I chose to use a whole house fan more than I use my air conditioner, and I have been reaping tons of benefits ever since! Countless families have made this same switch to a simple and trusted cooling device.
Whole house fans can replace air conditioning systems in many climates. It is a great solution for the high energy bills caused by an AC running almost nonstop during hot summer days.
Whole house fans can also improve the quality of air inside your living space as it draws the naturally cool refreshing air from outside and then uses it to ventilate your home.
Here is a side-by-side comparison between a whole house fan and AC:
whole house fan
|Lower upfront and installation cost: $1900 - $2950||
Higher upfront and installation cost: $3,800 - $7,200
Less expensive to operate: consumes only 10% of the energy used by AC
Consumes a high amount of energy
Uses fresh air from outside to cool the entire house
Removes heat from within house by a mechanical refrigeration system
Creates a nice, steady breeze because of 30 to 60 air changes per hour, pulling in the cool air and pushing out the hot air
Cools your home gradually until it reaches the desired temperature
|Easy to clean with fewer complex components||
More time-consuming and expensive to clean because of more complicated parts
Longer life span: 20 to 30 years
Shorter life span: 15 to 20 years
Before you run out to purchase a whole house fan and auction off your AC unit, there are a few things that you should know first, namely, its benefits, limitations, and whether this cooling option fits your climate and home needs.
Many people are easily confused by the differences between whole house fans and attic fans. This is understandable since they perform closely related functions and ultimately have the same goal: keeping your home temperature cool and pleasant.
Here are some differences:
As you can see, a whole house fan is definitely not the same as an attic fan.
As the whole house fan pulls cool air from outside through the open windows, it pushes up the hot air towards the attic. The attic fan’s job is to remove the hot air buildup and release it through the roof vents.
So while whole house fans and attic fans can go TOGETHER, one is not a replacement for the other. Although some people tend to compare these two fans as if one is better than the other, they actually work hand-in-hand to keep your home comfortable during hot summer days.
Now that you understand the differences between whole house fans and attic fans, we will look at the benefits of a whole house fan much closer and why more and more residents are opting for this “cooler change”.
The total costs of purchasing a new whole house fan including installation fees, maintenance and repairs, and more importantly, energy consumption is far lower in comparison to the expense of an air conditioner.
How much will it cost you to purchase a whole house fan? Although it depends on the size and type of the fan that fits your attic and in proportion to the square footage of your house, the fan itself will only cost you $300 to $1,400.
Even when you include the labor or installation expense, which can range from $700 - $950, whole house fans will still be about FIVE TIMES LESS EXPENSIVE than purchasing and installing an AC unit!
Unless you are pretty skilled with machinery and their inner workings, cleaning and repair service for an air conditioner must be done by an expert technician. On average, residents pay $500 for inspection and cleaning of their furnace and AC unit.
On the other hand, the upkeep for the whole house fan rarely calls for professional maintenance. Because of its simple design and mechanism, it only requires cleaning once or twice a year, more if you live in a place where dust easily accumulates and your fan is used almost year-round.
It also does not require the mechanical maintenance or replacement of components as much as an AC does.
An air conditioning unit could be your go-to device to cool your home during those long hot summers. Some residents have their AC running for almost the entire day. But you know what comes next: outrageous electric bills!
A report released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration in 2015, says “air conditioning accounts for about 12% of U.S. home energy expenditures.”
It went on to show that AC costs are averaging between $262 in moderate mixed-humid regions to $525 in the hot-humid region.
How does the whole house fan solve this costly problem? Well, whole house fans can deliver superb ventilation without the use of much energy. In fact, it makes use of only one-tenth of the energy consumed by an AC. Imagine how much savings that would be!
An average-sized whole house fan costs $0.02 to $0.07 per hour to operate, while an average reverse cycle air conditioner costs $0.25 – $0.35 per hour. One homeowner reported that they used to pay $700 on electricity bills during summers. But when they started to employ a whole house fan as their main cooling system, the energy cost went down to $200!
You may wonder: How can a mere fan accomplish that?
The process of cooling starts when the outdoor temperature is near or lower than the desired indoor temperature. Through the open windows and doors the whole house fan draws in the cool air from outdoors and into the house. The hot air, in turn, will be pulled up to the attic and released through the roof vents.
This simple process can cool the entire house in a matter of minutes. That is significantly faster than an average air conditioner takes to cool the entire house.
By now, you may be convinced that a whole house fan is a better option to cool your home. You should remember, though, that your decision should depend primarily on where you live.
Whole house fans work best in climates where days are hot but the evenings and early mornings are cool.
Whole house fans also do well in places with low humidity. Because a whole house fan has no impact on humidity, an air conditioner or dehumidifier have this as an advantage. To learn more on how an air conditioner works, click here.
More modern designs of whole house fans can work in other climates. It can complement your AC perfectly and still help you to lower energy bills. How?
You can turn on your whole house fan first to remove the hot air confined in your home. It will be replaced by cool outside air, especially in the evenings until the early part of the mornings.
Then, when the temperature outside gets warmer, your AC comes on to cool your space to a comfortable temperature. The air conditioner also will help with allergies if you have the right features.
There are four key ways to calculate the proper size of a whole house fan for your home.
Since whole house fans pull hot air into the attic make sure that your home has sufficient relief openings such as roof vents. The Department of Energy strongly suggests two to four times the normal area of attic vents for proper ventilation, or “one square foot of net free area for every 750 cubic feet per minute of fan capacity”.
An average of four to five hours is what has been the suggested operating time of a whole house fan. NEVER use it while your AC is on as it would waste a lot of energy and would translate to higher energy costs. That's the opposite of what you’re trying to do!
Some recommend running the whole house fan all night to take advantage of the cooler temperatures outside. If the inside gets cool enough, you may not even have to turn your AC on the next day.
Replacing windows isn’t something most of us do every year so when the time comes to make this sizable investment in your home comfort there is a lot to consider.
Whether your concern is ecological or economic, or maybe a little of both, the buzz around energy efficient products, including windows, is hard to ignore. Of course, that efficiency comes with a higher price tag and even bigger money-saving claims.
So, are they worth the extra cost? Will they really pay for themselves over time?
The answer to those questions will vary depending on why you’re interested in energy efficient windows.
If you’re considering energy-efficient windows to make your home more “green” then deciding if they’re worth it or not will hinge on where you are in the journey to make a comfortable, eco-friendly home.
If the one and only reason you’re considering energy-efficient windows is to save money on your monthly utility bills, then the answer is a bit simpler….no they’re not worth it and they probably won’t pay for themselves over time.
Most of us fall into a category between only being concerned with the eco-friendly factor and only being concerned with saving on utility bills. Therefore, it makes sense to take a deeper dive into the pros and cons, how these specially designed windows work, and ultimately what effect they can have on your home's heating and cooling systems.
Energy efficient windows are designed differently with improved components that make the most of the energy consumed in your home. From the frame material to the multiple panes of glass with the low emissivity coatings to the gases filling the spaces between the panes, these windows are quite impressive in what they can do!
They are an additional line of defense against losing all the heat your furnace works so hard to produce in the winter as well as the invading heat your air conditioner works so hard to remove in the summer.
Traditional windows would typically have wooden or aluminum frames while energy efficient windows are often made of fiberglass or vinyl.
Aluminum frames conduct heat very easily so heat and cold can pass on either side of your home without much resistance. It would be considered the least energy efficient frame. They are also energy-intensive to manufacture but easy to recycle.
Wooden accents in a home are of course pretty and wood window frames can provide excellent insulation. Because wood has low conductivity, they transfer less heat or cold into your home.
However, wood frames add to the cost of an already more expensive option especially when factoring in additional maintenance such as painting or staining. You might have to contend with mold, rot, termites, and other bugs, shrinkage, or swelling if the frames are not correctly installed and maintained.
When considering the eco-friendly nature of wood frames, forest management will come up because trees must be cut down to make them.
Between fiberglass and vinyl, vinyl frames are more affordable. They are better insulators because they do not conduct heat as well as aluminum and other types of frames, and more long-lasting than wooden frames.
Contrary to popular opinion, vinyl is stable, non-toxic to the environment, nor does it really present any danger to the health of the homeowners. The environmental concerns about vinyl are related to the chemicals made in the process of making it and disposal at the end of its use.
Though vinyl may be more affordable, fiberglass will likely last longer. Fiberglass window are up to eight times stronger than vinyl which means that while a good quality vinyl frame can last up to 30 years, a fiberglass window can last 50 years or more with very little maintenance.
If you’re planning on staying in your home for the long haul or want to use it as a selling point to the next owners (and the next and the next) fiberglass may be the way to go. Due to its ability to withstand all forces of nature the biggest negative environmental concern of fiberglass is at its disposal.
The main concern should be how effective the window is at keeping heat where it is wanted. With that in mind the choice between wood, vinyl, or fiberglass comes down to three factors:
Unlike regular windows which have a single pane of glass, energy efficient windows have either double sheets of glass with a gap in between of usually about 16mm, or triple panes with two gaps.
Multiple glass panes help in slowing down the passage of hot air in or out of your home and lower the chance of energy used up by your running your air conditioner or furnace getting wasted, which ultimately makes your window energy efficient.
An almost invisible low-emissivity coating is applied to the glass to help reflect heat. According to energy.gov low-e coatings typically cost about 10% to 15% more than regular windows, but they reduce energy loss by as much as 30% to 50%.
Some low-e films are available for DIY and may be a way to save energy without replacing your entire window.
As it is, the space created by the multiple panes of glass will serve as “air pockets” that will prevent the heat from passing in or out your home so easily.
Specialized windows would even fill it with gases that are inert, non-toxic, clear, and odorless such as argon and krypton for better insulation. Krypton has better thermal performance but more costly than argon.
Not to be mistaken for the gaps between the sheets of glass, spacers maintain the correct distance between the layers of glazing. They allow for thermal expansion and pressure differences but also protect from moisture and gas leaks in your windows.
You could choose between metal, non-metal, and metal hybrids spacers that can aid in heat transfer reduction.
A lot of factors go into the design and construction of energy efficient windows. These specially designed components work together to keep heat where you want it – in or out of your home.
There are pros to energy efficient windows beyond the utility savings. Some manufacturers claim 90 to 97% of UV rays from direct sunlight can be blocked by energy-efficient windows.
This keeps your home from heating up as quickly which lessens the load on your air conditioner. Not only does that lower your utility bill but it will keep you more comfortable by decreasing the intensity of the heat in the first place.
Even more important and more savings is a longer life for both your furnace and air conditioner.
The sunblock will also protects your flooring, fabrics, and furniture from rapid fading due to excessive sun exposure. As one with an east facing living area, I can personally attest to the damage that can be done to expensive furnishings by direct sunlight.
Keeping furnaces, air conditioners, and furnishings in use as long as possible definitely contributes to the environmentally friendly and wallet friendly aspect of energy efficient windows!
The cons obviously start with cost.
To decide whether you will replace your windows with energy-efficient ones, you should factor in the cost versus the total savings. At the time of writing the average cost of energy-efficient windows is between $385 to $785 per window, while the installation will cost about $38 per hour.
Department of Energy claim a savings of $125 to $465 a year, while the ENERGY STAR-certified products guarantee a savings of $101–$583 a year if you replace single-pane windows with double-pane.
The trouble with this is often the “average” price is lower than most actually end of paying and the savings much lower.
Just as we mentioned in our article about two-stage furnaces, the savings with more efficient products can be inflated due to the location and conditions in which they were tested or even more importantly which products they are being compared to.
For example, many tests done with energy efficient windows compare them to single-pane windows, which most homes don’t have any more.
If you already have double-paned, vinyl windows that were properly installed then your monthly savings, as well as, any change in home comfort will be much less than reported.
However, if you are living with older single-paned window in need of repair or can no longer be repaired then the saving will be worth the upgrade.
Another potential con is that you will only benefit from the pros if you have already taken care of the biggest leaks in your home that cause the most energy consumption.
These are typically found in the basement, crawlspace, and walls. In most homes, windows are usually not the biggest sources of air leakage.
Before upgrading your windows seal all gaps and cracks in your crawlspace or basement. Make sure you have optimal levels of insulation. Sealing your crawlspace or basement should be next and then it’s time to talk about windows!
Even if you’re in need of window replacements now because your existing windows don’t function properly and can’t be repaired (or maybe you just really hate the look of them), taking care of the attic and basement first will allow you to reap the full benefits of your new windows!
Replacing old windows or choosing windows for a new build is an expensive decision that you’re probably hoping to only do once or twice so it’s important to get it right.
They can have an impact on your monthly utility bills and the longevity of your furnace and air conditioning system.
If you answer yes to three or more of these statements, then energy efficient windows might be right for you:
Thankfully, there is no right or wrong answer to whether energy efficient windows are worth it. It only matters if they are worth it to you! Enjoy the home you are in!
I have been contending with seasonal allergies since I was a kid. If you have experienced any type of allergies you’re probably like me and have tried any number of lotions, potions, or pots (read Neti Pot not the other kind!) to find some relief.
After living in an old farmhouse with no air conditioning at all to now having Wi-fi enabled A/C that can be adjusted at my every whim I can say with certainty that air conditioning is one of the most reliable and accessible ways to cope with allergies, and not just seasonal allergies.
Many people blame their A/C for spreading allergens throughout their home. Even on the symptoms, like headaches.
But, if your air conditioner is regularly cleaned and well-maintained, it is extremely helpful in dealing with allergies. Here are the important facts about air conditioning and allergies everyone should know about:
Before we discuss how your allergy attacks can be prevented by your air conditioner, we need to know more about this particular bodily reaction: allergies.
An allergy is a reaction of one person’s immune system when exposed to an unknown substance. This substance could either be pollen from flowers, venom from bees, skin flakes in an animal’s fur or hair, or a specific type of food.
The Mayo Clinic, a not-for-profit organization well-known for its medical research, education, and clinical practice, explained how a person develops an allergy. “An allergy starts when your immune system mistakes a normally harmless substance for a dangerous invader. The immune system then produces antibodies that remain on the alert for that particular allergen. When you're exposed to the allergen again, these antibodies can release a number of immune system chemicals, such as histamine, that cause allergy symptoms.”
The good news is that although some types of allergies cannot be cured, there are ways to treat the symptoms and relieve you from the discomfort.
There are seven major types of allergy: drug allergy, food allergy, latex allergy, pet allergy, mold allergy, pollen allergy, and insect allergy.
Since we are discussing how your air conditioning system can help you treat your allergies, we will focus more on the last four types which are airborne.
Modern research shows that the overall temperature, indoor humidity or dampness, and indoor fungal growth has continued to increase worldwide in recent years. These do not just mean a muggier and irritatingly hotter climate, but most allergic reactions are triggered by and flourish in these conditions.
Your air conditioner is not just efficient in keeping your home cool and comfortable, but it also keeps your allergies and its triggers as far away from you as possible. How so?
There are two ways air conditioning helps with managing and preventing allergies. A clean and well maintained A/C unit can: 1) filter out allergens from your living space, and 2) improve the quality of indoor air.
With our doors and windows wide open, we hope to invite the cool fresh air in. However, pollen, animal dander, dust, and mold also stream from outside and invade the air of our private space.
That is why the Mayo Clinic advises allergy sufferers to close all doors and windows and rely on air conditioning for comfort, especially during the pollen season.
The World Allergy Organization Journal also recommends residential air filtration as a crucial component in controlling the environment to help patients with allergic respiratory disease.There are several air filtration devices you can choose from:
Some people may define a good quality indoor air as the natural fresh air coming from outside. Unfortunately for allergy sufferers this is not the case. For much of the year pollen, dust, dander, and more come in from outside, lowering the quality of the air in your home.
A well-maintained air conditioner can efficiently cool and dehumidify your home so you can keep the doors and windows closed and allergens to a minimum. As your A/C draws in the hot air from your house and replaces it with cold air, it also is removing plenty of harmful particles from the air, including common allergens. You may know this information already about your A/C. But what most people may not realize is that a tiny creature called the dust mite is also being targeted by the A/C.
The house dust mite is one of the main causes of a year-round allergy in homes worldwide. Their body parts and wastes trigger asthma and other respiratory allergies to some people.These minuscule arthropods like to live in places with 70% to 80% humidity. If a house is extremely humid and warm, dust mites can survive for the whole year!
Since almost all dwellings contain some dust mites, they are practically inescapable. However, their effects could be reduced by keeping the humidity level in your home to 50% or lower. Your A/C acts as a dehumidifier and in many cases is sufficient to maintain those levels.
However, in some instances and climates it may be necessary to combine an air conditioner with a whole-house dehumidifier to reduce the chances of allergy attacks caused by dust mites.
Although the air conditioning system has the potential to control the allergens in your living space and provide excellent indoor air quality for your home, it could be a double-edged sword.
Instead of helping you manage your allergies, a poorly maintained A/C can make air quality worse if the filter is not replaced regularly or cleaned if it is the washable type. Since it traps allergens such as pollen, dust and pet dander, over time these particles build up in the filter.
Running an air conditioner with a dirty filter will prevent it from functioning properly and eventually it will stop altogether. In the meantime, air forced through a clogged filter circulates the allergy triggers back to the indoor air.
The same can be true for the buildup of humidity, which can occur because of a congested filter. If the A/C is also not regularly checked for refrigerant leaks, the inside of your home could be more humid than ever.
How often you replace your filter will depend on the circumstances of your home. The minimum is once a year. You may want to increase it to twice a year if you have pets, live in a dusty or humid environment, or have severe allergies. A client with a woodworking shop in his basement changed the filter once a month so consider the activities in your home when deciding how often to change your filter.
Having your heating and air conditioning systems cleaned by a professional annually will also alert you to any potential weak spots in your indoor air quality. They should also be able to suggest how often you need to change your filter.
There are several ways to properly maintain your air conditioner that are easy and inexpensive: