Whole House Fan Review: Energy Savings vs. A/C

A duct-fed Whole House Fan keeps the noise away from the living space (QuietCool System)

My QuietCool Whole House Fan in Action…

Note, this is a personal review. To visit the QuietCool product page on Amazon.com click here.

My family and I live in Southern California and the weather is dry and hot during the day but mostly  cool at night. It is the perfect place for what I consider to be the  most important green upgrade to my home.

A Whole House Fan (WHF). It is an energy-efficient ventilation & cooling system. It can be used instead of Central Air (A/C-System) and, in our case, reduces our monthly electricity bill by 30-60%. I have had my system for over 5 years and for that time, I’m estimating my savings to be $3915.

Whole House Fans are often misunderstood and many homeowners are not even aware that they exist.  But they are so effective in saving energy that as of 2014 the State of California requires them to be installed in all new residential construction (per building code).

So what is a Whole House Fan and how does it work? Please check out my YouTube video, where I demonstrate how a Whole House Fan draws cool outside air into my home, while blowing warmer ambient air into the attic… It creates a fresh breeze and cools the building as a whole (not just the air).

I’m using the Quietcool 1500 Whole House Fan and the Quietcool 2250 Whole House Fan.

To be honest, I didn’t really know what a Whole House Fan was until I first heard about them through my city (during a free green audit). Once I did some more research I quickly became a fan. So, I decided to create this website to help others find valuable information about this technology.

While most websites on this topic are brand specific and try to sell you on their Whole House Fan product, I’m eager to give you independent information on this green technology. I hope to be helpful in getting more people interested in upgrading their homes, saving them money on their monthly energy bill, improve the air they breath and protect the environment overall.

Talking Points I will be addressing on this website include:

If you would like to get updates on all things Whole House Fan, please subscribe to this blog and do ask questions. I will gladly keep you posted.

Thanks again for checking out my website.

Boogi

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How do Whole House Fans Work?

A Whole House Fan is installed in the ceiling of your home and sucks up the air inside (like a vacuum cleaner) and blows it into the attic. This creates a negative pressure inside the living area and draws cooler outside air through open windows or doors. You can literally feel a draft as the air moves in your home (lower chill temperature).

Whole House Fan Air Flow

Whole House Fan – Air Flow Schematic

This air exchange only really makes sense whenever the outside is cooler than the inside of your home. So during hot days the Whole House Fan usually is turned on in the evening reducing the need to run the A/C into the night. During transition periods (like late spring or early fall) Whole House can completely eliminate the need to run the A/C at all as the chill factor of the air draft is sufficient to cool the home.

Unlike Air Conditioning, where the existing air is cooled by extracting heat (which require a lot of electricity), the dramatically more energy-efficient Whole House Fan replaces the hot air in its entirety with cooler outside air. In addition a Whole House Fan cools the house itself and not just the air inside.  In contrast an A/C doesn’t cool the actual building just merely the air inside. That is the main reason why A/C’s tend to cycle on and off throughout the night re-cooling the ambient air while the hot thermal mass of the house radiate more heat back into the home.

The are several benefits to a Whole House Fan:

  1. It is extremely cost effective. Running a Whole House Fan draws a fraction of electricity compared to an A/C unit (for my setup: $0.07/hour (WHF) vs $0.81/hour (A/C)
  2. It is healthy as a Whole House Fan replaces used-up indoor air with fresh outdoor air. An A/C is a “closed loop system” which means it recirculates the same ambient air over and over. Indoor pollution and odors builds up within a home that is not properly vented.
  3. A Whole House Fan speeds up the process of cooling down you attic after a hot day. During the summer attics can get heat up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. It can take 4-5 hours deep into the night for that heat to leave the attic through vents and whirly birds. A Whole House Fan that runs in the evening for just 30 min. completely cools the attic to match the outside temperature.
  4. Modern WHF are whisper quiet: You practically have no sound pollution inside and outside your home. You can probably tell when your neighbor is running his A/C but you would never know if he has a WHF in operation.

Where does a Whole House Fan work best?

In general the less humid the climate the better it is for operating a Whole House Fan.

We live in Los Angles and it has the perfect weather for using this efficient cooling system. The days are hot and dry, but the nights tend to cool down quickly. So for most of the summer we can actually switch over from our A/C to the Whole House Fan by the time the sun sets. This is usually the peak time for running an A/C as the house is at its hottest, having absorbed all that afternoon heat by the attic and walls of the building (thermal mass).

We also estimate that because of our WHF we do not need to run our A/C for an additional 2 month a year.

Before Installing a Whole House Fan:

  • Venting: It is important that you have enough opining in your attic for the air to escape. There need to be enough whirly birds, vent holes or dormer vents inside the attic in order to avoid building up pressure in your attic that could force the air back into your home through cracks in the ceiling or your wall structure.
  • Building Codes: Check with your city about the venting requirements of your home. They differ by the age of your home. There may be permit requirements (it wasn’t the case for my city but you never know)
  • Rebates: Also check with your local city, they very likely have an incentive program where they will rebate you a  portion of the cost for buying and installing a WHF. My city paid me $100 per fan, so $300 total.
  • Installation: Be realistic about your “handy man skills”: Installing an WHF requires standing on a ladder, cutting a whole into your ceiling and doing some basic electrical work. There is nothing complicated about the installation but do hire an electrician if you do not have the experience. (Some models do not require wiring as they come with a power plug and a remote controlled switch).
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Whole House Fan: Top Brand Overview

Here is an overview of the top selling Whole House Fan brands. All systems offer the main benefits of a Whole House Fan system: Energy Savings, Cooling and Clean Air Ventilation. In addition here are the most important pros and cons of the various top brands:

Please note, to see a quick and detailed side-by-side comparison of the various Whole House Fan brands simply click here.

Tamarack HV 1600

Tamarack HV 1600 Whole House Fan

Tamarack TTi-HV1600 HV1600 R-38 Whole House Fan

Pros: 

  • R38 Insulated sealed doors prevent heating to escape into the attic during the winter
  • The fan has 2-Speeds (1,150/1,600 CFM) for more or less ventilation
  • Remote control  so you don’t have to run a new cable in your wall
  • Can be installed horizontally (ceiling) or vertically (wall)
  • The fan creates less of a breeze and more of  a “breath”, which means you don’t have to keep as many windows open.

Cons:

  • Noisy: The fan motor is actually sitting directly in the ceiling and even though it is intentionally a less powerful fan and thus less noisy, you will still hear them more than a QuietCool system. Tamarack has 55db (acceptable) on low and 65db (somewhat annoying) on high. A QuietCool system is 43 db (whisper quiet).
  • The system is underpowered and not as effective in cooling bigger homes

Bottom Line: Instead of trying to create a breeze, Tamarack set out to make an efficient, quiet fan functions at a somewhat slower rate than typical fans. The HV1600 is clearly a good opiton when a homeowner does not want to add attic venting; cannot leave windows wide open at night; is very concerned about fan noise; or lives in an area with cold winters, where there is a large energy penalty from an uninsulated fan.

Check pricing for the Tamarack HV 1600 here.


 

 QuietCool Whole House Fan “Classic Series”

QuietCool Whole House Fan "Classic" system

QC Manufacturing QuietCool QC 2250 B QuietCool Fan “Classic”


Pros:

  • Whisper quiet (40db): the fan is installed away from the ceiling and hangs in the rafters, a 6 ft. duct leads to the ceiling grid making this the quietest fan on the market
  • Modular design: Various models with single or 2 speed mode allow to design a system that is perfectly sized for your home. (1500-6400 cfm available for 750-4000 square footage of living space per fan)
  • Vertical or horizontal installation for ceiling or walls
  • Easy installation
  • Model that doesn’t require attic space is also available (venting straight through the roof)

Cons:

  • Fans come with built-in damper (R5 insulation) to prevent back flow and heat loss during the winter, but could come with better insulation (winter covers are an optional add on)
  • The higher sized fans (3000 cdm and up) tend to be a bit more noisy than the whisper quiet QC1500 model.

Bottom Line: The base model of the top brand in the market. It is the quietest, most efficient and effective Whole House Fan in the market. The only reason you wouldn’t want to buy this model is because you don’t want to spend upwards of $550 dollars.

Check pricing for Quiet Cool “Classic Series” here.


QuietCool Whole House Fan “Energy Saver Series”

Quiet Cool Whole House Fan "Energy Saver Series"

QC Manufacturering QC ES-1700 QuietCool Fan Energy Saver

Pros:

  • Rated by the California Energy Commission to be the most energy efficient Whole House Fan available in the market (52 cfm/watt compared to 31 cfm/watt for QietCool “classic series” or 19 cfm for the highest rated efficient competitive product by Systemair/Dayton).
  • Modular design: Various models with single or 2 speed mode allow to design a system that is perfectly sized for your home. (1250-5400 cfm available for 500-3000 square footage of living space per fan)
  • Whisper quiet
  • High Customer Satisfaction

Cons:

  • Fans come with built-in damper (R5 insulation) to prevent back flow and heat loss during the winter, but could come with better insulation (winter covers are an optional add on)

Bottom Line: It has all the benefits of the “classic” QuietCool system and is even more efficient. Priced slightly higher that extra little bit of efficiency may probably be not be worth the investment. But if you are looking for the best of the best, you found it here.

Check pricing for Quiet Cool “Energy Save Series” here.


 

Air Vent Inc. 24″ Whole House Fan

Air Vent Inc. Whole House Fan

Air Vent Inc. 24″ Whole House Fan 54301 Attic & Whole House Fans

Pros:

  • Great price: This WHF is a great choice at a budget as alternative to higher priced brands (50-70% lower price)
  • High customer satisfaction: Those who purchased this model are overall very happy with the benefits of this model
  • Strong belt-driven motor (4500CFM)  creates strong draft lowering the chill factor even further
  • Amazon Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (90 Reviewers)

Cons:

  • Fairly noisy as the motor sits right at ceiling level
  • Shutters are a bit flimsy and rattle
  • Shutters are not tight (heat loss during winter as warm air escapes into the attic)
  • Belt/chain-driven motor requires occasional maintenance

Bottom Line: A very inexpensive system that is powerful and has plenty of happy customers. Noise levels are a bit of a concern (as with most WHF that have the motor attached straight to the ceiling), so if it is anywhere close to where you are going to be for most of your day, you might want to consider a QuientCool system.

Check pricing for Air Vent Inc here.


 

Air King 20″ Whole-House Window Fan

Air King Window Whole House Fan

Air King 9166F 20″ Whole-House Window Fan

Pros:

  • Inexpensive Window Unit: A quick and cheap fix to get you most of the benefits of Whole House Fan venting without installing an industrial strength system.
  • Very easy install: Just lock into place in an open window and plug it in
  • It does the job and overall customers are fairly satisfied.
  • Amazon Customer Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (300 Reviewers)

Cons:

  • It may not last for ever, a lot of buyers mention that the system fails them within a couple of years.
  • Fairly noisy

Bottom Line: Super cheap and super easy to install. No need to get up into the attic or run complicated wiring. Just still it in you window and enjoy all the benefits of Whole House Cooling. If you don’t want to mess around and have instant savings, look no further.

Check Pricing for Air King Window Whole House Fan here.


Cool Attic CX30BD2SPD Belt Drive 2-Speed

Cool Attic CX30BD2SPD Whole House Fan

Cool Attic CX30BD2SPD Belt Drive 2-Speed Whole House Fan with Shutter, 30-Inch, White

Pros:

  • 2-speed, thermally protected PSC motor (7,800/5,400 CFM)
  • Good value for a fan that is meant to be used for a 3000 square foot home (a QuietCool system is 5x the price of this brand)
  • Gturdy and relatively easy to install
  • Amazon Customer Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (44 Reviewers)

Cons:

  • Switches that come with it are flimsy and you should price in to buy better ones (about $50)
  • Noisy as belt driven motor (lots of mechanical friction and the louvers rattle) sits right on top of the ceiling

Bottom Line: Powerful work horse that gets the job done in a big home if you don’t want to spend more than a few hundred dollars. You def. get all the benefits of Whole House Venting with this model.

Check Pricing for Cool Attic CX30BD2SPD here.


Please also check out the detailed side-by-side comparison of the various Whole House Fan here.

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Compare Whole House Fan Brands Side-By-Side

 

Image
Model Tamarack HV 1600 QuietCool  “Classic” QuietCool “Energy Saver” Air Vent 24″ Air King 20″ Window Cool Attic 30″ 
Purchase Price $$$ $$$ $$$1/2 $$ $ $$
Where to Buy Visit Site Visit Site Visit Site Visit Site Visit Site Visit Site
Air Flow (CFM) 2-Speeds (1,150 / 1,600) various: 1527, 2285 (2sp), 3190 (2 sp), 4534(4sp), 6418 (4sp), 4757 (2sp) various: 1265, 1765, 2034, 2850, 5412 (2 speed) 4500 3-Speeds (2510 / 3120 / 3560) 2-Speeds (5400 / 7800)
covers living Space 2000 SQ FT 760 – 4500 SQ FT 625-4500 SQ FT 1500 SQ FT 2500 SQ FT 2000-3000 SQ FT
Noise (room level) 55db/65db 43db – 51db
(various models)
42db-49db (various models) 60db/68db (estimated) 50 / 57 / 64 57 / 60 (estimated)
insulation R38 R5 R4.2 x N/A (window unit/ window closes with fan) x
Radio transmitter check add on check add on checkadd on x pull chain x x
Horizontal Install check check check check x x
Vertical Install check x x x window install x
Fits 16″ joists check check check x N/A x
Ceiling rough opening Upgrade various: (14 1/4″ x 14 1/3″) up to (14 1/4″ X 36 1/4″) various: (14 1/4″ x 14 1/3″) up to (14 1/4″ X 36 1/4″) (23 1/4″ x 23 1/4″) required window opening: 27″ to 38 x 26.25″H (29-1/2″ x 32-1/4″)
Warranty 3 Year Limited 10 Year Limited 10 Year Limited 10 Year Limited 1 Year Limited 10 Year Limited
Motor* Direct Drive Duct-Fed Duct-Fed Direct Belt / Direct Belt / Direct
Model Tamarack HV 1600 QuietCool  “Classic” QuietCool “Energy Saver” Air Vent 24″ Air King 20″ Window Cool Attic 30″ 
Energy Use 207W / 230W (2 speed) various, starts at 160W various, starts at 36W ? 64W / 76W / 85W ?
Wall Mountable check x x x N/A x
Installation Skill Level Intermediate Intermediate Intermediate Advanced Easy Advanced
Professional Installation Optional Optional Optional Recommended x Recommended
Where to Buy Visit Site Visit Site Visit Site Visit Site Visit Site Visit Site

*Motor: Generally a duct-fed Whole House Fan is the quietest as the actual motor/fan blades sit in the rafters of the attic up to 6 feet away from the ceiling grid. A belt driven motor tends to be less quiet than a direct driven motor but generally requires more energy use and has some wear.

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Whole House Fan Noise: How Quiet is Quiet?

A duct-fed Whole House Fan keeps the noise away from the living space (QuietCool System)

A duct-fed Whole House Fan keeps the noise away from the living space (QuietCool System)

The noise level of a Whole House Fan is one of the most important factors when deciding which model to get. Some people get a system and never use it, because it is too noisy.  Luckily modern Whole House Fan technology has fixed this problem and you will find many brands that advertise the quietness of their system. But what do the DB (Decibel) numbers mean?

Here are some real life examples. To check the noise level on the various brand click here: Detailed Side-by-Side Brand Comparison.

Sound ExampleNoise Level (db)
--> Healthy Hearing Threshold0db
--> A Pin Dropping10db
--> Rustling Leaves20db
--> Whisper Quiet30db
--> Quiet Whole House Fan41db
--> Light Traffic50db
--> Regular Whole House Fan52db
--> Normal Conversation60-65db
--> Telephone dial tone80db
--> City Traffic (Inside Car)85db
--> Truck Traffic90db
--> Jackhammer at 50'95db
--> Loud Rock Concert115db
--> So Loud it Hurts125db

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Basic Overview: How to Install a Whole House Fan

It is fairly easy to install a Whole House Fan system by yourself, if you know how to use a drill, hammer and screw driver. I’ve done it myself and I would rate myself to be somewhat of a novice, when it comes to fixing and installing things around the house.

When it comes to the electrical hook up/wiring that may be a different story. If you have an outlet nearby you most likely could simply plug in the fan. Otherwise, you may want to hire an electrician. Definitely turn off the fuse in the electrical panel before doing any work on the circuits to avoid electrical shock. Use the following  general instruction at your own risk.

There are three main  types of WHF’s (Whole House Fans): direct, belt-driven and duct-fed. The first two are ceiling mounted fans and easier to install provided that they are small enough to fit between the roof joists. A duct-fed fan requires you to attach the motor/fan to the rafters of your roof.

Installing Unvented Ceiling Mounted Fans:

  • Location of rough opening for Whole House Fan

    Location of rough opening

    Choose the location of the fan. Usually a good place is a hallway somewhere in the center of your home. This way you provide a good flow of air throughout the entire living area. Avoid putting the fan close to an open window as the air will then only travel a very short distance which defeats the purpose of a WHF. Make sure the location you pick has good access from the attic with enough clearance and possibly a preexisting  electrical outlet nearby.

 

Use a cardboard cut-out template to determine the rough opening

Cardboard cut-out template

  •  Most WHF’s will come with a cardboard cut-out template that you can use to mark the rough opening in the ceiling. Go up into the ceiling and locate a good spot between the joists. You would need a keyhole or drywall saw for cutting a hole into the ceiling (size varies by type and model). A carpet knife or something similar will work in a pinch.

 

 

  • Use a drywall or keyhole saw to cut into the ceiling

    Use a drywall or keyhole saw to cut into the ceiling

    Ususally WHF’s come pre-assembled. Take the fan up into the attic and place it to fit the rough opening. Attach the fan to the joists, replace any insulation that was removed and screw in the grill from below.

  • Return to the attic to complete the electrical work. Again, this is the most dangerous part, so make sure you disconnect the electrical circuits before handling live wires. Use a volt meter to confirm that the circuit is indeed turned off. The electrical wiring for the fan requires 120 Volt grounded cable. Some models will actually come with a 6 ft. three prong plug that you could. DO NOT use an extension cord to get to an outlet beyond the 6ft. Novices should definitely consider hiring an electrician for any electrical work.
  •  SPECIAL CASE: Some WHF are too big to fit between your joists (16″ or even 24″ joists apart). Then you would have to cut one of the joists and reframe a box around the WHF. This requires structural changes to your home and you should definitely consider hiring a licensed contractor.

Installing Duct-Fed Whole House Fans

  1. All the steps from above apply…
  2. A duct-fed Whole House Fan keeps the noise away from the living space (QuietCool System)In addition a duct-fed fan requires you to hang the motor head of the fan from the rafters by fastening the metal strapping that is attached to the WHF. This is a fairly easy process but entails lifting a 15-30 lb heavy fan and keeping it in place while screwing it in. With a little ingenuity, you can find a way to keep it in position by propping it up with some boxes of sorts. That makes it easier and you can take your time attaching it securely.

Once the install is complete you can control the fan either by a wall switch, a digital or analog timer or simply by using a pull-line hanging directly from the fan. If you want to avoid complicated in-wall wiring, some models have the option to be controlled via wireless switches. See the Brand Comparison for the different options.

 

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