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AC vs. Whole House Fan: Which is Better for Your Home?

We all want a comfortable home with the right air temperature. But we don’t want to create a massive utility bill. How can we have the comfort we desire, without constantly running the A/C?

One solution to this issue is a whole house fan. They have many advantages over air conditioners, although they don’t provide the same level of cooling as a full AC unit.

So, is a whole house fan right for you?

air conditioner fan blades

What is a Whole House Fan?

A whole house fan is an exhaust system that vents a home’s air into the attic, circulating air throughout the entire building. Essentially, it consists of a fan that is installed into a system of ducts or a vent and acts as the motor for the entire ventilation process.

It pulls the air out of a home’s living space and forces it into the attic by pulling in cooler, fresh air from the outside through open windows. If the home does not have an attic, the air will be forced outside. Once inside the attic, the air is forced outward through the vents and soffits. This system not only cools the house, it also creates better attic ventilation, which can have many benefits.

Quick Note: A Whole House Fan is NOT an Attic Fan

Attic fans, which are often mistaken for whole-house fans (and vice-versa) are not the same thing. A whole-house fan moves air throughout the entire home, including the living space and attic, while an attic fan merely circulates air inside the attic.

girl opening window

How is an AC System Different?

An air conditioner, while serving many of the same purposes, is different than a whole-house fan. A central air conditioning system provides cooled air that is ventilated through the ductwork in your home.

Most air conditioners have a compressor that condenses and circulates refrigerant through an outdoor unit that changes it from a gas to a liquid and then pushes it through an evaporator coil or a cooling compartment. Then a fan circulates the inside air and passes it across the evaporator coil, cooling the air in the process. As you can see, air conditioners use a slightly more complex mechanical and chemical process to cool the air, not just replace hot air with cold air.

Benefits of Whole-House Fan

Cost, however complicated, is one of the advantages with whole-house fans. In general, the fans themselves are relatively cheap, usually ranging from $250 to over $1,500; in the grand scheme of home maintenance, this is quite small. However, the price can be escalated if any special installation or construction is required. In most cases, this will be minimal, but you may need to hire a professional to make sure the home is properly equipped for the whole-house fan.

The cost of operating a whole-house fan is also less expensive compared to an air conditioning unit. While energy usage will vary depending on how much you use it and what type of unit you have, in most cases it’s pretty much accepted that whole house systems are less expensive and use less energy.

Whole house fans can also be faster for cooling a hot home than most air conditioners. This is because the hot air is literally removed and replaced with cooler air from the outside, while air conditioners cool down the air in the home.

Compared to a complete air conditioning system, whole-house fans are often easier to install. Most are built to accommodate the current design and construction of modern homes. In many cases, you may find that installing a whole-house fan is a do-it-yourself project, with minimal assistance or professional service required.

There’s one more important benefit of whole house fans: ventilation, that is they continually replace stale indoor air. This means indoor air, which can be polluted by pet dander, dust, chemical fragrances, or smoke, is moved out of the house and replaced by fresh outdoor air. It can reduce hazards, although it should be noted that if outdoor air is polluted (from, say, wildfires or industrial pollution) then this can serve as a disadvantage.

Benefits of an Air Conditioner

An air conditioner, of course, has it’s own advantages. Primarily, the air conditioner is not dependent on outside temperatures to cool the home. If the air outside is extremely hot and humid, a whole-house fan is virtually ineffective. If you live in a hot and humid area then an air conditioning system will be your main means of air cooling.

Choosing the Right Whole House Fan for Your Home

When choosing a whole-house fan, there are some important factors you should consider. According to The Family Handyman, there are three basic types of whole-house fans currently in use. The first is a standard fan, which they say costs about $250 to $450. These are large fans that are best suited for homes in warm climates. They cost less upfront, but installation can be more time-consuming and expensive. In cold climates, you’ll need to have an insulated box or hatches to cover the ceiling vents during winter.

The next type is an insulated door-fan. This type is better for cold climates, as they come with insulated panels that open when you need to use the fan and close when you want to trap in heat. However, they do not move air as efficiently as a standard fan, but, because of the insulation, can be quieter.

Finally, there is an inline fan. Inline fans are directly attached to an exhaust port through flexible vents. They don’t move as much air as standard fans, but they do provide a quality breeze in the specific room you want to cool. They usually have damper doors similar to insulated door fans, providing insulation and better noise-dampening.

whole house fan

Can Whole House Fans be Used as Attic Fans?

As we mentioned earlier, many confuse whole-house fans and attic fans. However, whole house fans can essentially be used as attic fans, but not vice-versa. The purpose of an attic fan is to circulate air in the attic space. A whole-house fan basically serves this purpose as well, but it also circulates air in the home.

Maintenance for a Whole-House Fan

Whole-house fans are relatively light on maintenance, but there are a few things you will need to do to keep it running properly for years. Most of the work involves cleaning, not so much mechanical maintenance or replacement of parts.

By simply dusting your fan with a damp rag, you’ll remove many of the particles that can reduce its effectiveness. Dust can accumulate in the motor and cause the unit to overheat, which can lead to significant issues. If you clean the unit about once a year, it should maintain reliable performance for a long time. However, if you live in an area where you use the fan throughout the year, then you may want to clean it more often.

When cleaning, be sure the power to the fan is completely off so you don’t hurt yourself on a spinning fan blade.

In some cases, there may be the need to replace certain components, such as drive belts. Having quality belts will make sure the fan turns properly and provides the best circulation.

When Should I Consider a Whole-House Fan?

So, when should you have a whole-house fan in your home?

How do you know it’s time to install these practical and beneficial appliances?

First, if you don’t have air conditioning, and don’t want to spend the money on installing an AC system, then a whole house fan is a more convenient and affordable option.

In many climates, a whole house fan will provide enough cool air for a comfortable home throughout most of the year. On the hottest and most humid weeks, it will be difficult to get the comfort level you desire, but in moderate climates, you should consider a whole-house fan.

If you are concerned about the quality of your indoor air, then it can be a useful machine in the home. By moving air outdoors, it helps with ventilation and circulation, which can be beneficial for reducing indoor air pollution.

The Final Call: Whole-House Fan or Air Conditioning?

So, what’s the final verdict?

Should you have a whole-house fan or an air conditioning system?

The answer, in most cases, is both. For most people in the United States, having an air conditioner in the home will provide comfortable temperatures during times like July and August, times when a whole-house fan simply can’t cool off the house. However, a whole-house fan can create a comfortable home throughout the moderate seasons, especially fall and spring. During cold winters, of course, you’ll want to close up the fan’s system and use the furnace.

Helping Enhance the Air Quality in Your Home

Whether you have an air conditioner, a whole-house fan, or both, you can enhance the quality of your indoor air with an air purifier from Oransi.

We have a large selection of large and small purifiers for homes, offices, and shops, along with all the filters and accessories you need for the best purification possible. Contact our team to learn more about the benefits of an Oransi air purifier.
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