Author Topic: Whole house fan  (Read 3987 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Whole house fan
« on: May 09, 2015, 08:46:56 AM »
Hi everyone,

I'm brand new to this forum and excited to learn.  If this topic has been addressed, could someone direct me?

Summer is approaching.  While NJ summers aren't the worst, there are certainly a few awful days and nights scattered throughout the season (humidity). 

Here's the situation: I don't have any form of air conditioning.  I have two small children (one infant); I'd like to ensure their relative comfort.  Also, my mother-in-law is attempting to sell me the idea that air conditioning is an absolute necessity to prevent SIDS.  I'm considering various options, hopefully cost-effective options: thermal curtains, window fans, attic fan, whole house fan, window air conditioning units...

Well, I'm a bit lost as to what the best solution will be.  I don't want to pay $3,000+ for central air conditioning. 

Thanks for your help, it's much appreciated. 



  • Stubble
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Re: Whole house fan
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2015, 09:25:50 AM »
First of all, your MIL should be reminded that people were fine for thousands of years without AC, and there is no connection between SIDS and AC. Of course you want everyone to be comfortable, but your MIL is creating a fear that doesn't need to be there. My neighbors across the street raised two kids without AC, and we live in an area that regularly has 15 100+ days a year every year. Those kids are perfectly healthy and fine.

Are you familiar with how each of these cooling options works? Some options are better than others, depending on the weather in your area.

A whole-house fan, for example, is only going to work well if your nights are reliably cooler than the days. The way it works is that you turn it on when the air temp outside is cooler than inside, and it exchanges the inside air for outside air. It can be extremely effective, but you might need extra vents installed, and it's not something that will help you if you want the house to be cooler than the outside temperature. Not sure of the cost, but it would be less than AC, but probably more than a window unit.

An attic fan moves the trapped hot air out of the attic but not out of the house. Cooling the attic air helps the house below stay a little cooler, but you're not going to notice a dramatic change if that's all you have. If you can have solar-powered attic fans installed, though, they will use almost no electricity, and they will complement other cooling efforts.

I'd suggest the following for starters: Keep the windows covered as much as possible during the hottest parts of the day. That doesn't mean it's going to be dark inside; usually just a crack of light is enough to light up the room without letting all the direct sunlight and heat in. Use fans as much as possible, and maybe splurge on window A/C units for the bedrooms if the bedrooms get hot and it's too hot to sleep well. You'd probably only need to run an AC unit in the evening. If that's not doing the trick, then maybe look into whole-house options.

money beard

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Whole house fan
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2015, 09:40:34 AM »
Your mother in law is a cook, and a small fan in the baby's room has the added benefit of soothing noise.


  • Bristles
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Re: Whole house fan
« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2015, 10:01:19 AM »
I have a whole house fan in a climate similar to yours and I have been thoroughly impressed.   It's not always useful, however; humid nights are a drag no matter how cool it gets outside. 

I've found that the whole house fan is a perfect complement to a bedroom window unit and a high velocity floor fan for non-ac living spaces. 


  • Guest
Re: Whole house fan
« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2015, 08:02:50 AM »
I've never been in NJ for an entire summer, but the climate seems similar to my own. It's humidity and heat while sleeping that's the hardest. I think window AC in bedroom(s) is the best bet for comfort. When I was growing up, we all camped out in my parents bedroom, where the one window unit was installed. Worked just great.

I can handle a lot of heat/humidity during days, but nights are a different story.

But kids are way more resilient than you think. To be honest, adults are usually the wimps. My oldest was born when we lived in a cheap apartment with no AC and we had the hottest summer in quite a while (multiple 100+ days, and very high humidity). She lounged around in just a diaper and was fine for the most part as long as we kept fans blasting air around. We took a lot of trips to the mall to walk around that summer, though.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Whole house fan
« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2015, 03:32:26 PM »
Hi everyone,

Thank you all for taking time to respond.  I appreciate your advice and will continue to look into these options. 

Also, glad to not worry so much about the ac.



  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Whole house fan
« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2015, 03:47:57 PM »
Whole house fans are awesome.  You have a LOT of airflow through the house, which is excellent for cooling things down at night, and even if it's hot, you can still get a lot of moving air from outside, which is usually cooler than inside if it's sunny.

I built a little window fan unit that functions as a whole house fan for my rental, but if you can put a proper one in, they're amazing.

Otherwise, a window AC unit, some thermal mass (water jugs/buckets work well), and a bit of tolerance for heat go a long way.


  • Stubble
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Re: Whole house fan
« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2015, 04:08:58 PM »
I grew up in southern NY, right near NJ, in a house with no AC.....and no one suffered SID.  It's not unreasonable.

First, the very best thing to do is seal the house up.  Get an efficiency inspection with a blower door test.  Keep the house from heating up in the first place.  This works for winter too.  This is more effective than insulation even.

Next, I'd get some little window fan units to install in the attic.  Turn them on when it cools off in the evening to blow all the scorching air out of your attic, this will get rid of a big thermal mass keeping stuff hot.

Then, if you do install a whole house fan, be aware of the venting for your furnace/hot-water-heater/etc in your basement.  A powerful fan like that can easily reverse the exhaust of your utilities, and/or extinguish a pilot light.  If you have modern direct-vent furnace and hot-water it's not a concern.  If you have really old stuff that vents into a big chimney in the basement, then I would get a HVAC pro to check it out.


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Whole house fan
« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2015, 08:37:42 PM »
I grew up in NC, and the house I grew up in did not have central air until I was 13 (we did have one window unit, but it was nowhere near my bedroom!).  At 16, I moved out of my parents house during the summers and lived somewhere that had no AC.  It was fine.

I don't even remember what we did at home.  We did have a whole house fan and certainly used it.  They're great.  I think they only work well if the house has certain other features (basically, they have to be installed in a place where they can in fact blow tons of air out of your home as well as suck tons of air in), so it's probably worth hiring a competent professional to evaluate this.

My current home has AC, but we recently did an addition and had a "quiet cool" brand (you can find them at Amazon, among other places installed).  The one we got goes straight into the roof, our addition has a cathedral ceiling, and so far we like this thing fine.  Though quiet it is not (it does move A LOT of air).  Anyway, my point (for your purposes) is that that brand seems to have some options (like the one we picked) for somewhat less traditional installation setups -- in case you find yourself shopping around.

In the house I lived in from 16 -- 18 during the summer months, we just used window fans.  Again, it was fine.  I can remember maybe 5 days/summer when the kids' mom (I was working as a nanny) would come home and say, "Get in the car, everyone, we're going to the mall!" (because the mall had a/c and it was THAT hot.  But those were "treats" saved for really hot afternoons (of course a movie matinee would also work).  Anyway, you can plan vacations and "treats" (see also:  swimming pools) to avoid or at least get away for a bit from the worst of the heat.