By Elisa Lai, Senior Associate and Riley Macdonald, Program Coordinator at CLASP, Co-Secretariat to the Efficiency for Access Coalition
With their high up-front cost and energy requirements, air conditioners are out of reach for most rural households and communities. In many parts of the world, including Pakistan, fans, therefore, play an important role as a cost-effective, low-energy cooling solution. Despite their potential, our testing found that even the most recognized fans in Pakistan would need to be more efficient and affordable to meet off-grid consumers’ needs.
The consumer financing space for off-grid solar products is waking up in Pakistan. Several international development organizations, such as GIZ, KfW, and the World Bank, aim to accelerate and scale up the off-grid solar sector by providing financing options to high-quality solar home systems (SHSs) in off-grid and weak-grid areas across Pakistan. Such programs are estimated to finance and install more than 350,000 SHS kits with appliances, particularly fans and TVs, over the next 5 years.
The demand for solar energy in Pakistan is largely driven by the need for cooling, with average temperatures in certain regions reaching as high as 50 °C during the summer. For rural consumers, air conditioners are far too expensive and use too much energy to be supported by SHSs. Fans have thus become one of the most cost-effective, potentially life-saving, cooling solutions, especially for women and children living in sweltering conditions. Because fans are often used in outdoor areas, such a courtyard or rooftop, Pakistani consumers prefer ceiling fans or large pedestal fans because they deliver a strong airflow. For fans, a higher airflow typically means higher energy requirements. For SHS programs to be effective, they must be able to power fans for long hours and meet the cooling demands of rural customers. This, in turn, means highly-efficient fans are particularly important in this country context.
The fan market size in Pakistan is significant. According to the Pakistan Fan Manufacturers Association, 1.5 million DC fans were manufactured in Pakistan in 2018 alone. Despite the variety of fan options in the market, it is often difficult for consumers to easily identify high-quality fans due to the lack of accurate performance data to allow a proper comparison. The DC fan market is largely unregulated, and as a result, low-quality fans are prevalent in the retail market. Many of these low-quality fans are imported from China or manufactured locally in two cities within the Punjab province, Gujrat and Gujranwala.
Extremely limited market intelligence exists in Pakistan to differentiate fan quality. To help entities such as Lighting Pakistan and KfW identify high-quality, energy-efficient off-grid fans, CLASP, in support of the Efficiency for Access Coalition, conducted market scoping surveys in four major off-grid solar markets in Pakistan — Rawalpindi, Lahore, Guraj, and Karachi — to collect first-hand fan data. Based on brand reputation, the team selected ten “better quality” DC pedestal and ceiling fans for further laboratory testing and performance evaluation (see our sampling and testing process).
While the sampled fans had a reputation for quality, testing results found they did not perform as expected. The five pedestal fans consumed between 14 to 34 Watts. Compared to other fans tested by CLASP, those from the Pakistan market consume 16% — 68% more energy than an average pedestal fan. Powering a single fan for 12 hours in Pakistan would require a 300 Watt-peak PV panel and 130 Ah lead-acid battery. A SHS of this size is estimated to cost more than $450 USD, making it unaffordable for the majority of rural households in Pakistan and beyond.
The test results of Pakistan-manufactured fans prompted the IFC Lighting Pakistan program consultant, Ibrar Khattak, to engage with local manufacturers to improve the quality, energy efficiency, and design of off-grid fans. Pakistani fan manufacturers recognized design motor improvements as the highest impact opportunity for improving both quality and energy efficiency. Brushless DC (BLDC) motors are more energy-efficient and more durable than traditional brushed motors. If adopted, they could quickly improve the energy performance of fans. However, none of the domestic pedestal fan manufacturers in Pakistan are using BLDC motors, largely due to their high price. One manufacturer reported that a BLDC motor costs USD$8, while a typical brushed DC or AC motor costs USD$5. While the price difference between the BLDC motor and brushed motor appears relatively small, the added cost would make the company’s fans less competitive with cheaper alternatives.
The potential demand from donor-supported microfinancing and procurement programs have changed market dynamics and provided an incentive for local manufacturers to improve fan efficiency. Through business-to-business connections, facilitated by Lighting Pakistan, Pakistani fan manufacturers Starco and Metropolitan Fans (a Chinese manufacturer whose fans were winners and finalists for the 2017 Global LEAP Awards) are now working together to bring highly-efficient BLDC motors into the Pakistan market.
“Energy efficiency is a key factor contributing to the take-off of the small solar home system market in Pakistan, and efficiency will be even more critical for off-grid solar fans because it helps improve affordability.”
— Ibrar Khattak, IFC Lighting Pakistan program consultant.
Helping manufacturers understand how their products perform and sharing design recommendations accordingly are the first of many steps required to move the Pakistani market toward high-quality fans. This advancement would not be possible without robust technical evaluation and successful partnerships with local program partners to turn test results into actionable market support. As the Low-Energy Inclusive Appliances (LEIA) team continues to track the progress of fan improvements in Pakistan over time, maintaining the testing and programmatic foundation to support manufacturers of high-quality products will be key. This support, coupled with product improvements, has the potential to significantly enhance the lives of 144 million people in Pakistan without reliable access to energy.
 Based on an in-person interview with the Pakistan Fan Manufacturer Association.
 CLASP improves the energy and environmental performance of the appliances & equipment we use every day, accelerating our transition to a more sustainable world. CLASP serves as Co-Secretariat to the Efficiency for Access Coalition, a global coalition promoting energy efficiency as a potent catalyst for change in clean energy access efforts.
 Interview with Pakistani domestic fan manufacturers