When we have a motor or other piece of equipment that can get very hot, it will often be designed in such a manner as to promote heat dissipation. Whether it is the fins on a Briggs & Stratton lawn mower engine or the fins on an air compressor (pictured below), the principle is the same.
The more we can increase the surface area that is being heated the easier it will be to move that heat to the surrounding air. If we push the lawnmower really fast around the yard we can assist in the cooling by increasing the air flow. Of course then we wish we had fins to dissipate the heat generated by all the running around.
In like manner if we want to improve the ability of something to heat the air---as in a baseboard heater---if we put lots of fins on the heater we can make the hot surfaces come in contact with more air and thus improve the efficiency of the heater in terms of how long it will take to heat up the room.
Some buildings unintentionally utilize this principle. While there are lots of worse buildings than one in the following picture, it does make one wonder what is being accomplished by the way it is designed.
It is those dang unintended consequences again!
Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspection in Seattle
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WA State, Home Inspector Advisory Licensing Board