Anyone know about whole house fans?

Orrymain

, Blogger: Orry's Orations
#1
I've talked a lot about my high heat problems in my house. Lately, I've begun to think about getting a whole house fan. Can anyone who has one or knows about them answer the following. Pricing is important because income is limited and I'm not sure this is in my possibilities or not:

1) Is there a brand of fan that is better than the others, and more reliable?
2) I've read about belt vs drive driven fans. I'm concerned about the belted ones because what I've read says they need more maintenance, which I couldn't afford nor do myself. Opinions?
3) How much does it costs? Just a ballpark, something to gauge it with, for something between 1000 and 1400 sq feet is all I'm looking for.
4) Finally, is it possible to install a fan in, say, just a section of the home instead of all of it? For example, the lived in area instead of the other part that isn't a factor in the heat nightmare? Again, thinking about cost.

Thanks!
 

cclc

DTVUSA Member
#2
I've helped install a few whole house fans. The ones we installed were in 2 story house's and installed at the top of the stairs venting directly in to the attic or outside via ductwork. A lot really depends on your situation and house layout. You will have a noise factor, the belt driven are a little more noisey then a direct drive, i dont think there is much maitenance concerns between either, other than a belt replacemant once in awhile on a belt driven one. You are looking at $400-$600 for a belt drive and $500-$700 for a direct drive plus installation and that could vary alot depending on the install. They do help pretty good with taking heat out, but are used mainly spring and fall here in Ohio. I'm assuming you dont have central A/C? You may want to look at your options and price central A/C to a cost of a whole house fan.
 

EscapeVelocity

Moderator, , Webmaster of EV's Antenna Blog
#3
You can get window fans for cheaper. Depending on your normal wind direction (usually out of the West in the US), you can channel air into one side and out of the other. Floor plan also needs to be assessed for best placement. Then there may be safety concerns.

The dual fans offer a lower profile.

This would be a cheaper route. Even getting 2 units.
 

MrPogi

Moderator, , Webmaster of Cache Free TV
Staff member
#4
Orry,
Where do you live? If you are in a dry climate, I would suggest you look into an evaporative cooler, aka "Swamp Cooler". These won't work in the humid east, but where it low humidity they are AWESOME. Even when its in the high 90s here, my house is 20 degrees cooler (70's). My electric cost for the swamp to run is about $5 a month.

If thats not an option, and your home is 2 or more stories, try this trick from my childhood: At night, open downstairs windows and put window fans blowing IN. Open any doors to the stairs, and put window fans blowing OUT in the upstairs windows. When it starts getting warmer outside than in, SHUT the windows and doors to keep the cool air in.

No matter what you do, check into insulation. With government and utility rebates it could cost you nothing. Same for energy efficient windows. Speaking of windows, do whatever you can to block the sun in those larger south facing windows. Google "solar curtains" or get coating put on your windows.


This is more a long term suggestion... Plant deciduous tress on the south face of your home. See: Trees in a Hurry | Fast-Growing Shade Trees | Photos | Trees & Shrubs | This Old House
 

Orrymain

, Blogger: Orry's Orations
#5
Thanks all. Actually, I do have a nice central air/heat system, but the price of running it is ridiculous. I can't afford to run it that much. Swamp coolers are out because of all the electrical equipment. Condensation and such. I've checked into that quite a lot. It's a no go. I do use the fan in and fan out thing. It helps, a little, but not enough. It's a one story house. We do have what they call a delta breeze that often gives us the cool down, but not in this half of the house which retains the heat. Windows open, it's still 65 outside and 80 inside. I have ceiling fans, new windows in this part of the house, and sunscreens. All help a degree or two, but not enough to affect any real change. That's why I'm looking at the whole house thing. I'm getting conflicting info on belt vs direct drive on which is more effective.
 

MrPogi

Moderator, , Webmaster of Cache Free TV
Staff member
#6
Shame you can't use a swamp cooler. It's so dry here that its actually an advantage to increase the humidity - Not at all like new york where the humidity would kill you. And after living in Las Vegas for a few years, I swore I'd never pay $200+ a month again just to keep my brains from cooking! I am frugal by nature.

I don't have any direct experience on whole house fans, but the swamp has a belt drive, and this weekend I had to climb to the roof because a set screw came loose and I had no air flow. This points to the fact that a direct drive would be more reliable, since it has less moving parts. It seems that would be the way to go if you are not inclined to fix things. However, with a belt drive, a motor would be pretty cheap to replace, but in a direct drive you'd probably have to replace the whole unit if the motor went.

I don't think it would make any difference in effectiveness, they both move air. With the house not cooling off, I think ventilation is the cure. No breeze = no heat exchange. I think the key here would be the ability to move (exchange) a large volume of air in a short time.

Try it, let us know if it works out.
 

Orrymain

, Blogger: Orry's Orations
#7
That's why I need the whole house fan, to move that air. Most people seem to be advocating the belt drive saying that in 10 years they haven't done anything to them. It's the installation that is the killer. The units themselves all seem to be about $300 or so, but it's the putting them in that is the killer.
 

MrPogi

Moderator, , Webmaster of Cache Free TV
Staff member
#8
Just make sure the location is right: you need to be able to draw the air in from every room, and make sure there is adequate ventilation out the roof for the exhaust.

Even if you spend $600, and save only $50 a month 3 months a year, payback is just 4 years. I guarantee that your electric cost is NOT going down in that time either!
 

cclc

DTVUSA Member
#9
Have you tried just running your fan/blower on your central system while running window fans? Your thermostat should have just a fan setting. Maybe that would help with circulation? I agree installation would be costly, those fans are not fun to install. I just dont think you would notice a BIG differance during real hot weather. Have you looked into those portable A/C units you can move around from room to room for zone cooling, i think they run around $400-$500 and would think not be as costly to run as the central unit. I guess with me living in Ohio it's a little hard for me to grasp the economic benefits of not running your central unit, i pay $300 a month gas bills in winter to run my furnace, so when they go down to nothing and the electric goes up to around $200 a month during summer months for A/C i feel i'm saving :)!~
 

MrPogi

Moderator, , Webmaster of Cache Free TV
Staff member
#10
I run my fan on the furnace occasionally to distribute the cool air, but you need to remember: that fan is designed for intermittent operation.
 

cclc

DTVUSA Member
#11
You can run those blowers 24 hrs. a day if you wanted to. Mine runs 18+ a day winter and summer, the only break it gets is a few weeks spring and fall.
 

Orrymain

, Blogger: Orry's Orations
#12
I'm getting an official estimate tomorrow. I'm pretty much set in believing the whole house fan would make a world of difference based on my research and what people say about it locally. I wish I had a cheaper alternative, but for my setup, I think I've done all that I can do without taking a step like this.
 
Top