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How does a whole house fan work?

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Are you familiar with the whole house fan? Many homes come with them, but not everyone knows what to do with one. Keep reading to find out what how to use yours to come in under budget without losing your cool. 

How does a whole house fan work? 

Most whole house fans are installed in the highest floor of a house, often in the attic. They typically function by pulling your home’s hot air up and pushing it out through your attic vents, literally removing the hot air from your home in the summer. 

Unlike a ceiling fan, however, there’s more to using a whole house fan than hitting a switch or pulling a chain. Follow these dos and don’ts to make your summer a breeze—literally! 

Do: Use a whole house fan on days with low humidity 

If you live in an area that gets hot and dry in the summer, the lower cost of a whole house fan could help you save on your electric bill. For climates that toggle between dry and humid, remember these rules of thumb: 

  • “A/C”idity in humidity: Use air conditioning on humid days 

  • Triple H—Whole house hot (and dry): Hot and dry days are best for using your whole house fan  

Do: Use a whole house fan when it’s cool outside 

When you return home after a few hours or days away, your home will likely be a bit stuffy from all the stagnant air, creating a perfect opportunity to use your whole house fan. Open some windows, turn it on, and feel the noticeable shift in temperature once your whole house fan gets going.   

Don’t: Use a whole house fan with the windows closed 

If you’re going to draw air out of the house, you will need a steady supply of cooler air to replace it. Open a few windows before you turn it on to avoid creating a type of vacuum, which could cause your ears to pop, among other potential discomforts.  

The amount of windows you open matters. Opening one window means forming a wind tunnel, and opening too many means the air pull will be too spread out, causing less effective cooling. Finding the right balance may take some trial and error, but once you nail the right combination, you can start the cooling process in just a few minutes.  

Don’t: Forget to clean your machine  

As with any machine, a clogged system is an ineffective one. Don’t let dust cause your fan to overheat—take the following steps two to four times a year and maintain your whole house fan instead. 

  • Step 1: Turn off the power supply 

  • Step 2: Vacuum the blades and louvers, using a brush attachment to break any stubborn dust free 

  • Step 3: If your whole house fan has any filters, change those as needed

  • Step 4: Spray a mild cleaner, like dish soap or a gentle all-purpose cleaner, onto a soft rag 

  • Step 5: Wipe the blades, avoiding the motor  

  • Step 6: Whole house fans usually come with a cover; wipe this as well 

  • Step 7: Replace the cover, let the blades dry, and enjoy the cool!   

Now, you’ve got all the info you need to keep your home breezy and cozy all summer long. If you’ve been contemplating getting a whole house fan, check out our fan guide to see if it’s right for you. Happy cooling! 

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