Covina, CA

Case Study: Rethinking Airflow at Covina-Valley Schools

The fans have actually exceeded our performance goals. I used to get a lot of calls about rooms being too hot. Needless to say, I don’t get calls anymore. Jeff Bloedorn, Chief Facilities Officer

The Gist


When A/C provided more cooling than needed, Covina-Valley Unified School District looked for a way to keep its gyms cool, breezy and comfortable without being wasteful.


Big Ass Fans cool the spaces more effectively than A/C — so effectively, in fact, that Covina-Valley now uses Big Ass Fans and Big Ass Light LEDs throughout the district.


Every gymnasium, cafeteria and meeting space is now cool and comfortable. The real boon, however, has been a reduction in both maintenance costs and calls for assistance.

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Haiku Fans

Big Ass Fans and Light LEDs are Deployed Throughout District

Twenty miles east of downtown Los Angeles, the Covina-Valley Unified School District serves the city of Covina as well as portions of West Covina, San Dimas, Irwindale and Glendora. When Chief Facilities Officer Jeff Bloedorn searched for a better, more cost-effective way to cool the district’s gymnasiums, he turned to Big Ass Fans. Now, Big Ass Fans, Big Ass Light LEDs and Haiku Home fans are used throughout the district in cafeterias, meeting spaces, offices and more.

Inefficient A/C

Covina-Valley Unified serves more than 10,000 students in its 10 elementary schools, three middle schools, three comprehensive high schools and one continuation high school. The district also operates a preschool and several adult-education facilities, as well as a central administration building.

Covina-Valley is predominately an air-conditioned district: classrooms, cafeterias and most gyms are all kept cool by HVAC systems. However, Covina’s school-year climate — hot in August and September, then mild through May — meant that A/C was overkill for much of the year. This problem was particularly acute in gymnasiums, said Bloedorn. “They used the A/C just to get airflow and keep the gym from feeling stale. They didn’t actually need the cooling, though, and it was often uncomfortably cold. It didn’t make sense to run the A/C year round when all they really wanted was air movement.”

Bloedorn had seen Big Ass Fans years earlier; when he began looking for ways to improve airflow in the district’s gyms without using so much energy, the Kentucky-based manufacturer was top-of-mind.

Increasing Comfort

Big Ass Fans worked with Bloedorn to outfit a gym with the heavy-duty Powerfoil X3.0. Its 16-foot (4.9-meters) diameter provided enough airflow to keep the space comfortable while using only a fraction of the energy used by air-conditioning. “That first fan far exceeded our performance goals. I thought it would help, but I honestly didn’t anticipate it being as helpful as it was,” noted Bloedorn. Soon, Big Ass Fans were installed in several gymnasiums and every cafeteria space in the district. Smaller fans, like the Haiku I Series and Essence, were installed in classrooms and large meeting rooms, as well.

In cafeterias, Covina-Valley uses Essence fans. Powered by direct drive motors, these fans are virtually silent, yet powerful enough to cool both the dining space and the kitchen. Covina-Valley had previously tried to keep its kitchens cool with portable air conditioners, floor fans and swamp coolers, yet “the only way we’ve been able to keep them cool is with a Big Ass Fan,” said Bloedorn. Additionally, the overhead Essence fans eliminated the clutter of floor fans and reduced trip hazards in the ever-changing environment of the kitchens.

The fans faced some initial resistance from staff. Most were concerned about children throwing objects at the fans, particularly in gyms and cafeterias. Others were concerned about the noise that the fans would create. According to Bloedorn, these fears were unfounded: “In fact, we used to have a room where teachers commented that the A/C was too loud. Since we installed a Haiku I’ve had no complaints, because the A/C never gets used.” Now, teachers and staff are clamoring for more fans throughout the district.

In addition to improving efficiency and occupant comfort, the fans could be controlled by teachers and staff, whereas the air conditioning is controlled by Bloedorn’s team. By providing staff with on-site control, Bloedorn has seen the number of calls and requests for thermostat adjustments drop, freeing up time for other facility maintenance needs. 

All the Light, None of the Maintenance

Over the past several years, Covina-Valley has converted entirely to LED lights, utilizing both industrial and commercial lights by Big Ass Light. Bloedorn took special note of Big Ass Light’s fixtures in the district’s technical education facility, where they are installed above welding stations. The 13,000-lumen fixtures produce ample task lighting, allowing students to work more effectively. Built predominantly from solid extruded aluminum, the Big Ass Light fixtures are also robust enough to stand up to the industrial-style environment.

While LED lighting offers improved energy efficiency over fluorescent and metal-halide fixtures,  Bloedorn’s favorite benefit is a reduction in maintenance. “With LED, I don’t have to change lamps or ballasts. This keeps down costs and saves a tremendous amount of maintenance time,” said Bloedorn, adding that the district’s electricians spent 20% of their time changing ballasts alone. Additionally, Big Ass Light LEDs have no bulbs, instead integrating long-life LEDs into the fixture itself. Now, the district has no need to contract a recycling company to dispose of their fluorescent bulbs, saving the district money there, too.

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