What is an Axial Fan? Cooling & Ventilation Explained

Applications of Axial Fans


The world today is characterized by the necessity for fast and effective cooling and ventilation systems for various applications. Axial fans have become the most popular choice in this regard. The fans, commonly known as propeller fans, are built to ensure that they move a significant amount of air along a straight line, which is very convenient for many industrial and commercial applications. In this article, we will learn what an axial fan is, how it operates, and its advantages as a way of cooling and ventilation.
Based on the report by Grand View Research, the axial fan market size was valued at USD 2.7 billion in 2020 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 4.5% from 2021 to 2028 to reach USD 3.8 billion, reveals the same report. This can be factored into the growing demand for cooling solutions in different sectors, such as automotive, aerospace, greenhouse, and electronics.

What is an axial fan?

The axial fan, also known as the axial flow fan, is an example of a fan that has airflow parallel to the axis of the fan. While centrifugal fans are the ones that suck air from the side and expel it radially, axial fans push air in a straight line. This is the reason for axial. These fans usually have cylindrical housing, an electric motor, and a propeller with several blades attached to the motor shaft.
Axial fans vary in size and configuration. Its size and shape depend on the application and air flow needs as well. They are produced in different sizes, from small personal fans in electronic devices to big fans that are employed in ventilation systems and cooling towers. Based on the type of electric current, axial fans can be divided into three main categories:
  • AC (Alternating Current) Axial Fans
  • DC or Direct Current Axial Fans
  • EC (Electronically Commutated) Axial Fan


One of the main features of the axial fans is their ability to move large amounts of air over a concentrated area where that air is of high density. Simultaneously, these fans exert comparatively low static pressure. This is the reason why they are preferred for the purpose of providing a high volume of airflow and effective cooling or ventilation. Such devices as electronic equipment, industrial processes, and building HVAC systems are just a few examples.
axial cooling fans

How Does an Axial Fan Work?

Axial fans operate by building a pressure difference between the front and back of the fan blades. The blades rotation forces the air forward. It, therefore, causes a low-pressure area behind the fan and a high-pressure area in front of it. The pressure difference causes air to flow through the fan, and thereby, the air moves from the high-pressure side to the low-pressure side.
Several factors influence the performance of an axial flow fan:
Blade design: The geometric form and the angle of the fan blades are also key factors that determine the fan’s performance. Generally, the blades of a wind turbine have the shape of an airfoil, similar to the wing of an airplane. This shape is the main reason for the reduction of air resistance and an increase in efficiency. The angle of the blades is also important because it affects the fan’s airflow and pressure. A greater angle results in the same pressure.
Motor speed: The speed of the motor is the second most important factor after the size of the fan that influences the airflow. The higher motor speed produces more airflow, but this noise is proportional. The power source is the most important factor in determining the fan motor speed and, by extension, the fan performance.
Fan size: The airflow of the fan can be determined by its size. The bigger the fan, the more air it can move, but this also means that the running costs are higher. Designing HVAC fans requires a balance between the demands of airflow and cost-effectiveness.
The pitch of the blade is the main factor to be considered when the depth of the fan and the blade pitch angle are being evaluated. The rule of thumb is to have at least one degree of blade pitch per inch of fan depth. Therefore, a 10-inch deep axial fan needs to have a blade pitch angle of at least 10 degrees. A study by the University of Illinois has shown that the amount of air moved by a 10-inch deep axial fan increased by 15% when the blade pitch angle was raised from 10 to 20 degrees. Power consumption, however, remained the same.
axial fans blades

Benefits of Using Axial Fans for Cooling and Ventilation

Axial fans offer several advantages when it comes to cooling and ventilation applications. Let’s explore some of the key benefits:

Efficient airflow and cooling capabilities

One of the advantages of axial flow fans is that they can move large volumes of air in a very efficient manner. This is why they are considered one of the best wayss for high airflow rate applications. These applications include the cooling of electronic equipment, ventilating large spaces and the exhaust of heat and fumes. Axial fans may be utilized to control the temperatures and prevent overheating in different systems by maintaining a constant flow of air.
Research by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) established that axial fans can achieve airflow rates of up to 100,000 cubic feet per minute (CFM) or more. The airflow rate is a factor of the fan size and its construction. The high airflow capacity of axial flow fans allows them to be used for a wide range of cooling and air circulation tasks.
Different fan designs can be utilized to achieve the highest efficiency of the axial fans for a particular application. For example, some axial fans have adjustable pitch blades. These blades are able to adjust the airflow and air pressure features for the system to achieve the desired operational result. The other designs may use guide vanes or straighteners. These parts also reduce turbulence and guarantee better air intake and distribution.

Low noise operation

The other benefit of axial fans is their relatively silent work compared to other types of fans. This is due to their streamline character. Axial fans are designed to move air in a straight line through a defined area, which makes them less noisy and turbulent. Low noise operation is an important feature of places where low noise level is required, such as offices, hospitals or homes.
In order to minimize the noise in axial fans, the manufacturers introduce different methods. For instance, they may utilize different blade shapes or acoustic insulation. They can also adopt the variable speed control to maximize fan efficiency and reduce noise at different speed settings. These features make axial fans an option of first choice rather than other industrial fans when noise is a criterion.

Compact size and lightweight design

Axial fans are characterized by their small size and light weight, which make them easy to install and integrate into many systems. This is especially beneficial in situations where space is limited and the compactness of the devices is a priority, such as in electronics, small appliances, or ventilation systems.
The small size of the axial fans can be used more freely in terms of placement and type of mounting. They can be installed in the ducts, walls, or ceilings in a way that is suitable for the application by taking into account its particular requirements. Furthermore, the lightweight nature of the axial fans results in a reduction in the weight of the cooling or ventilation system, which can be useful in areas where weight is a major factor, like in aerospace and automotive industries.

Comparing Axial Fans to Other Fan Types

To better understand the unique characteristics and advantages of axial flow fans, it’s helpful to compare them with other common types of fans used in cooling and ventilation applications.

Axial Fans vs. Centrifugal Fans

Centrifugal fans, also referred to as radial fans, are another widely used type of fan for different industrial applications. In contrast to axial fans that move the air in an axial direction, centrifugal fans bring in air from the sides and then expel it radially, perpendicular to the fan shaft.
Centrifugal fans are usually more effective for applications that require higher static pressures. Centrifugal fans are used in air conditioning systems, exhaust systems, or dust collection. They can produce higher pressures than axial fans and are more efficient at overcoming the resistance in ductwork or filter systems.
Nonetheless, axial fans can achieve higher airflow rates when compared to centrifugal fans of similar size. Further, they have a greater size and weight than the axial fans, which might be a problem in applications where space is very limited or weight is a factor.

Want to learn more about Axial Fans and Centrifugal Fans? Please visit here for detailed information.

Axial Fans vs. Tangential fans

Tangential fans, also known as cross-flow fans, are the other kind of fan that is used in some cooling and ventilation applications. These fans move the air in a direction perpendicular to the fan’s impeller. This produces a wide, uniform airflow pattern.
Tangential fans are frequently used in cases where a wide and even air distribution is required. Air curtains, HVAC systems, and refrigeration units are some of the examples. They are famous for producing a massive amount of air over a broad area. This means that they can be used to cool or ventilate larger areas.
Nevertheless, tangential fans are known to have less static pressure capabilities than both axial fans and centrifugal fans. Moreover, they are less energy efficient. In certain cases, they might produce more noise than axial fans.
Feature Axial Fan Centrifugal Fan Tangential Fan
Airflow Direction Parallel to axis Perpendicular to shaft (radial) Perpendicular to impeller
Airflow Rate High Moderate High
Static Pressure Low High Low
Applications General ventilation, low resistance High resistance (ducts, filters), AC systems Wide air distribution (curtains, HVAC)
Advantages High volume airflow, quiet, compact Good for overcoming resistance, higher pressure Wide, even air distribution

Axial Fans' roles in cooling

Applications of Axial Fans

Cooling electronic devices and systems

Axial fans show high efficiency in cooling electronic devices and systems. Some of these include computers, servers, telecommunications devices, and power electronics. Axial fans have the very important task of keeping the system operating at the right temperature and preventing overheating.
In these cases, axial fans have two main functions. In the first place, they bring cool air into the equipment or system. But, they are responsible for the hot air exhaustion coming from the electronic part of the device. The compactness and high airflow characteristics of axial fans ensure that they are suitable for these cooling tasks. Achieving dependable operation and prolonging the life of electronic devices is possible through the use of axial fans.

Ventilation in industrial and commercial buildings

Axial fans are also applied to ventilation in many commercial and industrial settings, like factories, warehouses, offices, schools, and other big buildings. In these cases, axial ventilation fans are there to maintain the indoor air quality and comfort levels.
In cases where axial fans are used, they are usually installed in the ventilation ducts. They can be mounted on the walls or the ceiling. The aim is to ensure a constant air supply and remove stale or polluted air. The axial hvac fans can be used for ventilation purposes. Such systems can also be designed for special purposes, for example, to eliminate heat, humidity, or pollutants from the indoor environment.
The high airflow and low noise operation of axial ventilation fans make them ideal for ventilation in occupied spaces. Such fans have been designed to guarantee a conducive and healthy indoor atmosphere for the occupants.

Exhaust systems and fume removal

Also, axial fans are essential components in exhaust systems and fume evacuation. Effluents like manufacturing plants, laboratories, or kitchens have the tendency to produce harmful fumes, dust, or other airborne contaminants that can be harmful to people. They must be efficiently extracted to ensure workplace security.
Fans that run in axial motion are typically used in such exhaust systems. They blow the polluted air away from the source. Finally, the wastewater is discharged or treated using filtration devices. The axial exhaust fans’ ability to move high airflow enables them to eliminate large volumes of air in a short time. That is why it is possible to preserve the internal air quality and prevent health problems among workers, at the same time.
In commercial kitchens, for instance, axial fans are in range hoods and exhaust systems. They provide deodorization, ventilation, and smoke removal. That is to say, this will create a risk-free and pleasant kitchen for kitchen staff. Axial exhaust fans can move a large volume of air, which is why they are very effective in those tasks.


In conclusion, axial fans, known as propeller fans, are a multipurpose and effective tool to deal with various cooling and ventilation problems. They can move a lot much air in a line. They are small, low noise, and easy to operate as well. This is the reason why they are like a toolkit for most industries.
The axial flow fans are among the key components in many areas that ensure the preservation of an optimal temperature, air quality, and safety. However, they are not only confined to cooling electronic devices and systems, ventilating large buildings, and removing fumes. With industries constantly changing, knowledge of axial fan use and its efficiency will keep becoming more and more important.

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