Author Topic: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?  (Read 9867 times)

SomedayStache

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Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« on: February 24, 2015, 10:35:56 AM »
What do folks think of these? 

A common criticism I see of whole house fans is that they are really only useful for a few weeks out of the year and are otherwise just a hole in your ceiling to lose heat/cool through.  This might be a decent argument against them for the majority of complainy pants Americans who can only survive in a 5 degree window of comfort.  But what do Mustachians think of whole house fans?

I grew up in central Oklahoma and my parents refused to turn on the AC unless the outside temperature was >100 F.  At temperatures less than 100 F we relied on only an whole house fan.  In every house we lived in installation of an whole house fan was an early project for my parents. (Interesting story - we bought a house when I was in elementary school and my Dad found an installed whole house fan that had been sheet rocked over.  He cut a hole in the ceiling to expose it, turned it in, and it worked!). 

In the summer my house is kept at 80 degrees.  There are many nights where it is cooler outside then inside - and it seems like an whole house fan is the perfect answer to this.  But the prevailing negative attitude towards them makes me wonder what I'm missing?

-Edited to clarify my question is specifically over whole house fans
« Last Edit: February 24, 2015, 12:35:24 PM by SomedayStache »

SpinGeek

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2015, 12:03:08 PM »
I've been debating the same thing. We have a 1500-sq ft one-story cottage with big windows. We have to leave them closed during the day while we're at work. Our old house had a deafening circa 1950 attic fan but it could drop the inside temp pretty quickly. The hallway where the vent was located felt like a wind tunnel. It's pretty much the only thing I miss about that house.

Given the more efficient and quieter fans available now, I can see running one for an hour in the evening after work and before we leave in the morning; I think it would make a big difference in the comfort level. The current house has pretty good insulation, so it shouldn't be unbearable when we get home unless Missouri has another five-month drought with temps above 100F. Currently we set the A/C to 85 during the day, then it kicks on around 5 PM to bring it down to about 78 for bed. I've seen websites that recommend using the whole-house fans only if the temps outside are below 85; that still covers a lot of time around here.

I am concerned about the level of dust and pollen that a whole-house fan will pull in. The SO has asthma and we both have allergies. The old house was so decrepit that we didn't notice a difference when we ran the fan or not -- we just had allergies year-round. The new house is in much better shape.

CowboyAndIndian

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2015, 12:05:41 PM »
What do folks think of these? 

A common criticism I see of attic fans is that they are really only useful for a few weeks out of the year and are otherwise just a hole in your ceiling to lose heat/cool through.  This might be a decent argument against them for the majority of complainy pants Americans who can only survive in a 5 degree window of comfort.  But what do Mustachians think of attic fans?

Ever been in an attic in summer? The heat there goes probably to 125 (F) or maybe more. This can kill your shingle roof and reduce its life. Your a/c bills will increase drastically even if there is insulation between rooms below and attic. The attic fan is so cheap, and the new solar powered ones do not need wiring etc. So, I think that having an attic fan is a must.

I am also a big fan of whole house fans. (These are more expensive and little more difficult to install. They are lso quite noise. Additionally, the whole house fan needs to be winterized.)  Most summer evenings, the outside temprature drops, but the house is much warmer than the outside. Keep a few windows opend and run the whole house fan for 10 or 15 minutes and your whole house cools down.

For folks who may wonder the difference between an attic fan  and whole house fan. The Attic fan moves air inside your attic to the outside, usually installed on the roof.
The whole house fan is a high volume fan installed on the highest part of the living area which will move air from teh house into the attic.

DragonSlayer

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2015, 12:17:35 PM »
We have two attic fans, each installed at one end of the house. They're on the inside, and they blow out the gable vents. It's saved us a decent amount in cooling costs, compared to what the bills were sans fans. They aren't that noisy. You really only hear them when you're outside, standing underneath the vent. Every now and then it'll make the dishes in the cabinet rattle if they're stacked a bit off kilter, but a quick nudge quiets that. We're in the south, so cooling is a big issue.

SomedayStache

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2015, 12:31:28 PM »
My question was intended to refer only to the whole house fans.  (Attic ventilation is not the intended subject of my post). 

Around here the terms are used interchangeably.

geekette

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2015, 04:05:41 PM »
I'd love one, but the only times one would be useful around here it's either pollen or humidity that makes it less appealing.

My parents had one in rural VA, and they ran it a LOT (turned it on in the evening with a timer to shut off after a few hours), but my mom says the constant dust was annoying.  As a kid, I never noticed.

KD

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2015, 04:19:12 PM »
I grew up in rural Oklahoma under a whole house fan (yep, we called them attic fans).  LOVED IT and would still use one.  Hubs was a city boy and can't get over the security risk of having an open window at night.  I would suggest that Security might be an issue for some in having one.  I would love to have one and would use it.

SomedayStache

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2015, 04:31:41 PM »
Thanks for the solidarity in referring to a whole house fan as an attic fan kd!
We have fancy double hung windows and I'm not worried about security when we open them from the top.

Maybe this will be the year we install one.  There is an outlet in our hallway ceiling so we won't even have to run electric.  I think the original owners must have intended this because I can think of no other reason for such an outlet.

PatStab

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2015, 09:15:28 PM »
We built a new house with one, it was really nice, had a good breeze through the house, we had an AC too for when it got to hot.  In the winter, he built an insulated cover to put over it, so we didn't lose heat.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2015, 04:40:00 AM »
We had one in our first house in Pennsylvania. Very useful on summer nights. Also useful in the spring when sometimes the outside would get warmer. I'd open windows in each room one-by-one to warm up those rooms with fresh outside air.

SomedayStache

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2015, 06:58:57 AM »
PatStab - did the insulated cover go on from underneath (within the house) or did you have to go to the attic to install the insulation?

waffle

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2015, 07:52:14 AM »
I'm getting an attic fan (whole house) installed next week. I'm really excited for it. My in-laws have one and when we stayed with them this summer it was amazing for cooling things down in the evening.

Hedge_87

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2015, 07:57:00 AM »
I grew up in rural Oklahoma under a whole house fan (yep, we called them attic fans).  LOVED IT and would still use one.  Hubs was a city boy and can't get over the security risk of having an open window at night.  I would suggest that Security might be an issue for some in having one.  I would love to have one and would use it.

Grew up with a whole house fan too. (Aka attic fan lol). We didn't have AC until one extremely hot and humid year We broke down and got one window unit and everybody slept in the family room most nights through the summer. the usual routine was ever evening once it started to cool down we would open all the windows and fire that puppy up (sounded like a p51 mustang ) then shut it off when everybody went to sleep. Then we would fire it up in the morning while everybody was getting ready and then shut it off and close the house up (windows, blinds, and heavy curtains) When everybody left for work. It's actually pretty amazing how well this works. Our new house doesn't have one yet but it's on the to do list believe me. Best sleep I've ever had has been cool dewy nights/mornings it's almost like camping.

A few disadvantages
does not  help with humidity.
does pull in lots of dust and pollen especially here in wheat country
security could be a risk
noise like a said above
not an exact device sometimes in the spring with the window open through the night you might wake up and find your house is ~50 degrees lol. This could be listed as an advantage though due to increasing your comfort zone and your badassity.

bzzzt

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #13 on: February 25, 2015, 08:46:40 AM »
Love my whole house fan for cooling the house in spring and fall. My wife had never had one before and was skeptical at first, but has really come around to it.

Right now, I'm insulating the attic and the 30-40 years of dust/dirt up here made me go out and buy a respirator for the first time. It's insane how dirty it is up there.

Syonyk

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #14 on: February 25, 2015, 12:42:16 PM »
I grew up in rural Oklahoma under a whole house fan (yep, we called them attic fans).  LOVED IT and would still use one.  Hubs was a city boy and can't get over the security risk of having an open window at night.  I would suggest that Security might be an issue for some in having one.  I would love to have one and would use it.

You can get windows that will latch "partly open" to deal with that, or just build your own devices that fit in the rails and hold the window open a bit.

I grew up with an attic fan (whole house fan... whatever...), and really want one when I get a place I can install such stuff in.  Combine it with good thermal mass and you can keep a house cool easily without needing much AC time.

I'm also a fan of swamp coolers, which are sort of the reverse, but only work in very dry climates.  And at some point here, I'm going to play with ground-based cooling (tubes underground).

tmac

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #15 on: February 25, 2015, 01:48:19 PM »
Love our whole house fan. We have no A/C, so it saves us during the hotter days of summer. It wouldn't have been enough for us when we lived in the southeast, but in the northeast, it's plenty. I don't worry so much about security, but if I did, I'd just install those bolts that go through the window frame to restrict the opening to a smaller-than-person-sized gap.

We did build a winter cover for it. Plywood, rigid insulation, weather stripping, and some bolts.

BlueMR2

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #16 on: March 01, 2015, 10:28:20 AM »
Our current house came with one though and we've found it to be useful.  This last year when it only got into the 90's for a week or 2 it was great.  We only ran the A/C for those 2 weeks.  The rest of the Summer we were able to get by with using the fan to suck in a lot of cool air in the morning (and then in the late evening again sometimes as necessary).  It does save us some power, but not as much as you'd hope as it's a big powerful motor that draws a bunch of current.  Not as much as A/C, but often the air it's pulling is not as cold as A/C, so it has to be run longer...

It definitely leaks air, so we have a batticdoor insulation kit on it in the Winter now (online ordering the kit was cheaper than buying the materials locally to build my own).  Insulating it in the Summer would be helpful too, but then it's hard to use (and the Summer heat leakage seems to be much less of a problem than the cold air that drops from it in the Winter).

I really don't know if we're saving much money by using it since the Summers that are cool enough to use it would have required less A/C use as well.  If nothing else I guess, it saves wear and tear on the furnace motor.  Should the whole house fan fail, I really don't know that I would replace it though.  I might just install stairs in the hole (we currently have no useable attic access).

Syonyk

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #17 on: March 01, 2015, 01:03:22 PM »
Don't forget that it's healthier than A/C.  Modern homes are pretty tightly sealed, and can build up unhealthy levels of VOCs and other nasty stuff.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sick_building_syndrome

Exchanging all the air in a house on a regular basis with fresh outside air is a really good thing!  Also, if you stink up the house somehow (painting, burning something in the kitchen, etc), being able to flush the house quickly is nice.  I really miss that part of the swamp cooler I had at a previous place.  Open a few doors or windows, turn it on high, and the whole house is vented in 10-15 minutes.  It was also great for vacuuming in a room - I could just open the window and all the dust would get blown out.

Smokeydave

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #18 on: March 01, 2015, 03:00:30 PM »
I did the attic insulation last year and came up with a diy fix for my attic fan.  I built a box of pink foam board around it and put a hinged foam board top on it.  Now the top opens when the fan turns on and automatically closes when it is off.  In the winter I  Velcro piece of roll insulation over the shutter doors.  This helps because the hinged doors are so light that the fan box "burps" every time you close the doors without the Velcro cover. 

waffle

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #19 on: March 02, 2015, 08:02:09 AM »
If anyone is DIYing one of these remember that you need to make sure that your attic has sufficient ventilation. Normal attic ventilation might not be sufficient. If your attic doesn't have enough ventilation then the fan will push air into the attic and compress it more than move it out. It makes the fan inefficient and puts strain on the fan motor reducing its life.

SomedayStache

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #20 on: March 02, 2015, 02:56:46 PM »
Anyone have a brand or model that is recommended?

Smokeydave

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #21 on: March 02, 2015, 08:03:01 PM »
Anyone have a brand or model that is recommended?
No Idea.  Mine is a belt driven monster that is at least 20 years old.  It is still working so I haven't looked at the newer ones.

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #22 on: March 02, 2015, 08:29:29 PM »
I'm planning to build one using an old furnace blower, once the weather turns nicer.  Spring can't get here soon enough!

kib

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #23 on: March 02, 2015, 08:35:28 PM »
We have a whole house evaporative cooler which can be set to fan only.  It's similar to a whole house fan except that it blows air in through the ducts instead of sucking it out, but I use it all the time to adjust house temps; basically whenever the temp outside is more pleasant than the one inside, I turn on the fan.

ctmustache

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #24 on: March 03, 2015, 10:28:38 AM »
Anyone have a brand or model that is recommended?

Yes, Triangle whole house fans. http://trianglefans.com/whole-house-fans/

We installed one in our last house and it was awesome! Extremely high quality, with a price to match. However, I'd buy and install one again in a heartbeat.

We bought a CC 3022 from IndustrialFansDirect.com for $599. Was delivered on a pallet direct from factory on an 18 wheeler...

Kaspian

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #25 on: March 03, 2015, 10:36:34 AM »
I never really thought about these, but just looking at photos online is there any reason not to have them with a wooden trapdoor lid you could close during the winter?  All you need is a framed wooden box around it with a hinged piece of plywood and some sort of latch.

dragoncar

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #26 on: March 03, 2015, 04:46:45 PM »
Anyone have a brand or model that is recommended?

Yes, Triangle whole house fans. http://trianglefans.com/whole-house-fans/

We installed one in our last house and it was awesome! Extremely high quality, with a price to match. However, I'd buy and install one again in a heartbeat.

We bought a CC 3022 from IndustrialFansDirect.com for $599. Was delivered on a pallet direct from factory on an 18 wheeler...

Looks just like mine.  Still working on building a foam box for it, as I suspect I'm losing quite a bit of heat (although I didn't feel a draft holding my hand to it)

SomedayStache

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #27 on: March 03, 2015, 07:25:23 PM »
Thanks!

bogart

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Re: Attic Fan/Whole House Fan?
« Reply #28 on: March 03, 2015, 08:18:16 PM »
I have fond memories of the one in the home I grew up in, which my mom still uses.

When we recently added on to our home, we got one put in the addition.  It won't get the air out of the attic, so that is a downside, but it is a "QuietCool" whole-house fan; we picked it because it (the model we chose) can be installed directly into a vaulted ceiling -- which this addition has, so we needed that.  They do have other options.  So far we've been happy with it, but no really relevant weather to test its functionality yet.  The way it's set up, we can use it to draw air into the addition from (just) outside, or into the addition from the house, or into the addition and the house from outside, which I think will provide some useful options as DH and I have somewhat different ideas about how much A/C is/isn't needed.  We also got a "Honeywell 7-Day Programmable Timer," switch (search Amazon), which I haven't programmed yet, but which will make it possible to have the thing kick on for 2 hours starting at 3 in the morning, if we want.  So hopefully that will prove useful.