Centrifugal Fan vs Axial Fan: Which is Right for You?

Centrifugal Fan vs Axial Fan


All components or systems that produce operational heat, which can adversely influence their performance, should be cooled. This is one of those simple engineering rules you learned in school and likely ignored until you were given a real world thermal management project. Apart from throttling the power in the system, using some heat sinks, or using pipes or cold plates, you will need a fan to move some air and cool things off. This implies a selection of either an axial fan or a centrifugal fan design. The question is, which design will be your best options? This blog is intended to be of help.
Axial fans and centrifugal fans are two popular types of fans used for air movement and cooling. Both designs have their own benefits and are appropriate for various applications. Knowing the differences between the two will help you make a wise choice when selecting the right fan for you.

Understanding Axial Fans

Axial fans are one of the most preferred options for many applications because of their high speed and effective air movement. Propeller fans are also called axial fans. They are available in different sizes, from board-level fans to room-size fans, and can work with both alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC) power. Axial fans are noted for their capacity to move large quantities of air at low pressure, thus, making them ideal for equipment cooling and space ventilation.

Definition and Design

Axial fans, also known as axial flow fans, are fans that move air in the direction of the axis of rotation of the fan blades. They are propeller-shaped. The fan blades are attached to a central hub. Blades are set at an angle to force air straight, in line with the shaft that the blades spin around. There are different sizes and configurations of axial fans, including tube-axial fans, vane-axial fans, and propeller fans. They are typically utilized in systems that require the movement of large amounts of air at relatively low pressure.

Key Uses and Advantages

There are many industries and applications that use axial fans. Such systems include ventilation systems, cooling towers, and exhaust systems. They are very efficient at moving large volumes of air fast. This makes them ideal for general ventilation and cooling applications. Axial fans are also small in size. This makes installation in confined spaces easy. They are usually less noisy than centrifugal fans. They are also more energy efficient. This makes them a good choice for many applications, including air conditioning and spot cooling of electronic components. Axial fans are one of the major types of fans used in systems that need air movement together with a power source.

Exploring Centrifugal Fans

Centrifugal fans are also a common selection for high pressure and directed air movement applications. These fans have a motor-driven hub with impellers that throw air into the fan housing and send it out at 90 degrees in a different direction, known as the radial direction. Centrifugal fans are also called radial fans or centrifugal blowers. They are famous for generating a constant, high-velocity airstream in comparison with axial fans. Centrifugal fans are available in different sizes and can be powered by both AC and DC.

How They Work

The airflow produced by centrifugal fans is radial. This is at right angles to the axis of rotation. The impellers are situated in the fan housing. They discharge air at an angle of 90 degrees. This compresses the air in the blower housing. After that, the compressed air is sent to a discharge. Centrifugal fans are designed to generate a continuous, high-pressure flow of air. This is what makes them ideal for the applications requiring directed air flow. Centrifugal fans have a different airflow direction compared to axial fans. Axial fans blow air in the direction of the intake, while centrifugal fans move air along the axis of the impeller. This variation in air movement direction is significant in selecting axial or centrifugal fans for particular places.

Primary Applications and Benefits

Applications that require higher pressure usually use centrifugal fans. They are also employed when the fan has to work against resistance in the system. They are used in HVAC systems, industrial processes and dust collection systems. Centrifugal fans are very effective in ductwork air movement. They can also resist static pressure. This makes them ideal for uses in systems with intricate air paths. Moreover, they are able to work in high temperatures and dirty air. This makes them a preferred option in industrial applications and tough environments where industrial ventilation is required. The high-velocity air flow from the center of the fan to the periphery is the main characteristic of centrifugal fans.
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Core Differences Between Axial and Centrifugal Fans

While both axial fans and centrifugal fans can be used for air movement and cooling purposes, there are some key differences between them. This distinction comes from aspects like airflow and pressure, noise levels, power efficiency and consumption, fan durability and lifespan, as well as installation and space considerations. Learning about these differences can help you choose the type of fan that will satisfy your individual needs.

Airflow and Pressure

Both axial and centrifugal fans differ in their airflow and pressure attributes. This is one of the main features that make them different. Axis fans are perfect for providing high-volume, low-pressure airflow. They are usually employed in processes where the mixing of air over a large area is required. Examples are cooling of electronic appliances, ventilation, and air conditioning. Unlike centrifugal fans which are designed to create low-volume, high-pressure airflow, centrifugal fans work in the opposite way. They are mostly used in locations where a focused airflow is necessary to direct it to particular areas. Examples could be furnaces, industrial air handling, dust removal and smoke extraction.
A high-performance axial fan can easily move up to 5,000 cubic feet of air per minute (CFM). It also keeps a certain static pressure of 0.5 inwg, which is very low. On the contrary, centrifugal fans are capable of creating much pressure of up to 10 inwg. But, they are equipped with a volumetric airflow of 1,000 CFM.

Noise Levels and Efficiency of Axial Fans and Centrifugal Fans

The next thing that differentiates axial and centrifugal fans is their noise levels and efficiency. Axial fans are relatively quiet compared to centrifugal fans. This is because they have a simple design and usually low operating speeds. They are also known for being more resourceful. They are less power hungry to produce the same amount of airflow. Besides, this kind of fan might create some audible and electromagnetic noise. This is more pronounced when they are powered by an electric motor.
On the other hand, centrifugal fans are likely to be more noisy. It is caused by their complex structure and high speed of operation. They could also be slightly less effective than axial fans. Listen to the given audio and summarize the key ideas in your own words. Air compressors, for instance, need more power to generate the high-pressure airflow. These studies have shown that the average sound level of a centrifugal fan can be as high as 75 dB. However, the axial fans usually run at the lower 60 dB audible noise level.
As for energy efficiency, the axial fan rating is about 70%. This implies that the efficiency of the device is 70%; in other words, 70% of the input power is converted to useful airflow. The efficiency of centrifugal fans is slightly lower, which is at about 60%. This is due to a higher pressure need.
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Power Efficiency and Consumption

The power efficiency and consumption of axial and centrifugal fans might be different. It will depend on the application and operating environment. Axial fans are mostly more energy-efficient than centrifugal fans. They have less power requirement to move the same amount of air. This way, they are more cost-effective for applications that operate continuously, such as when a fan is used to ventilate or cool a factory.
Unlike in the case of centrifugal fans, which tend to consume more power. This is attributed to the fact that they have to operate at higher speeds and need additional power to produce high-pressure airflow. This may cause an increase in the operational costs, which is more noticeable when the fan needs to run for longer periods. On the other hand, the power consumption of a fan is also determined by other factors such as its size, design, and the efficiency of its power supply.
On the basis of the study by the U.S. Department of Energy, axial fans can save up to 20% of energy in some applications in comparison to centrifugal fans. The study revealed that using high-efficiency motors and variable speed drives can reduce the power consumption of both types of fans to an appreciable level. As a result, the company is able to reduce its expenses and save money.

Fan Durability and Lifespan

The durability and lifespan of axial and centrifugal fans would depend on their design and operating conditions. Axial fans usually last longer due to their simpler structure and fewer moving parts. Besides, they are also more durable to the effects of dust and dirt that can destroy the fan parts.
However, centrifugal fans might be more likely to be damaged and worn out. They have this because of their more complex structure and faster operation. The recurring nature of the high-speed airflow, together with the extra components such as the fan housing and impeller, increases the strain on the fan’s components. Besides, centrifugal fans can be more vulnerable to the impact of dust and debris, especially in severe areas like industrial harsh environments.
Nevertheless, adequate maintenance and frequent cleaning will significantly improve the longevity of both axial and centrifugal fans. Through the cleaning of the fan’s components from dust and dirt, and the lubrication of moving parts as required, this will reduce the chance of early wear and failure.
As per the research published in Journal of Applied Sciences, the lifetime of the industrial axial fan is estimated to be 20,000 to 30,000 hours. On the contrary, a centrifugal fan has a lifetime of 15,000 to 25,000 hours. However, the numbers might be different from one fan to another depending on the quality of the fan, the application of the fan, and the level of maintenance. At the end of the day, the decision whether to use an axial or centrifugal fan should be made based on the project’s particular requirements, including the amount of air movement needed, energy efficiency, and the operating environment.

Installation and Space Considerations

When it comes to installation and space consumption, axial fans have a noteworthy advantage. They are the smallest and lightest models, so they can be installed even in small places. This is particularly good when the fan is supposed to be installed in narrow places or combined with existing systems. By way of example, when axial fans are installed, the whole process is often more straightforward and requires fewer additional support structures.
Different from centrifugal fans, the latter are mostly big and heavy. Thus, they might need more installation room. Centrifugal fans are big and heavy, so they can require extra supporting structures to ensure that they are securely mounted and operating safely. This is imperative when the fan is in a high air pressure or vibration environment. Furthermore, the construction of the centrifugal fan, with its scroll housing and impeller, can sometimes make it harder to put it in place in specific locations.
Even though, the detailed construction specifications for axial and centrifugal fans can be different,. This will vary from fan to fan, depending on the size and model. Also, the area of application will have an effect. In a number of instances, special mounting solutions or ductwork may need to be installed in order to facilitate the best performance and secure functioning of the equipment.
Factor Axial Fan Centrifugal Fan
Airflow and Pressure High volume, low pressure Low volume, high pressure
Noise Level and Efficiency Quieter, more efficient (approx. 70% efficiency) Noisier, less efficient (approx. 60% efficiency)
Power Efficiency and Consumption More energy-efficient More power-hungry
Durability and Lifespan More durable, longer lifespan (20,000 – 30,000 hours) More prone to wear and tear, shorter lifespan (15,000 – 25,000 hours)
Installation and Space Smaller, lighter, and easier to install Larger, heavier, require more installation space

The Cost Factor: Budgeting for Axial and Centrifugal Fans

Price A fan’s costs varies according to its size, materials, and others, like features. Basically, the axial fans are less expensive as compared to the centrifugal fans, especially as they are smaller and have lower requirements for performance. This results in them being the cheapest choice for scenarios where money is limited.
The price variance can be even more significant for the bigger size or for fans with special features, like explosion-proof motors or corrosion-resistant materials.
But on the other hand, the long-term costs should also be taken into consideration when you buy a fan. Centrifugal fans may be more expensive initially than other options, but they can create strong airflow pressures and remain the only feasible solution for certain applications. Such cases may be deemed worthy of the initial high investment as they may be offset by the fan’s longevity and performance.
Also, energy efficiency factor and maintenance requirement during the fan lifetime can affect the total cost of ownership. Besides, axial fans being energy-efficient, which may lead to a reduction in operating costs. Conversely, centrifugal fans are possibly less in demand of maintenance as a result of their sturdier construction.
Finally, the decision to choose between an axial fan and a centrifugal fan should be taken after the technical specifications of the application and budget restrictions are taken into consideration. Considering factors such as air pressure, the space available and long-term costs, you will be able to make a wise choice that will meet your needs effectively.

How to Choose the Right Fan for Your Needs

Thinking About Your Space and Requirements

In the case of selecting either an axial fan or a centrifugal fan, you should definitely start by identifying your specific application requirements and the environmental conditions. To help you select the most appropriate fan type and model, consider the following factors:
Space dimensions: Choose the area where the fan is to be located. This may mean length, width, and height. This will assist in diminishing the fan sizes that can be accommodated in your application. Take for example that you have a space challenge, then propeller fans or axial fans may be more appropriate for you.
Airflow requirements: Determine the airflow that is required. This is usually determined in cubic feet per minute (CFM). The airflow requirement will vary depending on the size of the area you are cooling or ventilating. The amount of cooling required will depend on the heat load produced by the electrical equipment or other heat sources. ASHRAE study demonstrated that an office space of one person requires 20 CFM of fresh air for proper ventilation.
Pressure requirements: Work out the pressure that is needed. This is the most commonly used measurement, and it is usually expressed in inches of water column (inWC). The amount of pressure needed will be determined by the resistance you want to conquer. The type of air conditioning will also depend on the need to direct airflow to specific areas. In the case of applications with higher resistance, like that of long ductwork or air conditioning systems, centrifugal fans may prove more suitable. The reason is the capability to create higher air pressures.
Noise limitations: Set the noise level to an acceptable level. These are usually determined in decibels (dB). The noise level, which is acceptable to people, will depend on the location of a fan and its surrounding environment. Saying that, a sound level of 50 dB or less could be required in a quiet office environment. On the other hand, the more tolerant level of noise is in the industrial setting. The findings of research by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) indicate that the noise levels at workplaces should be kept below 85 dB to avoid hearing loss.
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You can take those factors into account and compare them to the axial and centrifugal fan models, which will allow you to select the fan that is best for you. Moreover, make sure to bear in mind energy efficiency and the ability to cool down the hot air appropriately. These factors can influence the productivity of your cooling or ventilation system over the long term. Also, you can consult with professionals or follow the instructions of the manufacturer, which will help you make the right choice when buying from different brands.

Considerations for Quality and Safety

In the process of selecting a fan for your application, it is of paramount importance to take into account those factors that ensure the product’s quality and safety. The most important thing to look for are certifications that demonstrate that the fan meets certain standards in relation to performance, safety, or environment.
One basic example is RoHS, the abbreviation for “Restriction of Hazardous Substances.” The purpose of this regulation is to prohibit the employment of hazardous materials in electrical and electronic equipment. While making the choice of different products, you should be keen on whether the fan complies with RoHS or follows other environmental standards. Considering the above factors when selecting a fan will help you make a choice that is both safe and friendly to the environment. This is especially critical when dealing with DC fans or other electrical devices that may have poisonous constituents.
Another very important aspect is electromagnetic compatibility (EMC). EMC is defined as the capability of electronic and electrical equipment to be used in the required electromagnetic environment without interfering with the electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) of other devices. The noise, which is frequently generated by the fans and other electronic parts, is called the electromagnetic noise. EMC certification guarantees that the electromagnetic interference of the fan won’t prevent the normal operation of electronic devices in their surroundings.
Through RoHS compliance and EMC certification, fans with relevant certifications are well-advised and can make a wise decision that takes into account the quality as well as safety of the product. Therefore, you will be able to provide a system that is safer, more dependable, and more eco-friendly.


In summary, the distinction between axial and centrifugal fans is critical in viewing the appropriate fan for your required task. You can choose between maximizing air flow, noise levels, energy efficiency or cost effectiveness, depending on what is important to you. Each type has its own set of pros and cons. Through assessing the space requirements and implementing such elements as energy efficiency and noise levels, the decision will be easier to take. If there is any need for you to get more insightful about what is the best fan for your case, don’t hesitate to contact us, and our experts will help you with the entire method.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which fan type is best for high-pressure applications?

In most high-pressure applications, a centrifugal fan is normally the best option. The design of centrifugal fans is that they are capable of producing higher pressure than axial fans, so they are used for applications that need the air to be pressurized. This type of fan has a higher degree of directionality and is able to cool the air in the designated areas.

Any Tips for Better Efficiency of your chosen fan?

To optimize the performance of a fan, consider the following tips:
  • Routinely clean and maintain the fan to ensure normal airflow operations.
  • Correctly install the fan to be certain that it is in the right position for the desired airflow.
  • Check the fan performance and make changes if necessary so that the airflow and cooling can be optimal.

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