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Technology Has Finally Caught Up To The Whole House Fan Industry

I have to say that my experience with whole-house fans has not always been positive. I remember almost 20 years ago, my wife and I went to dinner at a friend’s house near Detroit. The living room was getting warm even though it was cool outside, so our friend said he was going to turn on the whole-house fan instead of the air conditioner. No sooner did he flip the switch than it sounded like a helicopter had landed on the roof. Papers blew everywhere, and our previously calm, quiet conversation turned into a shouting match, just so we could hear each other above the din.

At that point, I would have been horrified if an HVAC contractor suggested putting one of those beasts in our house. But times have changed, and now I strongly recommend them. The new style of ducted whole house fans are smarter, and thankfully much quieter. The problem is that many HVAC contractors just don’t offer these types of products to their customers.

SIMPLE CONCEPT

A whole-house fan is a fairly simple device. The fan is mounted in the ceiling of a central hallway (in the top floor of a two-story house) and draws cool outside air in through open doors and windows while forcing the hottest indoor air out the existing intake and exhaust vents on the roof. This cycle creates a comfortable living environment and reduces the air conditioning load for the next day.

A whole-house fan is effective whenever the outside temperature is lower than the indoor temperature, which is usually in the evenings and at night. It typically uses a fraction of the energy of air conditioning, which means drastically lower energy bills for the typical residence.

In dry desert climates, a whole-house fan is a no-brainer, as it can minimize or nearly eliminate the need for air conditioning completely. What many people don’t realize, however, is that even in most other areas of the United States, you can use it in conjunction with your a/c to significantly reduce your energy consumption.”

Several years ago a study was done on whole-house fans in Florida, and the conclusion was that, while they can increase humidity, fans reduce the temperature in a home. The study involved 384 single-family homes, apartments, and condos, and it showed that by using natural ventilation instead of air conditioning, 777 kWh was saved. So if you can use a fan, it does reduce the air conditioning costs wherever you are.

Obviously, the warmer and more humid the evening air, the less effective natural cooling becomes; however, whole-house fans are often used successfully to complement air conditioning systems. Most fan manufacturers like CentricAir state that as long as the outside temperature is below 72°F, a whole-house fan can effectively cool a home.

NEW DESIGNS, EASIER INSTALLATION

The traditional whole-house fan is fairly large and noisier than small fans, but can move between 4,000 and 7,000 cfm of air. This type of fan is installed in the ceiling, and louvers open when the fan is turned on. Newer whole-house fans are available that have a flow range between 1,000 and 4,000 cfm.

The real distinction between the two is if people want to feel a breeze moving through the house, then they need to get the bigger fans. If they want to cool the house down slowly over a longer period of time, then the smaller fans work great. They’re quieter and more energy efficient, but they won’t create the kind of breeze that a 7,000-cfm fan will.

Besides being significantly quieter, some new fans have motorized, insulated, sealed damper doors; no framing is required during installation; and a smaller fan running all night long will use much less energy compared to air conditioning. In addition, the house will be cooler in the morning.

The one major requirement for a whole-house fan is that the home has to have an attic with a certain amount of clearance, noted Paul Scelsi, training and communications manager, Air Vent, Dallas. “The installation instructions of the various models and brands make that clear.”

In addition, a home must have a sufficient amount of attic ventilation in order to exhaust the air. If there is not enough ventilating, the resulting positive pressure will force hot, dusty attic air back into the house through light fixtures and other cracks.

CHANGING MARKET

So if a whole-house fan saves energy, improves IAQ, offers a quick payback to customers, and increases a homeowner’s comfort level, why aren’t more HVAC contractors offering these products to customers? It’s difficult to say. Perhaps it’s an issue of education – both the contractor’s and the homeowner’s – or maybe it’s price, as the newer whole-house fans are substantially more expensive than the traditional models. What is known is that the other trades are making money installing whole-house fans in residential applications.

Right now, it’s the electricians who are usually putting in the whole-house fans. It would be a very profitable service for heating and cooling contractors to offer, because they’re already in a house and the fans can help make any air conditioning system work better.

And all contractors know that any type of differentiation from the competition is a good thing.

Sidebar: Attic Fans?

There’s a big difference between a whole-house fan and an attic fan. Attic fans are designed to ventilate the attic space only, while whole-house fans are designed to ventilate the living space within a home.

The Home Ventilating Institute (www.hvi.org) refers to whole-house fans as whole-house comfort ventilators, and they are designed to bring in cooler outside air, draw it through the house, and push the house air out through the attic vents.

 

Whole House Fans Cool Homes Very Efficiently, But!

Whole house fans cool homes very efficiently in most areas of the country. But older style fans have come under fire for creating leaks into the attic, causing potential depressurization problems and being very noisy.

how whole house fans work

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Videos: the Fan Man Discusses Features and Benefits of Centricair Whole House Fans

The Whole House Fan Man explains the features and the differences between the CentricAir and Quiet Cool.

The Whole House Fan Man explains the features and the differences between the CentricAir and Quiet Cool whole house fan damper inlet boxes.

The Whole House Fan Man explains the features and the differences between the CentricAir and Quiet Cool whole house fan 2-speed operation

Whole House Fans Are Ideal When Cross-Ventilation Design Is Inadequate

Whole house fans are ideal for cooling homes, particularly where cross-ventilation design is inadequate.

The whole of house fans should be positioned centrally, e.g. stairwell or hallways.

Typically, a single fan unit is installed in a circulation space in the center of the house (hallway or stairwell) to draw cooler outside air into the building through open windows in selected rooms, when conditions are suitable. It then exhausts the warm air through eaves, roof or gable vents. This also cools the attic space and reduces any temperature differential across ceiling insulation.

You should not operate the system when external air temperatures are higher than internal.

Traditional whole house fans can be noisy; however, the newer style ducted whole house fans like those from Centric Air are extremely quiet and designed to operate throughout the night provided the windows and doors are left open for circulation. On still nights this can be more effective than air conditioning for night-time sleeping comfort.

8 Benefits of a Whole House Fan To Reduce House Temperature

As the name suggests, a whole house fan can greatly reduce the temperature in an entire house. However, the model and make of the fan must be suitable for the house and its size to be effective.

A whole house fan is installed in the ceiling of the upper level of a house, so that it is connected to the attic. A central location and good ventilation are all crucial to the successful operation of this system. The following are several advantages to using a whole house fan in your home.

  1. Fast Operation

These fans work by drawing hot air from the house into the attic and then outside via ridge, dormer or gable vents. The empty space left by the hot air is filled with cool, fresh air from outside the house. Compared to a central air conditioner, a whole house fan works much faster, and you begin to feel the cooling effects in minutes. However, a whole house fan will obviously only work if the external air is cooler than the air indoors.

  1. High Energy Efficiency

A whole house fan is a much more environmentally friendly option than central air conditioning or room AC units.

  1. Low Operating Costs

During operation, a modern whole house fan, like those from Centric Air, costs just pennies an hour to run compared to an air conditioner that can cost several dollars an hour to operate. It is far cheaper, and you can save hundreds of dollars in your electric bill every summer.

  1. Easy Installation

Installing a whole house fan can be easy and uncomplicated. Modern whole house fans are built to accommodate roof trusses and attic joists, so it can actually be a do-it-yourself project, with minimal assistance from another person.

  1. Low Cost of the Appliance Itself

A whole house fan can be 10 times cheaper than a central air conditioning unit, not to mention the cost of the ductwork and installation. If you do not have extreme summer weather, this appliance can replace your AC entirely.

  1. Removal of Stale Indoor Air

Because a whole house fan draws in hot air to the attic and then lets it out of the house, your indoor air is considerably fresher. This helps remove and prevent odors and provides excellent ventilation all around the house.

  1. Quiet Operation

Newer models like whole house fans like Centric Air operate very quietly, and do not emit the loud, disturbing noises associated with traditional larger whole house fans. You can operate a whole house fan throughout the night and enjoy a good night’s sleep even if you’re a light sleeper.

  1. Reduced Need for Air Conditioning

When you use a whole house fan, the entire house can be effectively cooled down by drawing in air from the outside. When operated during summer mornings, evenings, or nights, there is usually no need for other air conditioning. In fact, you should not use an AC at the same time as a whole house fan, because the cool air from the air conditioner will be let out of the house and replaced by air from outside.

Should You Consider a Traditional or Modern Whole House Fan?

It doesn’t make much sense to use an air conditioner to cool a home when the outside air is cooler than the inside. So in areas with hot days and cool nights, people often use whole-house fans to exhaust the hot indoor air once the outside temperature drops below 78°F.

Whole house fans are installed in the ceiling, in an opening that is cut into the attic. They flush indoor air out through the attic, replacing it with outside air drawn in through the open windows. Residents turn on the fan and open windows when the outside temperature drops below the inside temperature, and for best results, they leave the fan on for several hours – preferably overnight. This cools the house down and also flushes built-up heat (much of which would otherwise find its way back into the home) from the attic.

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Centric Air – A Better Whole House Fan

At Centric Air our mission is to provide homeowners with an affordable alternative to expensive air conditioning. Although no whole house fan can completely replace the need for air conditioning, a Centric Air system can reduce its dependency by as much as 50 to 90% saving homeowners hundreds of dollars a year in energy costs.

Unlike conventional whole house fans that are large, noisy and unattractive, a Centric Air system is modern, powerful and ultra quiet. Contributing to its exceptionally quiet operation is the German engineered, acoustically designed and precision balanced fan that is rated for 40,000 hours of operation. These high efficient fans are made of composite materials with wing tip design for increased performance and efficiency, while reducing noise up to 3 decibels.

Other whole house fan manufactures typically use an open motor with exposed electrical windings, which allows dirt and debris to plug the motor causing it to over heat, and prematurely fail. They also use cheaply made propeller fans, which can become unbalanced over time causing the fan to be unstable and noisy.

Adding to Centric Airs remarkably quiet operation is the acoustical ductwork. Unlike standard ducting, acoustical ductwork not only dampens the noise of rushing air but also absorbs vibration, allowing the system to quietly operate even while you sleep.

While traditional whole house fans consists of large louvered shutters that can rattle, squeak and vibrate over time, Centric Air systems use a modern eggcrate style grill, which not only looks nice but also allows for 30% more airflow compared to standard return air grills. Located above the grill in the attic and out of sight, is an industrial grade damper box, which is designed to seal off the living space from the attic when the system is not operating.

The cost to operate a Centric Air whole house fan is just pennies an hour making it one of the most energy efficient upgrades you can make to your home. Centric Air is also one of the few ducted whole house fan manufactures that meet the strict energy efficiency standards set by the California Energy Commission. To learn more about Centric Air whole house fans or to purchase a system online, please visit www.CentricAir.com

Centric Air vs. Quiet Cool vs. Traditional Whole House Fans

A Centric Air whole house fan is modern, powerful and ultra quiet. The fan motors used in Centric Air systems are acoustically designed and precision balanced. These highly efficient fans are made of composite materials with wingtip design for increased performance and efficiency.

Adding to Centric Air remarkably quiet operation is the acoustical and heat resistant ductwork. This specialty ductwork not only dampens the noise of rushing air but also absorbs vibration, allowing the system to quietly operate even while you sleep.

Other whole house fan manufacturers like Quiet Cool typically use an open face motor with exposed electrical windings, which allows dirt and debris to plug the motor causing it to overheat, and prematurely fail.

centric air quiet cool traditional whole house fans

They also use cheaply made unbalanced fan blades, which over time, can cause the fan to become unstable and very noisy.

unbalanced fan blade

While traditional or older style whole house fans consists of large louvered shutters that can rattle, squeak and vibrate, Centric Air systems use an industrial grade damper and high airflow grill, which not only looks attractive but allows for 30% more airflow compared to standard return air grills.

traditional older style whole house fans

The cost to operate a Centric Air whole house fan is just pennies an hour making it one of the most energy efficient upgrades you can make to your home. To learn about the differences between Centric Air,  Quiet Cool and traditional whole house fans watch the following video

Time To Rethink What A Whole House Fan Is

I have to admit that my experience with whole-house fans has not always been positive. I remember almost 20 years ago as an HVAC contractor when homeowners would ask me to quote a whole house fan installation, I’d quickly steer them away. The noise from these traditional whole house fans reminded me of my time in the Army being around helicopters. Sure they moved a ton of air but try having a conversation, listening to the television and don’t even think about trying to sleep while it’s running.

Fortunately times have changed and the newer ducted style whole house fans are ultra quiet and extremely energy efficient.

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How To Use A Whole House Fan During A Heat Wave

Much of the country is experiencing a heat wave, which is typical for the month of August. Daytime temperatures can reach 90 to 100 degrees and temperatures during the evening and early night are not much cooler. At about 9:00 PM the outside temperature where I live was 84 degrees, definitely not a good time to use a whole house fan. This was one of those nights I was grateful for air conditioning.

In the morning, however, at about 6:00 AM the outside temperature was 67 degrees. Although you may think, why would I use my whole house fan when my home is already cool from running the air conditioner, the reason is quite simple. Even though the temperature inside the home may be cool, the temperature in the attic and walls are not. They retained the heat from the day before and the temps in those spaces could be well above 100 degrees. As a result, unless that heat is removed it will radiate into the house, quickly heating up the living space. It’s for this reason that you want to run your whole house fan.

At 6:00 in the morning I opened a few windows and turned on the whole house fan while making sure that the temperature outside never exceeded the indoor temperature. After about an hour, I turned off the whole house fan and closed the windows. My entire home (living space, walls and attic) were now cool and comfortable, delaying the need for air conditioning.

While some of my neighbors air conditioners turned on as early as 9:00 this morning, I knew I would not have to run mine until much later, significantly saving on my cooling bill.

Although a whole house fan is not designed to completely replace air conditioning, it can help reduce the need for it, even during a heat wave.

To learn more about the benefits of whole house fans, visit www.CentricAir.com