People without air-conditioning often turn to electric fans for relief from the heat.
But some experts have questioned whether electric fans might actually hamper efforts to cool down. In a new study, a team of British researchers reviewed evidence on the effectiveness of electric fans during heat waves that have occurred all over the world.
Despite what many people think, most fans do not directly cool the ambient air. When placed in an open window, they pull in cooler air from outside. But there is a point at which their effectiveness may diminish. The researchers found that when temperatures climb past 95 degrees, having a fan pointed at you can actually increase the heat, not reduce it.
At those temperatures, being directly in the path of hot air blown from a fan can raise the risk of dehydration and heat exhaustion. The researchers said that while they could not support or recommend against the use of electric fans in sweltering conditions, it was important to consider their potential harms and benefits.
That is especially the case for vulnerable populations like the elderly, “who are less able to cool down through sweating or increasing the flow of blood to their skin,” the researchers said.