Cut Cooling Costs with a Whole House Fan

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Depending on the region in which you live, air conditioning may not always be the most efficient means of cooling your home. In Northern parts of the United States, some homes do not even have air conditioners. In fact, I grew up in a home like this, and the first time my father saw a window unit air conditioning unit, he did not know what it was!

Early and late in the summer, it is economically feasible to embrace a whole house fan instead of a central air unit. Even in areas with mild summers, a whole house fan may be all you need to get through the warm months comfortably and without breaking the bank. The way a whole house fan works is by drawing cool air from outside through open windows and then taking warm air and pushing it out through the attic, thus making the whole house a cooler environment by moving large quantities of cool air throughout. These fans are mounted in the ceiling in a central location in the home, such as a hallway on the first floor of a single story dwelling or on the top floor of a multi-story dwelling.


Even if you live in an area where high heat is present, whole house fans can still be advantageous to you. Depending on the season and the time of day, whole house fans can be utilized to cool down hot homes. You simply need to adjust your use based on your climate, opting to operate your fan in spring/fall or early morning/late evening in correspondence with the weather you are experiencing. They key to using a whole house fan is to operate it when outdoor temperatures are cooler than indoor temperatures, as bringing the outdoor air inside will cool your home quickly and efficiently. Homes with basements can get even more use out of a whole house fan (provided the basement is dry and free of fumes and mold) as basement space can be used to cool warm outside air which can then be moved through the rest of the house.


Do keep in mind that open windows are required to operate whole house fans. This means leaving your space and possessions vulnerable to intrusion, which has its own set of risks. Whole house fans can also be a source of heat loss during the winter due to the louvered opening and will need to be sealed during the months in which it is not being used. This can be done in multiple ways in the attic or living space as long as an effective barrier is created and mounted. Installing a whole house fan can also be difficult and manufacturer's instructions must be followed closely. Due to the carpentry and electrical work required, professional assistance may be necessary if such a project is new to you.


If you do opt for a whole house fan, the benefits are many as long as it is used correctly. This means opening the proper amount of windows to prevent back-drafting (drawing air in through pipe openings, which can bring along toxins) and having a properly ventilated attic per manufacturer's specifications. Also important is having a fan rated for the size of your home. Once the selection and installation are behind you, reduced cooling costs can be enjoyed along with the features of your whole house fan, such as variable speed and on/off timers that will keep your house cool on your terms.

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