What is a Whole House Fan?

Every spring in Sacramento, I get questions about how whole house fans work.

Some people move in to homes that have a whole house fan already. They don’t even think about it when they purchase the home, but once they are in the house and turn on the whole house fan, they love it!

In the Spring and Fall, I always start thinking about opening up the front door and the windows in my house and getting some of that fresh breeze coming in. When you open the windows in one room and then again in another room, the air from outside starts passively coming into your home. That air comes from the outside and slowly starts coming into your home as a very light, wispy breeze. It feels good! I remember growing up as a kid in the Midwest. Mom would have the windows open and if I was near the window, I could actually feel the air entering the home. Maybe I didn’t feel it so much on the interior of the home, but eventually after a few hours, the outdoor temperature and the indoor temperature would equalize. That’s how my mom liked to have it, and it’s even nostalgic to think about those days.

Now let’s imagine you have a fan that is mounted on the ceiling, pointing into your attic.

This fan wouldn’t be pointing down into your house, it would actually blow air into your attic. This means the air has to come from somewhere right? With a whole house fan, you open the windows of your home and turn that fan on. Now instead of having passive air flow coming into the home, you can bring that outdoor air in more actively. In a matter of minutes, you can bring the temperature outside into your home and equalize that temperature evenly and effectively.

The cost comparison to cool your home down with a whole house fan versus your air conditioner is extreme. Let’s think for a second about how much it cost to run your air conditioner. The blower motor in your home’s HVAC system that moves the air through the vents in your bedroom, living room, etc. takes about 5 to 8 amps to run it. The outdoor compressor and fan motors consume up to 20 amps. So, let’s say 28 amps to run the AC. Now let’s convert those amps into actual electricity cost. 28 amps times 240 volts to power your motors equals 6,720 watts or 6.7 kilowatt hours (kWh.) You typically use your AC more hours per day than you’ll use your whole house fan, too. Let’s say you’ll use your AC on an 80-degree day about 6 hours a day. So, 6.7 kWh multiplied by 6 hours a day equal 40.2 kWh per day. And let’s say you do that for 30 days of the month like most people. 40.2 kWh multiplied by 30 days equals 1206 kWh per month. Our local utility company, SMUD has a summer rate of 13 cents per kWh. In the spring, fall and winter it’s 11 cents per kWh. So now we just multiply your AC’s 1206 kWh usage per month (and more in the hotter parts of the summer) and multiply it by the electricity rate which is 11 cents per kWh on a typical spring 80-degree day. 1206 x 0.11 = $132.66 per month. So it costs $132.66 to effectively cool your house to comfortable standards in the spring or fall.

whole house fan sacramento

Now let’s take a look at how much it would take to run your whole house fan.

We might run it 6 hours, but more than likely you’ll kick the whole house fan on for about 2 to 6 hours a day. So let’s say 4 hours a day. The biggest Quiet Cool whole house fan runs at 1 to 8 amps. That’s it! No outdoor AC sucking 20 amps of electricity. Just a fan. Quiet Cool whole house fans are super-efficient and have a 15-year parts warranty. So let’s say your whole house fan is running at the maximum 8 amps on 120 volts of electricity. 8 amps times 120 volts, which is what your whole house fan runs on, equals only 960 watts per hour or 0.96 kWh. And let’s just say you’re using your whole house fan 6 hours a day for 30 days. That comes out to 5.76 kWh a day, and 172.8 kWh for the month. Guess what that whole house fan cost you to run for the month? Only 19 dollars… 19 dollars is only 14% of 132 dollars, which was the cost to run the AC for that same month.

Energy Efficiency in Sacramento Homes

In Sacramento homes in the downtown area, homes were designed to cool the house with the cooler air from below the house and have that air vent out the top of the house. This worked effectively for years! Amazing technology if you think about it. Whole house fans were introduced in our area as modern technology and mandates from the state forced builders to build homes tighter with less air infiltration. Whole house fans are still the most popular way to cool your house down when the temperature outside is cooler than the temperature inside.

The options you have for whole house fans are the mainstream style of whole house fans that are belt driven and have the slats on them that open and close with the fan turning on or off. We install Triangle brand whole house fans that operate this way. They are a little louder than the other styles, but I have noticed they move an exceptional amount of air with just one unit mounted in your ceiling. Check out Triangle Engineering of Arkansas, Inc at https://www.trianglefans.com for more information on these types of whole house fans.

The next option you have is Quiet Cool whole house fans.

Check them out at https://quietcoolsystems.com/homeowners/how-whole-house-fans-work/. They are a little more advanced in technology and energy consumption. The fan isn’t heard as easily, so it’s quieter than the traditional whole house fans you see in a lot of homes since the 1950’s. The reason it’s so much quieter is because there is a large duct that connects the opening in your ceiling and the can that is mounted in that opening to the actual fan that is typically suspended from the rafters in your attic about 6 feet away. These units do save more money to operate and have two, three, and four speeds on them to dial in just that right amount of airflow you are looking for. I wish now, with the Quiet Cool whole house fans I installed in my home that I would have gotten bigger models. I’ve noticed the airflow is a fraction of the amount of air the Triangle whole house fans move. It’s not a huge difference but it is noticeable, especially when I’m trying to move a lot of air quickly, say one hour before bedtime and I’m noticing it’s 65 to 70 degrees at night and it’s still 82 degrees in my upstairs bedroom. Uh oh! Now I need to move air quickly to cool this room. That’s when I wished I would have upsized my Quiet Cool whole house fan to a little bit larger one.

Overall, whole house fans are a blessing in disguise.

People who have them in their homes currently, know the benefits of having a whole house fan. In Sacramento, my customers are always reminding me that the “Delta breeze” is so nice to have on summer nights because they can shut their AC off and just turn on the whole house fan. Do some research on whole house fans and determine which style is better for you. Quiet Cool whole house fans are going to run a little more expensive than the traditional style Triangle whole house fans, so that is something to consider as well. With both of these whole house fans though, you are going to pay back your investment within a matter of a few years. And you know that now since you know how much less expensive it is to run your whole house fan compared to your AC system!

Contact Fox Family Heating, Air Conditioning and Solar in the Sacramento, CA area at 916-877-1577. You can text or call that number to set up an appt for us to come out and take a look at your home and attic space to determine with you, the best fit for your home and budget. Thanks so much for checking out this blog and good luck with your project!

Which Whole House Fan is Better, QuietCool or Triangle?

quiet cool whole house fan

What Whole House Fans Do

Are you the type of person who likes to open their windows at home?  Whole house fans are mounted in your ceiling and are used to pull cooler air from the outside of the home to the inside.  By opening your windows around the house, the whole house fan will allow air outside to come in.  This way you have fresh air coming into your home, as well as equalizing the temperatures outside and inside.

The second benefit of a whole house fan is that it cools off your attic, so the entire home can perform better, and save you energy.   Don’t confuse these with attic ventilating fans that mount on the gable vent in your attic and point outwards to vent the attic.  The difference here is, a whole house fan will complete this process much faster and probably lower the temperature in your attic more than an attic fan will.

Fox Family carries two types of whole house fans, the QuietCool brand and Triangle brand.  We love them both, but for different reasons, and people usually find themselves really liking one or the other.

QuietCool is a brand that has stormed the industry with innovative thinking and low energy usage fans.   They started up in 2003 out of Temecula, California.  Triangle Whole House Fans are the more traditional style fans.  They are a little bigger and might run at a little higher decibel rating, but they move a ton of air very quickly.  We’ll talk more about that later.

Getting straight to it, I want to point out the features of both fans, and then let you decide which one is best for your home.

QuietCool Fans

The first whole house fan I got for my home was a QuietCool whole house fan.  I was drawn to it because as an HVAC technician, I liked the idea of attaching a flexible duct to the grille that you see in the hallway and placing the fan on the other side of the 10 ft duct.  This insulates the sound of the fan.  QC offers different capacities of fans and a very useful and easy to use sizing formula featured on their website.

The formula on the QuietCool website suggests sizing a system for between 2 and 3 cubic feet per minute, or CFMs, per square ft of your home.  This means if your home is 1,000 sq ft, you’ll want a system that can move between 2,000 and 3,000 cfms of air.  You can then proceed to check out different models and find the Trident Pro 2.5 and Trident Pro 3.3, both of which will move 2,500 to 3,300 cfms of air.

The technology I like about QC fans is in the insulated damper that shuts off any access to the attic when the system is turned off.  This also prevents heat from the attic from coming into the home when the fan is turned off.

In 2011, QuietCool became the first to incorporate ECM motors with the fan.  These motors run quietly and at lower amperages than regular PSC motors.  PSC motors are the ones that you’ve seen on traditional whole house fans since the 1960’s.  They require a capacitor to run properly.  If the capacitor fails, the motor won’t work, and you’ll have to replace the capacitor before the motor will work again. ECM motors are electronically commutating motors.

QuietCool ECM Motors

A point I want to make here about speeds.  In studying the QuietCool ECM motors in the Stealth Pro line, I found that they operate better at lower fan speeds.  A case in point is with my own two-story, 2200 square ft home.  I installed the 1.5 Trident Pro in the master bedroom ceiling, near the door.

I put a 3.3 Trident Pro at the top of my stairs on the second floor.  (See the link at the end of this post to watch my installation video.)   When I turned them on for the first time, I wasn’t really happy with the volume of air it was moving.  It was nice but, I guess I was looking for more.

Since then, I always recommend to people they get the biggest one they can afford and use the 3-speed switches provided by the manufacturer and adjust the airflow accordingly.  You’ll find that the motors run more efficiently at lower speeds.  Okay, point made about QuietCool’s volume issues.  I’ve mentioned it a few times before.

Triangle Whole House Fans

When you mention traditional style whole house fans, people think about loud, whirring helicopters rumbling in their homes.  And QuietCool does a good job of making that point on their website.  But let’s look at an American classic, the CC Series of Triangle Whole House Fans.

As a technician working in hot attics, I noticed how much more air these traditional style whole house fans seemed to be moving.   In fact, we’ll turn these whole house fans on during hotter days so we can bring the temperature of the home up into the attic, which is at times 30-40 degree warmer!  And the homeowner has fresh ambient temperatures coming into the home.

The blades are larger, thicker and more durable than QuietCool’s.  The belt drive is the secret to its quiet nature.  The motor sits on top of the frame instead of near the ceiling joists.  This reduces the vibration and noise from the fan blade.  You really have to hear it to believe it.  (See the link at the end of this post to watch my installation video.)  All the noisy traditional style fans I’ve seen were old — maybe 15 years or older – some even older!

By choosing a new quality-built fan, not some big box store whole house fan, you’ll feel and hear the difference in sound and volume of air once it’s installed.  Think of these as luxury cruisers of the whole house fans.

How Much Air Do They Really Move?

QuietCool fans are sized in 1.5 for 1500 cfms, 2.5, 3.3, 4.8, 5.5, 6.0 and 7.0 models.  So, 7000 cfms is the max you can get from a QuietCool fan.  Triangle fans are sized in 24”, 30”, 36” around here.  They do have a 42” and 48” but we don’t have them around here.  The most common 36” fan moves over 9700 cfms of air, almost 3000 cfms more than QuietCool’s biggest fan.  That’s pretty impressive to me.

Where Are They Installed?

Both of these fans are ceiling mounted.  The triangle fan is mounted on top of the ceiling joist in the attic, bringing the fan blade further back to reduce noise, with no cutting involved.  The QuietCool fans can also be installed between the ceiling joists without having to cut anything.

Most people don’t create a whole new dedicated circuit for these fans, instead, it’s more typical to tie into the existing HVAC circuit for the furnace.  This is because nobody runs both the whole house fan and their furnace or air conditioner at the same time.

DIY or Contractor?

The best DIYers can install these themselves.  A little electrical knowledge about switches and proper ventilation of the attic will go a long way installing these.  Be sure to check out the card at the end of this video if you’d like to see an install.  If you do need a little more help with installing a whole house fan here in the Sacramento area, we’d love to be the company that gets to do that for you.  And if you’d like to learn more about how whole house fans work, you can also check out my post What is a Whole House Fan?

A Word About Warranties

The QuietCool Systems come with a 15-year warranty.  Triangle Whole House fans only offer a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty.  So that’s kind of lopsided there.  QuietCool says they will replace any part that fails for the warranty of that system.  When I searched the website of Triangle Engineering, I couldn’t find the warranty info on the whole house fans, although they confirmed their warranty by phone.

What do you think?  Have you seen or heard these older style fans?  What do you think about them?  And what do you think about QuietCool’s fan?  Is it strong enough?  Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Thanks so much for tuning in this week on our blog.  See you next week!

Don’t miss our video on this topic:

See also

Installation of a Triangle Whole House Fan

Installation of a QuietCool Whole House Fan

After Mild Start to Summer, 100 Degree Temps Linger in Sacramento

100-degree days linger in Sacramento

Week long stretches of high temps continue

This summer has been almost as screwy as this past winter.  Mark Finan on KCRA News says we usually have about 22 days above 100 degrees every year.  Sacramentans are used to the high temps and don’t normally panic until it hits the 90’s.  While 100 degree temps linger in Sacramento, this is when the service calls ramp up for HVAC companies in this area.  This summer started out with some cooler temperatures in June and is surprising us later in August with some week long stretches of 100-degree temps that we usually experience in July.

The hottest month of the year is typically July, without a doubt.  June, which usually heats up, only had 13 days total over 90 degrees while July had 19 days total over 90 degrees.  But this year we only had two days over 100 degrees in July and only four in June.  This was really surprising for us at Fox Family because we are typically running our vans all over town, running AC service calls and trying to get folks cool again.

A Break from high temps

Don’t get me wrong.  We were running all over town, but usually it’s so slammed we can’t get to everyone.  People end up calling around until they find a company that can come out the same day.  We still had a little bit of that, but not to the extent we usually experience.  The weather this summer was letting us catch up after a brief heatwave so we could be ready for the next wave of calls.  A welcome experience for sure!

While we usually average low 90’s to mid-’80s by now, this August has just been progressively warming up.  We started with some low 90’s but it just kept getting warmer and warmer.  As we enter the last week of August, we have nothing but high 90’s and 100-degree temps in the 10-day forecast.

Stretches of High Temps linger

If most people’s AC’s were going to break this year, it usually happens in that Late May-June-July madness.  With 100 degree temps lingering, I imagine several systems will break down towards the end of August.  These long stretches of high temps really take a toll on AC systems.  It’s those long stretches where systems that are running and running and running all day long start wearing out.  Condenser fan motors and compressors that are starting and stopping repetitively weaken as the stretches linger on.

Looking Ahead

I’m really wondering what September and October will bring.  Those months are usually ones where service calls and system replacement estimates are few and far between.  I imagine it will follow that trend but, wow what a late summer it turned out to be!  I expect the calls that we do get during those months will be for whole house fans which are great for bringing in the outside air on the cool days.  This cools off the walls, floors and ceilings so the house doesn’t heat up so easily as it does on the hot summer days.  See our videos on whole house fans below.

What’s Your Plan for 100 degree days?

While 100 degree temps linger in Sacramento, how are you staying cool during these late months of summer?  Hopefully your system is nice and cool with a perfectly functioning AC system.  I know we are going camping for the weekend up in the higher elevations of the El Dorado National Forest.  Snow melting off the peaks of the mountains are literally draining right into the reservoirs down below which makes for some seriously icy waters to go take a swim in.  Sounds like a perfect way to cool off!

Let me know in the comments below how you are beating the heat this summer.

Thanks so much for stopping by and we’ll see you on the next blog topic!

Don’t Miss Our Videos on These Related Topics:

How to Install a Whole House Fan

Quiet Cool Whole House Fans vs Traditional Style House Fans