Looking for the best whole house fan? What to look out for
Photo by David Segar AOK's
Dear Keith - I live in a two-story colonial, the second floor has trouble cooling down during the summer and I want to install a whole house fan but I am unsure where to start. Any recommendations?
Thanks, Patrick K. Ann Arbor
Summer is right around the corner and now is the best time to solve this annoying issue. Many two-story homes have similar problems due to the Law of Thermodynamics - heat rises. If your home does not have proper ventilation and insulation, it can become uncomfortable when the heat cannot escape properly. Below are a few steps to help resolve your issue.
Whole house fans are designed to bring the outside cooler air into the home by replacing the interior air. The fans, usually installed in the ceiling in the middle of the home, forces the air from the exterior windows into the attic then out the soffit/gable and/or ridge vents. Not only can the fans significantly lower the temperature of your home when used properly, but also they can lower your utility bills compared with using the air conditioning.
There are two main types of whole house fans: unvented ceiling mounted fans and ducted fans. The benefits of the ceiling mounted fans are they typically are less expensive and easier to install. However the ducted fans can be quieter and normally have several inlets instead of one central inlet. Because the most popular ceiling fans are ceiling mounted, I've compiled a few notes to help you in your search for the best fan.
There are several considerations when choosing the right fan.
1. Choose the fan with the right power. Normally, you want to exchange the air in your home every three to four minutes. Each fan is measured by Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM). To figure your home cubic feet, multiply each rooms ceiling height by the length and width for the total cubic feet of air. The ideal fan CFM is the total cubic feet divided by 3 or 4. For example, a typical 1,200-square-foot home would need a fan capable of moving 2,400 to 3,200 CFM.
2. Choose the location, but be sure not to install the fan in a bedroom. Most fans are installed in a central hallway allowing the air to circulate throughout the entire home. The fans' location will be based on aesthetics and functionality. Check your attic to ensure the area is clear and has electrical access.
3. Be aware of possible energy loss. You are installing a big hole in your ceiling and air can escape easily. During the winter you must keep the heat in and vice versa in the summer. Purchase an attic fan cover to help prevent the air from escaping. Most covers are sold separately and installed on the ceiling or inside the attic.
While it may sound a challenging to install, most fans are relatively simple providing the electrical has been prepared. Many fans are self-insulated and a few are designed to fit in between the ceiling joists without modification.
A couple ceiling fans that I recommend are:
Photo by tamtech.com
Tammark HV1600. At $750-$850 and 1600cfm. Although a bit pricey, they have several benefits. The fans are easier to install, have a remote control and have a self-insulation cover included. They are designed to fit in between attic joists for easy installation. The fan settings are remotely controlled and equipped with an automatic insulated R38 cover. Although the fans are a bit quieter, they are less powerful than most conventional whole house fans. Many like the look of the ceiling vent cover because they do not have the common unsightly louvers.
If you need more power, the Granger 3c375 Belt Driven Whole House fan is a nice choice. At $350-$400, it’s a bit more affordable and much more powerful moving at a high rate of 6900cfm.
Photo by grainger.com
Side note: How old is your air conditioner? DTE Energy suggests that if your air conditioner is 12 years or older your may consider replacing with a higher efficiency, ENERGY STAR Â® system. Not only will it help lower your energy bills, but also many systems qualify for the $1,500 Federal Tax Credit.
Paul is a State of Michigan Licensed Builder. Paul serves as President and founding member of Nationally franchised HandyPro Handyman Service, servicing Washtenaw, Wayne and Oakland Counties. www.handypro.com. Listen to Paul every Saturday at 11:00am on “It’s Your Home, Let’s Talk About It” WAAM Talk 1600AM. Email questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org