In my quest to reduce my reliance on utilities I embarked on a journey that involved sealing my crawl space, adding loads of extra insulation in the attic and installing a whole house fan. Some have thought that I meant an attic fan, not so. A whole house fan draws air from inside the house and discharges it in the attic or out a specific vent in the roof.
Now, the above video helps to explain the idea behind the fan but it is a bit staged. Really, spontaneous testimonials. LOL.
The idea behind this approach with the whole house fan is to reduce your dependence on expensive air conditioning. In my house I have two zones for heating and cooling and with both zones on they draw about 5.2 kWh of electricity when the compressors are running. By comparison the whole house fan uses 600 watts or .6 kWh on high and costs about seven cents per hour to run on high and about four cents an hour to run on low.
A whole house fan is best utilized when it is cooler outside your house than inside, for instance, after you come home from work and the house is hot. Since I work at home I find that I can use the whole house fan for most of the day, even when it is up to 85 degrees outside, the airflow being pulled through the windows helps to cool me down, plus the added insulation in the attic helps to keep that hot attic air away from me.
I live near Raleigh, North Carolina so it does get hot around here, especially in the summer time. I have not lived through a full blown summer with the whole house fan yet but I can see that even with the whole house fan there are going to be some very hot days when I’ll have to turn the air conditioning on in the middle of the day to keep my home office cool as I work.
There are some times when you will find the whole house fan isn’t the best thing to use and you’ll resort to the air conditioning. I find that if it is really hot, humid and sticky outside, it is better to turn on the air conditioning or if it just gets so hot that the air being pulled across you is just disgustingly hot, that’s the time to close the window and put the air conditioning on.
After looking at a variety of whole house fans I decided to go with one called the Quiet Giant from Quiet Cool. It seemed like it was also appropriately sized for my house.
The advantage to this fan was that it seemed to be priced fairly, I liked the two fan option, and that the fans were mounted up in the attic and away from the opening into the house. That way it would help to keep the annoying fan sound away from the living space. When the fans are running you can hear them but they are very quiet. They don’t bother me.
I had sufficient attic vents in place and a side benefit of the whole house fan is that as it discharges air from inside the house into the attic, it helps to expel the hot air that otherwise would stagnate up there. Bonus!
Now there were other whole house fans that would have worked as well or better but part of my consideration in selecting the right fan for me was price, quietness and damper insulation. The weak point of the fan I selected was that the dampers in the attic only have an R4.2 insulating factor but if they start leaking cold air into the house in the winter I’ll just put insulated hoods over them. No big deal.
There are much cheaper whole house fans than the one I selected. The old big fans that run by a belt or pulley and mount right into the ceiling are really cheap, but really loud as well. Those were scratched from the very beginning of my search. I certainly did not want to listen to a loud thump-thump-thump as the big old fans ran.
Installation was a breeze since I hired someone to crawl up in the hot attic and deal with moving all the fiberglass insulation up there. I could have done it myself but I hate fiberglass and working in a hot attic.
My trusty handyman installed it in a few hours and he brought along a helper as well. Once the hole in the ceiling was cut, the ceiling box was dropped in and the two fans were suspended in the attic, all that was left was to splice the fans into the electrical circuit in the attic.
In this photo you can see how the fans are suspended from the rafters at the end of long insulated flexible tubes. All of the white stuff you see is the additional sprayed fiberglass insulation in my attic which brings the total attic insulation up above R50.
The fan is running in this photo so the damper doors are open. You can also see how the fans are mounted in opposite directions.
Once the fan is installed you really don’t notice it. You can see in the photo below that the second floor ceiling grate is fairly unobtrusive.
The wall switch that controls the fans also has an optional timer that I purchased along with the fans. This way I can set the timer on, decide if I want one or both fans on using the rocker switches, and then forget about it. I found that if you run the fans overnight, you will get chilly in bed so having them turn off around 1 am seems to work best for me. And yes, I do appear to missing two screws in the switch plate. Where did I put those?
In total the fan cost $965 and with the switch and shipping the total was $1120.98. Installation was $500 so my total investment in the fan was $1620.98.
It is possible that the cost of the fan is eligible for a 30% tax credit under the Federal Tax Credit for Energy Efficient programs since it reduces the homes energy usage. The whole house fan is not specifically stated in the online guidance but talk to your tax adviser for more information. In some parts of the country, especially California, there are incentives and rebates available to pay for some installation costs.
Now the payoff for this fan occurs because you need to use less electricity to cool your home. Lower electric bills save money and the more money you save, the less you have to work to earn money to give to others.
My overall goal has been to reduce our electricity consumption so that when our solar panels are installed that they will generate most, if not all, our power and thus eliminate our electric bill all together.
I really notice a huge difference with the fan installed. Especially in the evening as it is starting to cool off outside, with the whole house fan on in the house the interior cools off extremely quickly. If we come home and switch the whole house fan on, literally within minutes you can feel the house getting very comfortable and cool.
All in all, I consider the whole house fan project to be a big success, a worthy investment and I would definitely do it again.