Americans spend millions of dollars on products that will help them sleep better. Could special fan technology be the answer?
The launch of Sleep Fans last year came from the passion three friends share for aviation. David Furnace, a banker by trade who also took flying lessons, had worked with Mike Peden in the past, and through church, they met technical engineer Tim Peery, who had created products used on the space shuttle and worked on a personal air vehicle project for a client. All three were considering a career change.
“We started talking about how we could take some of the developments in aviation and apply it to a business,” Furnace explains. “Taking flying lessons really got me interested in aerodynamics.” From there, their discussions revolved around advancements in air movement and they tossed around at least 30 product concepts.
Soon the trio discovered that they had something else in common – each slept with a fan on at night to aid in either their or their spouse’s sleep. For one it was the noise, for another it was the air movement, and still another needed both air and sound. They marveled over the coincidence at first, but then wondered if the sleep remedy was more common than they realized.
After polling their friends, family members, and acquaintances on the topic of sleeping with a fan on, they discovered that a high percentage did. This led to an official, more widespread survey. Furnace estimates that 56 percent of the respondents slept with a fan on because they wanted either the air movement or the white noise. Furthermore, respondents said they were not satisfied with the fan they were using. Some wanted the noise to be louder, while others wanted it quieter; some wanted more air flow and less sound, while others preferred more sound and less air flow.
According to Furnace, “We began to ask ourselves, ‘Can we create a fan that can allow airflow and noise volume to be adjusted independently of one another, and have it make a soothing sound, and make it look nice?’” It was a challenge they decided to conquer by developing a product that could do it all.
The three friends then focused on learning more about the type of “noise” that a typical fan produced and pouring over clinical sleep studies, including a process called “brainwave entrainment” that details brainwave frequency and the corresponding mental state each induces.
“Most fans product white noise,” Furnace explains, likening the sound to pressing all of the keys – the higher registers as well as the low – on a piano at the same time with the same amount of pressure. “High pitch noise stimulates the brain,” Furnace notes. “Red noise has an absence of high pitch. The best way to describe it is like a cat’s purr. We spent months in R & D working with the blades to achieve red noise.” The idea is for the lower sound frequencies of the red noise produced by the fan to help alter brain frequencies, resulting in relaxation and making it easier to drift into sleep, have less interrupted sleep, and a quicker return to sleep after interruptions.
They call their product line Sleep Fans™ and the unique design has been patented. “This is the first fan developed specifically to help you sleep even better,” Furnace states. The line debuted in 2011 and caught the attention of fellow Texans BJ Ferber and Barbara Jordan of the lighting and home accents rep firm BJ Ferber & Associates. The rep duo took on the line and helped promote the product to stores throughout the state. “We showed it to 20 stores in Texas and 18 closed the deal on the spot,” Furnace remarks. The reps also helped the folks at Sleep Fans realize the importance of showing at the Dallas Market Center to reach an even greater audience. They also introduced the company to Savoy House, which is now the sole distributor of the Sleep Fans line.
“Our partnership with Savoy House has been fantastic,” Furnace states. “They have distribution, manufacturing, plus sales and marketing capabilities that we didn’t have.”
In January 2012, Sleep Fans was unveiled to industry at large with a designated space within the Savoy House showroom on the 10th floor of the World Trade Center during the market. At that time, there were two models – Quiesco LX and Quiesco ES – available in a pedestal version and three finish options: Vintage Bronze LX, Cayenne ES, and Wrought Iron ES. “The line was very well-received. All of the initial inventory has been sold and we’ve only been filling reorders,” Furnace says.
At the upcoming January market, the next generation of pedestal Sleep Fans will launch along with prototypes of ceiling fan versions.