A solution looking for a problem

“I can’t take it any more, Oliver. I’ve got to get out!”

“Get a grip, Camilla. We’ve put up with far worse. Last week it was set to 3 and we pulled out of that alright. Hang on in there, old girl.”

“But it’s relentless. It’s driving me insane. It’s alright for you, you’re not directly in its path like me.”

“Now that’s not fair, Camilla. It affects me just as much. If not more, as it’s pointing right at me when it changes direction. You suffer only when it passes in front of you.”

“You’re right I suppose. Now it’s got us fighting each other! Oh God, Simon. If it wasn’t for this accursed heat we could turn the blasted fan off!”

“Wouldn’t that be bliss, Camilla? Then we’d no longer have to endure this…unpleasant buffeting!

Yes, ‘unpleasant buffeting’ has apparently been the fundamental problem of traditional fans for more than 125 years. Who knew?

James Dyson, for one. Four years ago he briefed his ‘fluid dynamics engineers’ to set about designing a fan that would end the monstrous buffeting problem once and for all.

Dyson's new Air Multiplier (x 2)

The result was the Dyson Air Multiplier. Sorry, Air Multiplier™. It’s being advertised in all the colour supps right now and certainly looks different from your regular fan. There are no blades, you see? Well, there are, but they’re hidden in the base, where they force air up through the circumference of the device.

That accounts for some of the buffetless air you feel on your hot, flushed face. The rest is created using an impenetrable technology that involves “the inducement and entrainment of surrounding air.”

The fan looks a little like something you’d set light to before encouraging small dogs to leap through. As for the flowing air it produces, that feels quite nice. Can’t say the absence of unpleasant buffeting was something I noticed straight away. But there again its presence was not something I’d ever noticed before.

The need to turn a fan on was never accompanied by a corresponding sense of dread that the partial relief from hot, still air would be mitigated by my body being pummelled remorselessly by an unseen force. If unpleasant buffeting was the inevitable consequence of activating a fan, people in those countries where ceiling fans are commonplace must be congratulated on never having rioted or overthrown governments as a result of their bodies being battered morning, noon and night.

And yet this buffeting thing crops up in all Dyson’s adverts as being virtually the sole benefit of the product. They can’t say it keeps you cooler than traditional fans, because it doesn’t.

In fact, as with all fans, there’s a case to be made for them having the opposite effect. After all, electric fans generate both heat and friction. The relief they provide might well be illusory, like the idea that the consumption of alcohol warms you up on cold nights.

You might be better off with one of those hand-held Lady Bracknell-style fans, although again any relief you derive from the increase in airflow over your skin will probably be offset by the increase in sweat you build up by waving the thing.

'Would you mind getting your baby to stick her arm in that fan thing while I take a picture?' 'Certainly. That's not an unusual request at all.'

The Dyson fan scores  well in other areas. It’s quiet, its lack of blades means no protective grill to get dirty, it has a sort of dimmer switch rather than two or three settings, it’s easy to clean and looks…well, idiosyncratic. It would probably feel at home in a design agency’s reception. Oh, and you can stick your hands in it without losing any fingers.

However, unless you have it oscillating it’s easy to forget it’s turned on, and I foresee lots of people coming down to the living room in the morning to discover that their fan has been moving air about all night in an empty room.

There’s two other things that put me off buying one. Well, three. One is the suspicion that a bit of buffeting isn’t that bad, really. What’s the best thing to cool you down? A fresh wind. Is the wind a steady force or does it vary in strength and intensity?

Another is the fact that, on my occasional trips to the town recycling centre (aka the dump), I see a disproportionate number of Dyson’s famous vacuum cleaners standing forlornly amongst all the broken and discarded electrical gear.

And the third is the price, set at a you’re-having-a-laugh minimum of £199. Forking out that much for a product that might not last longer than its guarantee could leave you feeling decidedly hot under the collar.

A pair of traditional, bladed fans. Do they somehow sense that they're about to be made obsolete by James Dyson's innovative new bladeless fans? No, because they're not and because they're fans.


Filed under Stuff

7 responses to “A solution looking for a problem

  1. Craig Myles


  2. Very good.
    Spot on as usual.

  3. Arthur

    After this I am officially a fan of BraveNewMalden.

  4. Great stuff. ‘Unpleasant buffeting’ sounds like a problem with manky, substandard vol-au-vents.

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