Say No to Box Fans

Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Posted by Christy Schulthess



It’s hot. It’s humid. The air is not moving. Sound like a typical summer day? In an effort to make our equine companions more comfortable we often break out the fans this time of year. But, are the fans you are using actually much more dangerous than you have imagined? Very likely...

Often the quickest and easiest option is to go to your local store and purchase a box fan. Surely this must be safe – as many large equestrian shops sell mounting devices specifically made to install these fans...right? WRONG!! Box fans are a potentially lethal addition to your barn. In 2007 a prominent facility with box fans lost 44 horses in a barn fire. Our worst nightmare.

The problem becomes that these box fans (and many other "industrial" fans) are not designed to be in our barns. I've heard many people proclaim - "I dust my fans, so they are safe!" The blades and guards are not the problem - if the motor is not enclosed and the bearings not sealed, all that barn gunk WILL get inside of it. This causes friction. Friction causes heat and possibly fire.

Most fans seen in barns are absolutely NOT designed to be in a barn (or any agricultural setting). So what is the big difference in fans? There are a few crucial differences between fans made for residential use versus agricultural use:

1) Full enclosed motors featuring sealed ball bearings. Residential fans are vented. The motor parts are exposed to dust and dirt. This can build up in the electrical housing causing a fire.

2) Thermostatic overload shutoff switch. If the fan overheats it will automatically shut off, preventing enough heat buildup which may cause a fire.

3) UL507 certified motor. This means that the electrical device is rated for outdoor use – it can get wet. In wash bays these fans can safely be used and even sprayed down to clean them off. Walk down any aisle in your local chain farm store and you will see basket fans. Certainly these MUST be rated for agricultural use...right? WRONG!! Many of the fans that are rated “industrial” have specific exclusions on their instructions stating NOT for agricultural use!


The BEST fans for barn use cover all three items listed above. RAMM carries a full line of these fans – including an 18” basket fan, a 24” wall mount oscillating and a shutter exhaust fan. At a minimum your barn fan should have points one and two above covered.

Yes, agricultural fans are much more expensive than the $20 box fan. In response to this remark on our Facebook page, a follower wrote this, "I understand the concern about cost but I will say I bit the bullet and bought the sealed motor fans years ago. I was tired of constantly having to replace box fans because they didn't last. They [the sealed motor fans] last 10-15 times longer even in the deep south under constant use. So given the time and cost savings of always having to shop and replace them and the safety factor they are well worth the cost."

Have you met someone who has lost horses in a barn fire? It is devastating. The loss of the "stuff" is hard enough, but knowing how the horses died will be with you forever. A gal on Facebook nearly did. Luckily the she was there when the fire started and no major damage was caused. It could have been so much worse. Make sure that you have agricultural rated electrical equipment and we always recommend GFCI circuits Please be safe this summer and keep an eye on all electrical appliances in your barns!