Every Breath You Take by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

fan3So what’s it like in your studio?  How’s the air you breathe? I work with many different media types and use several different processes. For example: metal clay, metalsmithing, metal etching, polymer clay, paint…and sometimes my work makes me feel ill.  Sometimes I’m affected by just the smell of certain things in my studio. So I started to think about installing an exhaust fan.  I looked at some “industrial” options and found most to be out of my budget.  Then I came up with an idea-and it cost $43.  Can’t beat that!

I bought a brand new kitchen stove exhaust fan at a “Habitat for Humanity-Re-Store”. Then I brought it into my studio and realized I had no wall space where I needed the fan.  My solution was to take the fan out of the range hood and to put it in a box. Below I show the steps I took to install a fan to help with drawing out the air in my studio.  I always try to have a window open a bit to bring in fresh air (even in the dead of winter) but I didn’t feel the air in my studio was being changed fast enough.

Step 1: Determine the size of exhaust fan.  To choose the size of the fan needed you will first calculate the room’s volume and figure out the activity going on in the room. The chart below gives examples for CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute) of air that should be exchanged in a room based on room uses. (For a much more detailed chart and formulas see the pdf in my resource section for the American National Standards 2004.) Here is a simplified explanation on determining the size of fan you need.  This information comes from: https://www.grainger.com/content/supplylink-how-to-choose-the-right-exhaust-fan

“Once the fan type is known, the volume of air exchanged must be determined. Your local building codes should contain information pertaining to the suggested air changes for proper ventilation. The ranges specified will adequately ventilate the corresponding areas in most cases. However, extreme conditions may require “Minutes per Change” outside of the specified range. To determine the actual number needed within a range, consider the geographic location and average duty level of the area. For hot climates and heavier-than-normal area usage, select a lower number in the range to change the air more quickly. For moderate climates with lighter usage, select a higher number in the range.
Use the following formula to calculate the CFM needed to adequately ventilate an area.
Room volume = LxWxH     CFM = Room Volume ÷ Min/Change”

My studio is 12’x11′ with 8 foot ceiling.  My room volume is 1056′
CFM= 1056’/5=211.2′ (I used 5 min/change in my calculations based on the information in the chart below and from the one I list in the resource section at the end of the article.)

fan15The exhaust fan I chose says that it exhausts 180 CFM.  So I’m okay with the fan size given that I am not constantly using solvents (i.e.turpentine with guilder’s paste) or firing a kiln all day. Here is the sticker information from my fan to help you know what to look for on an exhaust fan.

Here’s the chart showing some suggested air changes for a range of room sizes.

Suggested Air Changes for Proper Ventilation
CFM = Room Volume/Min.Chg. Room Volume = L x W x H
Area Min./Chg. Area Min./Chg. Area Min./Chg.
Assembly Hall 3-10 Dinning Hall 3-7 Mill 3-8
Attic 2-4 Dinning Room 4-8 Office 2-8
Auditorium 3-10 Dormitories 5-8 Packing House 2-5
Bakery 2-3 Dry Cleaner 2-5 Plating Room 1-5
Bar 2-4 Engine room 1-3 Printing Plant 3-8
Barn 12-18 Factory 2-7 Projection Rooom 1-2
Beauty Parlor 2-5 Foundry 1-5 Recreation Room 2-8
Boiler Room 1-3 Garage 2-10 Residence 2-8
Bowling Alley 3-7 Generator Room 2-5 Restaurant 5-10
Cafeteria 3-5 Gymnasium 3-8 Restroom 5-7
Church 4-10 Kitchen 1-5 Store 3-7
Classroom 4-6 Laboratory 2-5 Transfer Room 1-5
Club Room 3-7 Laundry 2-4 Warehouse 3-10
Corridors/Halls 6-20 Machine Shop 3-6
Dairies 2-5 Meeting Room 3-10

suggested-limits-for-room-loudnessStep 2: Converting a range hood into a studio box exhaust fan.  I was lucky and found a brand new exhaust fan in the size I need for my studio. In looking at the other models there I was concerned that I was choosing a loud fan–which I wouldn’t know what the sound level would be until I turned it on.  I have since found a handy chart that equates Sones in terms we can relate to easily.  My fan is listed at 7 Sones.



The first thing I did was remove the fan housing unit and the fan from the range hood. This step took some time as the fan housing unit was spot welded to the range hood.  I had to pry it off.




Then I fit it onto a wooden box that was close in size. I cut the fan housing unit down using a metal snips.






Warning: Very sharp!!








Next I hammered the edges down so that they wouldn’t cut me any more!  Using a drill I made 3 holes for screws on all 4 sides of the fan.  And taped the edges down with duct tape.













Step 3: Electrical.  I won’t show this part, as you should take your fan to be properly wired by a certified electrician.  I’m confident in my wiring abilities. (Thanks Dad for teaching me!)

fan9fan7Step 4: Exhaust Flap and fitting the exhaust pipes. Initially I decided to put the exhaust flap on the back of my new fan box.  After moving it to where I wanted to install the box I realized it would take up less room if it exhausted through the top.  These images show how to install the exhaust flap on the back.  I tested the flap to make sure it wouldn’t get stuck open, so I sniped the corners to make it easy to open and close.








Once my fan was ready to install I had to choose where to put it.  I put it in an area of my studio where I have a kiln and where I tend to use solvents and chemicals.  My ideal placement was changed a bit once I realized a stud in the wall was in the way…and then it was time to cut a hole in the wall!  Eeek!! fan5fan6 fan4

Yes that is a hole in my studio wall.  I got a bit nervous at this point!!  But I pressed on.

The helpful employee where I bought my stove fan sent me home with a variety of exhaust pipes, so with my handy metal snips and very careful measuring I got all parts put together.


In conclusion: I wish I’d added an exhaust fan to my studio years ago!  An open window is not enough to properly ventilate an art studio. (By the way, the window beside my fan does not open.  The window I can open is across the room so I am hoping for a good exchange of air.)fan2

Chart to refer to for CFM for art studio listed on page 7. Table 6.4 https://www.ashrae.org/file%20library/doclib/public/200418145036_347.pdf

JFL HeadshotJeannette Froese LeBlanc keeps a studio in rural Ontario.  The air outside her studio is only “contaminated” when the local farmer spreads manure on the fields.  Otherwise the air outside is wonderfully clean.  Making the studio air the same took a bit of work, but it is worth it! Her work can be seen on www.SassyandStella.com


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