indian Green--Cheap and Best

I know you've all come for the fans, but before we start, let me just say one thing from the business end of things. The Greenlight Dhaba is a new project, and we're relying on our readers to spread the word. If you like what you see here, please spend a minute and tell your friends. Consider taking our feed, and remember, Google loves "links", so we'd be thrilled to be on your blogroll, if you have one. If you have nuts and bolts suggestions about what we could do better, by all means enlighten us--we're still trying to figure out how to make this thing go!

OK, now for the main course.

Everywhere you go these days, you hear the same story: imported=high quality; local means it's cheaper, but it's more likely to break. And I'm not going to try to kid you--too often, that imported product, or that product made with "German technology" or whatever, really is the better buy. Obviously, when all factors are equal, buying local is best according both to Swadeshi principles and to common sense: buying local supports the local economy, and it reduces the environmental cost of transportation. But buying things that are made to break is never a good idea; they will just end up in the dump and you will have to buy more things to replace them.

Still, after my blistering attack on Shashi Tharoor on Tuesday, I've gotten a few emails suggesting I'm not being "positive" enough. "You must be a half-empty kind of fellow," they say. So I want to be clear: India isn't just good at producing computer engineers, cows, and beautiful old monuments! We make a lot of other stuff, also.

So this is the first in an occaisional series on the things India does well. Seriously. Maybe we can get Shashi Tharoor over in the Ministry of External Affairs to market these idea overseas.

Let's call it something like this, Shashi: Indian Green--cheap and best!

Today I'll highlight the ceiling fan. Don't laugh! Those of us who don't use AC know: without the ceiling fan you would have to change your sweaty shirt five times a day in August, not just two! There is a reason why ceiling fans are one of the first things installed in most working and middle class Indian homes, and there is a reason why Indian mothers are always admonishing their young to turn the fan on when they enter a room (and off when they leave it). What is that reason, you ask? Simple: fans work! I'm not going to go into the physics of it here. In fact, I'm not even going to link to a Wikipedia article explaining the physics of it. We all understand it: wind + sweat = cool! And according to my electricity bill, a good ceiling fan only uses 60 watts of power as compared with an AC, which uses well over a thousand watts (and which contains gasses that will eventually escape and destroy our planet's atmosphere.)

A lot of people say that high tech solutions are the only way out of our environmental problems. I have nothing against high tech--but I think sometimes, simple is better. And the ceiling fan uses tried and true, simple and reliable technology.

I know there is a worldwide need for ceiling fans, because my wife has "Facebook friends" all over the world and sometimes they say stupid things. (Please, don't let this stop you from being FB friends with me; I'm really quite nice and I never pick on my friends!) One day, a woman in Wisconsin, USA complained that her house was 78 degrees Fahrenheit (which I googled and found was 25.5 degrees Celsius.) "I can't sleep--need to turn on the AC!" she said. Does it come as a surprise that nearly one unit in five of all the electricity consumed in the US goes to cooling buildings?

Now if that woman in Wisconsin only just had a ceiling fan (or the ability to open her window, I suspect), there would have been no need to turn on the AC! But the sad fact is, only about ten percent of American homes are equipped with ceiling fans. I know, because I went down to Connaught Place and asked ten Americans this question. Only one said she had a ceiling fan, and she said it didn't work very well. Well, let me tell you: the ceiling fans in Delhi won't let you down, and if they do, you can call somebody right away and he will fix it up for you nicely.

Delhi ceiling fans are better than American ones--and they use less expensive electricity than American AC's. They are truly Indian Green: Cheap and Best!


  1. What about coolers? :) . I'm all for lifestyle changes - going for simpler things instead of more and more tech (specially resource heavy tech).

    However, in humid areas like Chennai, fans and coolers don't do the job because sweat doesn't evaporate. And god forbid if you use a water cooler. For those climates, an AC is significantly better - any suggestions?

  2. @Guest--hey, glad you could stop by. I'm working on another post re: coolers and "evaporative cooling" technology. Water coolers don't work well in high humidity environments, like Chennai, and much of the South, and like Delhi from sometime in June onward. But boy are they great in April and May! That post will require links to articles about relative humidity, but there is a point where you just run into problems--as you know.

    I'm not going to tell you giving up AC is ever easy. And I've even read some research that suggests productivity goes down in hotter climates (or in the same countries during hot years)--but that this rule does not seem to apply in countries where there is widespread use of AC's. That makes some sense; if there's no AC, you need to go slower and sleep more. Maybe that is not such a bad thing overall, though. Part of what a sustainable world could mean is we get less stuff and more sweat in return for more time to relax and to be social and creative. That's a trade off I could live with.

    On a related note, it's not clear to me that AC use is ultimately ever a sustainable option, unless it is only limited, as it currently is, to a very small percentage of the world population. The world just won't be able to support AC for every person in India and China--not even close--without some major technological breakthrough. And I'm not one to bank the future on a breakthrough, because one thing we know is that when societies break down, historically, they often do so very quickly (future post). So it means there will have to be some pain (and sweat) somewhere, sometime. But if we're all sweating together--and if the pace of the world slows down a bit, we can manage. Anyway, a lot of people said we'd die when we took the AC out a few years ago. So far we haven't; in fact I only get serious shortness of breath once or twice a summer! Ha Ha!
    Hope to see you again. Wish I had better suggestions. It's late, I'm tired, your question has no easy answer!

  3. When I get back to India in a couple of months, I'm going to try and buy a solar power generator. I don't know right now how expensive it'll be or how accessible it'll be -but I hear the government is doing a lot to promote it. Let's see...

  4. Thank you for all the information.The ceiling fan looks great and is very useful.

  5. I like your point view about ceiling fan. You said the truth that, "without the ceiling fan you would have to change your sweaty shirt five times a day in August". It is very true. How to write a good research paper

  6. I don't really like the idea of the smaller one. And definitely not blowing on stuff. Will get things really dirty fast.

  7. I love the way you write and share your niche! Very interesting and different! Keep it coming!


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