With temperatures soaring in many areas across America, homeowners are looking for ways to cool off. While air conditioning systems can certainly keep the temperatures down and add value when it comes time to sell, AC is not the only solution.
Whole house fans are a simple and less expensive alternative. The fan system typically pushes hot air outside through the attic and draws in fresh air through windows. Of course, in blazing hot weather you might not want the air from the outside to be brought into the house. But if the air and humidity outside are cooler than the air in your home, the whole house fan can be a great alternative to AC. And because the fan is a huge ventilation system it helps to draw odors out of the home as well.
Whole house fans can only cool the air inside a home to the temperature of the air outside. But typically, in the summer, during the hottest part of the day the heat from the warm air outside can become trapped in a home. However, in the early morning and late evening hours, outside air is often cooler than the air in your home. So, replacing the inside air with outside air can effectively cool a home and create a passage of airflow.
Whole house fans start at around $150.00 for the equipment. The price for equipment and installation will fluctuate depending on your home's configuration (i.e. electrical wiring, access to attic, etc). It is best to run the fan when the outside temperature is below 85 degrees.
The nice part about a whole house fan is that you don't have to run them for extended periods of time. You can cool off the house with the morning outdoor air and then as temperatures rise, switch the fan off. If your house has a basement, an ideal option is to run the fan in the middle of the day with only the basement windows open. This will pull the warmer outside air through the basement and cool it off before it passes through the rest of the house.
The whole house fan is less expensive to install and operate, but it does have some drawbacks. The fan does not dehumidify nor does it chill the air like an air conditioner can on a scorching hot day. Whole house fans can also be problems for people with allergies as pollen and dust can be brought into the home.
The winter season can pose a particular problem for homeowners with whole house fans. Some models of the whole house fan suffer from energy loss. In the winter, heat can escape due to the large, un-insulated hole in the ceiling -- on some models, the fan louvers just don't seal tightly enough. Be sure to look for the type of whole house fan that can form an insulated air tight seal between the attic and the home.
The whole house fan must be used with the windows open so it can bring in fresh air to replace the air that is being pushed out. Therefore, the whole house fan is not generally used year round in areas where there are extremely cold temperatures. But the fan can fairly quickly replace all the air in a home. In a 1,500 square foot house it can take about 15 minutes. However, for a larger home, about 2,500 square feet, multiple units are often suggested. In the past, operating a whole house fan was very noisy. Modern whole house fans boast that they are quieter and maintenance free. The noise level is easily comparable to a bathroom ceiling fan or kitchen stove fan.