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Whole house fans
Old 06-20-2006, 04:01 PM   #1
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Whole house fans

So I got a flyer in the mail from QuietCool, with a summer special to install a whole house fan system. Two fans, installed, with electronic control panel, timer, etc. for $1,000. Now I know I can go down to Home Depot and buy a whole house fan, get out the sawsall and be good to go for much less, but a)DW would kill me for the poor looks of the install and b) not a big fan of the noise. This system puts in an attractive looking grill in the ceiling and has a tube run from it to the fan placed further up in the attic, at the vents, supposedly making it "whisper" quiet. The $995 price is all inclusive, including tax (I guess that's the gimmic).

Has anyone done this? Found it worthwhile? Anything I should look for?
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Re: Whole house fans
Old 06-20-2006, 04:24 PM   #2
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Re: Whole house fans

I am not sure how much of the 'whole house' one system would use. We have recirculating fan in the attic. Are you considering recirculating warm or cool air?

Sound conduction is a function of the balance of the fan blades and how well it and the duct work is insulated from sound conductive materials. I would ask the contractor how they are anchoring the fan and what type of duct work they will use.
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Re: Whole house fans
Old 06-20-2006, 04:30 PM   #3
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Re: Whole house fans

I've installed three whole house fans. One Home Depot type for $100 bucks that sounds like a plane taking off but will pull a window out if you don't have one open. Two others from Tamarack industries that are quiet and have insulated door that ofens and shuts that cost $400 8 years ago. Works great in Vegas to pull cool morning air in so the AC isn't used until late afternoon. Also installed on in Walnut Creek, CA.
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Re: Whole house fans
Old 06-20-2006, 04:44 PM   #4
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Re: Whole house fans

I've had one in my last two homes. Wouldnt live without it.

For those who arent familiar with them, they install in the ceiling inside the house, you open a window or three, and it pulls air from the outside, through the windows, up through the attic and out the attic vents.

Hard to beat in an area like we live in where its 100 during the day and 65 at night. By 10-11pm I can shut off the air conditioning and bring the house down 10 degrees by morning for a few cents.

laurence, never heard of these 'tube' varieties. There are two kinds...direct motor drive and belt drive. The belt models are pretty quiet but more expensive. I've used the direct drive and frankly its no louder than most fans.

I didnt even put it in the ceiling. I popped out the piece of sheetrock in the attic access 'hatch', put two "L" brackets on the 2x4 framing and ran a pair of screws from those into the fan, then plugged it in up in the attic with an extension cord I cut the head off of, and hooked it up with an x-10 remote. I put some cardboard into the areas the fan didnt cover to prevent recirculation. Later I hung a small hinged door with a magnetic closure I could open and close with a rod. Our attic access in the last two homes is in the master bedroom closet, we open the windows at the far end of the house, that way we can leave the bedroom windows closed and the drapes pulled so the sun doesnt get us up at 6am.

With the fan in the ceiling in the closet, around the corner from the bedroom, all we hear is a little white noise.

Oh yeah, and the installation cost was nearly zero. It sounds a little mickey mouse, but its pretty straightforward. If nothing else, it lets you try one out and see if you like it before breaking out the reciprocating saw.

In any case, a thousand bucks to install a fan is nuts. And theres probably no reason for two of them. My old mcmansion was about 3000 square feet and the cheapest 30" direct drive fan pulled more air through than I cared for...I wish it had a lower speed than 'low' in fact. I've never used the 'high' speed.

Also very handy if you burn the crap out of something in the kitchen...
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Re: Whole house fans
Old 06-20-2006, 04:49 PM   #5
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Re: Whole house fans

Brat, I don't think I'm recirculating anything, the idea is what honobob described, suck cold air in through the 1st floor windows and hot are blown out the top. *I will ask how they are anchoring though, good tip.

So honobob, that's an endorsement? *Does ~$1,000 sound reasonable as long as it's not that blow your windows out fan?

EDIT: Saw your post CFB, that is the cheapest way, interesting rig for the on/off switch! I will digest this info.
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Re: Whole house fans
Old 06-20-2006, 04:56 PM   #6
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Re: Whole house fans

I did find that putting down some heavy gauge 1" weatherstripping foam tape around the attic opening and laying the fan on that, and putting rubber washers under and over the "L" brackets before driving in the screw did substantially quiet the fan, although it wasnt that loud to begin with. But I guess thats subjective.

One thing you never, ever, ever want to do is turn the fan on with no windows open, if you have a fireplace. I did it once when I first installed my first fan, and my dad sort of helped me by closing the back door when the fan was on and no other windows were open. Puts a nice fine dust on everything :P

I'm still trying to figure out how he put his shoulder to that door and forced it closed with gale force suction blasting him in the face and it never occurred to him that something odd was going on... :
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Re: Whole house fans
Old 06-20-2006, 05:12 PM   #7
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Re: Whole house fans

Laurence
$1000 bucks sounds high. They are simple to install. They are designed to fit between 16 inch on center studs so all you are cutting is drywall. White metal vent covers cut for professional look. Electrical is simple. The Vegas house has cathredal ceilings and the attic access is over the bathrooms so I installed it on the highest part of the hall wall where you never notice even the vent and would just assume it was a heating vent. The Home Depot type are designed to straddle the joist since they are about 4 foot square and again louvers cover the drywall cut. Other than loud you lose heat thru the louvers unless you insulate some way in winter. Home Depot type usually requires extra attic vent space. Any handy man could install in less than 2 hours so if you're spending $500? for the fan that's $250 per hour labor (unskilled).
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Re: Whole house fans
Old 06-20-2006, 05:24 PM   #8
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Re: Whole house fans

http://www.wholehousefan.com/ordernow.html

Here's a link. Still under $500!
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Re: Whole house fans
Old 06-20-2006, 05:28 PM   #9
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Re: Whole house fans

As a dyed-in-the-wool cheapskate I have to ask:

What's the matter with getting 3 or 4 box window fans for 12 bucks each and running them ?

Granted, I don't live in Nevada but I'd suspect the amount of moving air from the fans is about the same if not more. I set them up pointing outside in half my windows and draw cool air in from the other windows. Keep the 950 bucks in the bank. Do the math on how much you're saving on A/C costs and you'll see it will take many years to make up a grand.
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Re: Whole house fans
Old 06-20-2006, 05:39 PM   #10
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Re: Whole house fans

Yeah, but that's without installation! Plus, I get a need LCD control panel installed like my air conditioning LCD!

I'm not good at home improvement projects, I have lost any benefit of the doubt from my wife due to my last three home improvement debacles. I think I'm going to burn the money. I will now rationilize it by saying it will add value to the house. Good to know I don't need the larger systems (they well one with 4 fans that moves 4500 CFM for $1800).
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Re: Whole house fans
Old 06-20-2006, 06:49 PM   #11
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Re: Whole house fans

Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurence
Brat, I don't think I'm recirculating anything, the idea is what honobob described, suck cold air in through the 1st floor windows and hot are blown out the top. *I will ask how they are anchoring though, good tip.
In my house we recirculate heat from the ceiling to the floor registers (very high ceilings.. takes scaffolding to re-paint).* "Cooling" is only a matter of opening windows in the summer, the Sound makes a very efficient air conditioner.
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Re: Whole house fans
Old 06-20-2006, 08:02 PM   #12
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Re: Whole house fans

Humidity is apparently a big factor in the usefulness of whole house fans, as well as the nighttime temps.* Here in the humid (miserable terrible high priced high taxes lots of gnats for those considering relocation and crowding us out--except Astro who can stay)* Lowcountry, they are not favored, since the humidity levels rarely go down much at night.* I'm getting an energy audit next week by the local co-op, and finding out what the thought is on the radiant foil in the attic (black shingle roof) to reduce heat getting into the house.* We have electric attic fan as well.*
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Re: Whole house fans
Old 06-20-2006, 08:13 PM   #13
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Re: Whole house fans

Its very area dependent.

Window fans wouldnt cut it. This sucker exchanges all the air in the house about every 2-3 minutes, and blows all the heat out of the attic while its doing it.

Cost wise, without this my a/c fires all night long and the attic temps are still well over 100 degrees in the morning - and no, I dont have a venting problem, I have six thousand pounds of concrete tiles sitting on the roof in 100-105 degree heat all day.

Running this at night, then closing the windows in the morning, its not until 4pm that the house heats back up to the point where the air kicks back in.

My savings are about $300-400 a cooling season. For a fan that cost $100, took an hour to put in, and lasts for 10+ years, not a bad ROI.

Not to mention I like it cool, and we get down into the 60's and low 70's at night, which is a lot nicer than 77-78...
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Re: Whole house fans
Old 06-20-2006, 08:27 PM   #14
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Re: Whole house fans

Laurence, here's a dumb question: Where's the heat coming from?

If San Diego's air temps are sweating you out then a whole-house fan might be the best option. And if the sun is blazing in through south-facing windows or heating a thermal wall, then a whole-house fan can help cool it down.

But if your house is heating up because the sun is blasting on the roof, warming the attic to 150 degrees, and cooking the house from the top down... then instead of a whole-house fan you might be able to keep the attic cool with solar-powered fans that sit on the roof and suck directly from the attic. PG&E will charge you dearly to run a whole-house fan but the solar exhaust fans cost less than $500 each installed and suck at least 800 cfm each. And they're not just quiet, they're totally silent!
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Re: Whole house fans
Old 06-20-2006, 09:08 PM   #15
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Re: Whole house fans

I had one of these in my last house - it was rarely used unless we were nostalgic for the sound of an airport ! that damn thing was so loud that I would wake up in the middle of the night thinking we were in an air raid! I am sure the new ones are quiter - but I would ask for references and then I would visit the houses to verify how LOUD they were.
PS - the few times we could tolerate the bone rattling noise, it worked great!
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Re: Whole house fans
Old 06-20-2006, 09:15 PM   #16
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Re: Whole house fans

Having both the solar attic fan and the whole house, I dont feel they're mutually exclusive. The solar fan does what it does, which is keep the attic from heating up as much and delaying thermal induction into the house.

Once the house is warmer late in the evening the whole house fan reduces the temps of the whole house and its contents, which then take longer to warm up.

On the noise thing...I have really low tolerance for noise, especially when sleeping. Both fans i put in were the cheapest direct drives from home depot and neither bothered me a bit. Just a bit of white noise. Imagine turning on pretty much any other store bought fan and sitting in the same room.
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Re: Whole house fans
Old 06-20-2006, 10:18 PM   #17
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Re: Whole house fans

Nords,

The front of our house is south facing, so the garage (with those pretty little windows in the sectional door) becomes a furnace, and I'm sure the concrete roof cooking the attic is part of it, too. I've been in the attic during the day and I am completely drenched in sweat, the tool in my hand slippery, seconds after I set foot in it. Like CFB said, I'm ready to install both.

I think my location is ideal, the outside temps never get too hot, but the sun beats down all day almost every day, so the second floor is always 15 degrees warmer than the 1st.

DW and I have also talked about getting a solar electric system installed, since again I think we are in an advantageous spot to take advantage...but that's for another day.
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Re: Whole house fans
Old 06-20-2006, 10:22 PM   #18
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Re: Whole house fans

Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurence
I've been in the attic during the day and I am completely drenched in sweat, the tool in my hand slippery
Theres a joke in here somewhere.
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Re: Whole house fans
Old 06-21-2006, 01:03 AM   #19
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Re: Whole house fans

Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurence
The front of our house is south facing, so the garage (with those pretty little windows in the sectional door) becomes a furnace, and I'm sure the concrete roof cooking the attic is part of it, too.* I've been in the attic during the day and I am completely drenched in sweat, the tool in my hand slippery, seconds after I set foot in it.* Like CFB said, I'm ready to install both.*
Ouch. I spent my time in the attic stringing conduit wiring and again putting up radiant foil insulation. I must've swapped out every water molecule in my body at least twice.

I don't know if it's sold in your neighborhood, but we put radiant foil insulation on the inside of our west-facing garage door (as well as our attics) and it immediately brought the garage's afternoon temperatures down from 95 to 80 degrees (it knocked 20 degrees off the wooden door sections). I can only imagine what it'll do for your southern exposure. Of course it doesn't help the décor, but it is a garage...
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Re: Whole house fans
Old 06-21-2006, 07:04 AM   #20
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Re: Whole house fans

Laurence,
I've had whole house fans installed in my last 2 houses. Each time I paid about $1000 to have them installed. I wouldn't be without one, it really makes a difference in the comfort of the house without running the air.
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