How do the four SmartFan stove fan models vary?
The Dublin based company IQ Design specialises in inventing, designing and introducing plenty of fireplace accessories that are truly awesome in many aspects. Take their stove fan, its design and idea is so different and spectacularly unique; it cannot be mistaken for any other model. Their revolutionary solution of having double fans and using the smaller one for two functions: cooling the top section of the fan as well as pushing a significant volume of warm air sideways.
What first appears to be just a variation in box colour, is in fact a more complex choice for the stove fan consumer, and you realise that there is more to IQ Design’s SmartFans than simply a smart design. This is the moment for this professional reviewer to step up and thoroughly explore all aspects of IQ Design’s flagship product and answer all the questions you may have.
What is the reason behind each of the new stove fan models?
Wood stove users had their first chance to significantly improve their heaters’ efficiency with the original SmartFan in the heating season 2011/2012. The fan turned out to be extremely successful and earned their customer’s trust straight away. The SmartFan faced severe competition from many other brands who were aggressively expanding their businesses. This in turn urged IQ Design’s management to thoroughly research the stove fan market, innovate and introduce new models to meet customer’s demands.
The full size SmartFan vs The Mini SmartFan
Interestingly, the original SmartFan’s price hasn’t changed since it was introduced in 2014, whilst many competing brands’ models were significantly smaller and 30% cheaper around the same time. IQ Design’s response was the SmartFan Mini stove fan. It was 30mm smaller than its predecessor. Its front blades are smaller by 30mm in diameter too. So, on the whole the stove fan dimensions were squeezed by roughly 15%. As the Peltier module and motors remained unchanged they supplied the same power level. Both motors could spin faster with lighter blades which compensated for the loss in size and therefore has almost the same airflow volume.
To summarise, the new SmartFan Mini is smaller but equally efficient, and cheaper. But the difference between the two SmartFans lay in the cone of air propelled – it is significantly wider in the original SmartFan.
Is there a SmartFan model for gas stoves?
The obvious usefulness of stove fans was immediately noticed by users of double sided, gas or soapstone stoves where the top range of operating temperature is significantly lower. A regular stove fan used on those kind of stoves wouldn’t work efficiently, as their optimal temperature is usually above the maximum reachable stove top temperature. Many fan models start working as soon as the stove top temperature reaches 45o C, yet those fans work at their best between 200o – 300o C whereas the top surface of, say, a double sided stove, reaches merely 200o C at the most.
The solution would be a fan that starts at a low temperature, but at the same time it needs to achieve its efficiency at 150o -200o C. The solution then is the SmartFan LT (which stands for Low Temperature) and its smaller version SmartFan LT Mini. The latter of the two have the same dimensions as their original counterpart with only one modification, which is the TEG module. Thanks to The Peltier applied in LT versions the operating temperature range has been changed – see the graph below.
The LT models start rotating at slightly lower temperatures than the original counterparts, however their best airflow is easily achieved below 200o C and is about 10% smaller. On the other hand, the original SmartFan propels about 35% less airflow at the temperature of 180o than the LT version.
Simply put, it really pays off to go for a stove fan designed for low temperatures, rather than a regular fan if it’s to work on a gas or soapstone stove surface. The LT fan is an excellent solution, although there’s one thing you need to bear in mind: it can never be used on a regular stove as its Peltier module won’t withstand higher temperatures. It will simply melt and the fan would soon stop working. What is even worse, the lack of airflow – which normally protects both motors from overheating – would inevitably lead to more damage.
As power management plays a crucial role in fans such as the SmartFan, where there are two motors serviced by just one TEG module, even a slight saving in each blade’s weight matters. The front fan as well as the axial one were initially made of light plastic and only last year the company decided to replace the front blades with more robust aluminum ones, keeping the axial blades unchanged.
Where to position the SmartFan stove fan
When it comes to a detailed description of everything that differs in the SmartFan models, there’s one question they each have in common, and frankly should be addressed: What is the correct placement of SmartFans on the stove top surface?
The electricity that powers both motors is created in the Peltier module based on a phenomenon called The Seebeck Effect. The differences in temperature either side of the Peltier module causes it to produce low voltage electricity and powers the electric fan, blowing warm air around the room. Consequently, placing a stove fan on the stove top with a little opening in the recess, where the hottest air gathers, will certainly affect its efficiency (this doesn’t apply to Stirling engine powered stove fans).
Most fans would work in this location and there would be an imperceptible reduction to the airflow. Unfortunately, the SmartFan’s manufacturer advises against placing their fans in the aperture above the wood stove as it might damage its Peltier module and then the motors. For that very same reason it’s not advised to place the SmartFan in proximity to the flue pipe as its heat would warm up the fan’s top section disrupting the Seebeck effect (as it would all stove fans with a Peltier module).Also, as the SmartFan’s air intake into the top, cooling section, is built on the left-hand side (right-hand side when looking at the fan) the best efficiency can be achieved when placing the fan on the stove edge so the axial blade draws in slightly cooler air than it would directly over the stove surface.
In general, it’s good to test the fan’s placement for yourself to find the best position for your stove, bearing in mind just two rules to avoid proximity to the recess, and the flue. This will ensure thousands of hours of indefectible performance.