This whole house fan guide provides comprehensive research on these money-saving, house-cooling alternative to air conditioning. All the information is below.
However, some of you are here to see our top picks, make your purchase and get on with your day. That’s why we start with the top whole house fans with the option to buy.
Top Whole House Fan Reviews
Top Whole House Fan Brands
A handful of high-quality whole house fan brands account for more than 85% of the units sold.
Here are the best whole house fan brands and what they offer.
QuietCool Whole House Fans
This is the leading brand in the whole house fan market – by far. QuietCool makes two lines: Classic and Energy Saver.
Both are ducted, which means that the fan is 6 feet away from the ceiling opening. The fan and insulated, flexible duct is supported by straps attached to the roof trusses. The design reduces vibration noise.
QuietCool makes two lines. The CL/Classic line is less expensive but uses a PSC fan that consumes more energy.
The ES/Energy Saver line uses a ECM motor that reduces energy use by up to 35%.
Both lines include fans from about 1,500 to 7,000 CFM to serve homes from about 1,000 to 4,500 square feet.
Tamarack Technologies / TamTech
Tamarack makes a diverse lineup of whole house fans.
Tamarack Technologies’ most popular fans are standard ceiling-mount whole house fans with heavily insulated (R38 and R50) automatic doors.
TamTech makes two other whole house fan types that our readers might be interested in.
The first is a high-end (and expensive) “Ghost” line of ceiling mounted whole house fans. They are designed to withstand “continuous use” applications – locations where they never shut off such as light commercial applications like a machine shop.
The other type is designed for homes without attics. These fans mount to the underside of a roof or an inside wall. CFM values aren’t as high, so they might not cool off your home as quickly but they get the job done.
This brand focuses on affordable whole house fans in both belt-drive (quieter but slightly more expensive) and direct-drive models. The fans include passive shutters.
Airflow causes them to open when the fan is on, and close when the fan is off. They are not insulated, so many homeowners cover the fan with a piece or two or roll insulation once the fan season is over.
This brand competes with QuietCool by offering similar performance at a lower price. The quality is still quite good – Comfort Cool fans get excellent ratings.
These are ducted inline fans with a housing that attaches to roof joists with an opening in the ceiling. The duct and fan are suspended from straps in the attic. This reduces noise by distance and by eliminating vibration.
This brand makes something for everyone – Direct drive, belt drive and ducted inline whole house fans. Of particular note is Ventamatic’s WiFi whole house fans in several sizes to fit most homes.
In our opinion, Ventamatic quality is above average, but at a higher cost. If you’re willing to pay more to get a better whole house fan, then this is a brand to consider.
Best Whole House Fans 2021
There are several different kinds of whole house fans, so we don’t just put a list of models together.
Instead, we break down the best fans into popular categories that will help you select the best choice for your home.
To learn more about any fan, just click the no-obligation price link.
Overall Best Selling Whole House Fan
QuietCool QC Original Classic Fan
This is a ducted whole house fan with 6 sizes for homes from 1,000 to 4,500 square feet. The motor is in an insulated duct 6 feet away from the ceiling opening, not right above your living space, so it is quiet. Follow the link to find the size you need.
Most Efficient Whole House Fan
QuietCool QC Energy Saver Fan
This is the QuietCool version with a super-efficient ECM motor that reduces energy use by 20% to 35%. Choose from 6 models to cool from 1,000 to 4,500 square feet!
Best Affordable Whole House Fan
Cool Attic CX24DDWT Whole House Attic Fan
Cool Attic CX24DDWT Direct Drive 2-Speed Whole House Attic Fan with Shutter, 24 Inch
Save 90% on a fan compared to a central air conditioner. Then save up to 90% on cooling your home. That’s great value!
Best Direct Drive Whole House Fan
Ventamatic CX242DDWTHUB Whole House Fan with Wi-Fi Controls
This is a WiFi whole house fan! Use the app and your smartphone to turn it on when you leave an evening activity, and your home will be cool and comfortable when you arrive.
Best Belt Drive Whole House Fan
TPI BD302WHS Belt Drive Whole House Fan – 30”
A belt-drive whole house fan is quieter than a direct-drive. This whole house fan combines proven quality with reliability for years of affordable cooling.
Best Insulated Whole House Fan
Tamarack Insulated HV1000Whole House Fan
Thick (R38) insulating foam panels automatically shut when the fan isn’t running, so your living space is protected from summer heat and winter cold. Ideal for cool/cold climates.
A remote kit is available to add convenience to your cooling!
Best Value Ducted Whole House Fan
Comfort Cool Deluxe 4800 Whole House Fan
Comfort Cool Deluxe 4800 18 in. Direct Drive Whole House Fan 3396 CFM with Wireless Remote Control
QuietComfort isn’t the only quality brand of ducted whole house fans. Comfort Cool makes very solid products at a lower price. The Deluxe 4800 offers excellent performance for less.
Best Whole House Fan for Homes Without Attic
Tamarack R-10 Whole House Fan
Tamarack 1000 CFM R-10 Insulated Roof or Wall Mount Whole House Fan
No attic? No problem. This roof and wall mount whole house fan is designed for A-frames, mobile homes and other dwellings without an attic.
Our research team works to bring our readers comprehensive information. The goal is to be useful as you make a buying decision. Why else are you here?
So, we don’t sell or promote, but simply provide accurate information. It starts with whole house fan FAQs, moves to whole house fan pros and cons and goes deeper from there.
Whole House Fan FAQs: Types and Basics
1. What is a whole house fan?
It is an appliance designed to quickly exchange warm inside air for cool outside air. To be effective, a whole house fan is turned on once the outside temperature drops below the inside temperature of your home.
Whole house fans are installed in the ceiling between your home’s living space and the attic. They are equipped with powerful motors that pull outside air in through open windows. The warm air in your home is pushed into your home’s attic and out through vents there – ridge vents, gable vents, roof vents and/or soffit vents.
Attic vent capacity is an important topic addressed later.
2. Why types of whole house fans are available?
The two basic types are non-ducted (traditional) and ducted whole house fans that allow the fan to be further away from living space.
The most common type is non-ducted. The fan assembly is installed on ceiling joists. A rectangular hole is cut in the ceiling drywall, and a grill is installed to cover the hole. The fan is plugged into an outlet in the attic and operated by a wall switch, remote or app. Non-ducted fans cost less but are noisier.
Non-Ducted Whole House Fan
A belt-drive whole house fan will cost 20% more but reduces decibels with a noise-reducing rubber/synthetic belt that is driven by the motor and turns the fan.
Belt-Drive Whole House Fan
Ducted whole house fans, the second type, are growing in popularity. A piece of flexible duct, usually 6 feet long, separates the fan from the ceiling grill. There are two ways this reduces noise. First, the fan is further (6 feet further) from the ceiling opening. Secondly, the fan is suspended by straps. It isn’t connected directly to the home’s framing, so vibration noise is eliminated.
Ducted Whole House Fan
3. What is the difference between a whole house fan and an attic fan?
The terms once meant the same thing. In fact, attic fan was the more common term.
The term “attic fan” now often refers to an attic ventilation fan, a fan with the sole purpose of pushing out excess heat in the attic. They are installed in your roof or an attic wall, not in the ceiling, and they don’t pull as much air into your windows. Instead, they pull cool air into the attic through attic vents – and the fan pushes hot air out of the attic. Attic vent fans are helpful because a cooler attic means a cooler home and more longevity for asphalt shingles or wood shakes that might be on the roof. But attic fans, or attic ventilation fans, are not powerful enough to do the work of a whole house fan.
4. Attic fans are rated by CFM – What does it mean?
CFM means cubic feet per minute. Consider a box that is 12” inches long, wide and high. A perfect square that holds one cubic foot of air.
Now think about whole house fans that are rated from 1,400 to 7,000 CFM! They move a lot of air.
5. What size fan do I need? What CFM is right for my home?
Your fan should exchange the air in your home every few minutes for the most efficient cooling.
Keep in mind that the faster your home can be cooled down, the less time you have to run the fan, and the lower your energy costs will be.
There are two approaches – standard cooling and “breeze” cooling.
Standard cooling: For standard cooling, the CFM of the whole house fan should be 1.5 to 2 times the square feet in your home. So, a 2,000 square foot home requires a fan that is 3,000 to 4,000 CFM. This should cool the home within 30 minutes and keep it cool. This seems like a long time when the air is exchanged in just a few minutes. But keep in mind that it’s not just the air that is hot – everything in the house is hot…framing, drywall, flooring, furniture and your belongings. Those things will continue to give off heat for quite a while.
With standard cooling, you will probably feel some air movement if you’re standing near an open window, but probably wouldn’t call it a “breeze.”
- 1,500 square feet: 2,250-3,000 CFM
- 2,000 square feet: 3,000-4,000 CFM
- 2,500 square feet: 3,750-5,000 CFM
- 3,000 square feet: 4,500-6,000 CFM
Breeze cooling: If you enjoy a cool breeze while your home is being cooled and want it cooled within 15 minutes, then a ratio of 2.5 to 3.0 CFM to square feet is recommended.
- 1,500 square feet: 3,750-4,500 CFM
- 2,000 square feet: 5,000 to 6,000 CFM
- 2,500 square feet: 6,250-7,500 CFM
- 3,000 square feet: 7,500-9,000 CFM (few whole house fans are more than 8,000 CFM).
Whole House Fan vs. Central Air Conditioning: When a Fan is a Better Choice
Using a whole-house fan to cool your home has the potential to reduce your cooling costs by 50% to 90% and still keep you cool.
That’s the goal, of course, to be comfortable. You could do nothing but use a magazine as a fan and reduce your potential costs by 100%, but that wouldn’t keep you cool.
Your climate is the ultimate guide to whether a whole-house fan is a good idea. So, let’s go climate zone by climate zone to discuss your options.
The hotter your climate is, the more cooling power you’ll need to stay comfortable.
Here’s how you might stay cool and save money with a whole house fan.
Zones 1 & 2 (hot) – Potential savings of 33%: In these climates, a whole house fan can’t replace central air conditioning during the hottest months. But in the spring and fall when daytime temps are warm but nights are cool, a whole house fan can do the job. This is especially true as in the Mountain states and Southwest where humidity levels are lower and the air cools significantly at night.
In warm, muggy climates, once you begin to use central air conditioning, you should stick with it. Turn off the whole house fan and leave it off. Pulling in humid air, even if slightly cooler, will make your AC work much harder during the day to get rid of the moisture. Your home won’t be very comfortable, and your energy costs will go up.
Zones 3 &4 (warm) – Potential savings of 50%: Spring and fall aren’t quite as warm in this zone as in Zones 1 and 2, so the whole house fan can be used for an extra month or two during the year without having to rely on central air conditioning.
Zone 5 & 6 (cool) – Potential savings of 67%: Central air conditioning is more of a convenience than a necessity in this zone. Many homeowners use a whole house fan for most of their cooling needs and central air conditioning or a window air conditioner in the central living area on the hottest days. Our Window Air Conditioner Guide is full of useful information about the pros and cons of these units.
Zone 7 (very cold) – Potential savings up to 90%: When summer highs rarely break 85 degrees and nights are cool, the house usually stays cool during the day. On the rare hot days, a window AC or portable AC might be used. Fans often do the job. Then a whole house fan or a tower fan is completely sufficient for cooling off the house once the sun goes down.
Pros and Cons of Whole House Fans
These will help you decide if a whole house fan should be one of the ways, or the only way, you cool your home.
Pros: Here are the benefits of a whole house fan.
Equipment cost is lower: A whole house fan costs 60% to 90% less than central air conditioning depending on the fan and air conditioner compared.
Energy use is lower: Whole house fans with PSC motors use up to 70% less energy than central air conditioners. Those with ECM motors use up to 90% less energy. That leads to lower utility costs and less negative impact on the environment.
They are greener: Not only does a fan use less energy, it does not contain refrigerant. Most refrigerants in use today have some negative impact such as damaging ozone or having significant global warming potential (GWP).
Fresh air is better than recycled stale air: According to the EPA, indoor air can become more polluted than outdoor air, even in urban settings. This is especially true because houses are being built more airtight than ever. A whole house fan relies on fresh, outdoor air, not the same stale air being circulated over and over.
DIY installation is an option: Pro installation is required for air conditioning because you must have a license to handle refrigerant.
Cons: Here are the potential disadvantages of whole house fans.
To effectively cool, outside air must be cooler: We know this is a flash of the obvious, but it’s worth saying. You can get fresh air, but to cool your home, the air out there must be cooler.
Fans don’t lower humidity: Central air conditioning cools and removes moisture from the air. Whole house fans only exchange air. The worst climates for a whole house fan are hot and humid ones. The air doesn’t cool much during summer nights, and it is humid – so it doesn’t offer much relief from the heat.
Whole house fans don’t filter air: As we’ve said, outside air is usually healthier. However, if someone in your household has allergies, bringing in fresh spring/summer air might also bring in pollen and other allergens. And when a neighborhood skunk makes its presence known, you’ll smell it.
They’re not for all climates: These whole-house fans are best for:
- Northern climates where night air is almost always cool enough to offer relief from the heat
- Arid climates where you can depend on the nighttime air to be cooler and drier.
However, as we talk about at a few points below, even homes in hot, humid climates will benefit from a whole house fan during spring and fall.
Your home must be well-insulated: Best results happen when you pull in cool nighttime air cool the air and lower the temperature of the physical home – It’s framing, flooring, furniture, etc. Then, once the cooling is complete, you shut windows and rely on insulation to keep out the heat as long into the day as possible.
This page from Energy Star has good information on insulation, where it is needed and how to improve your home’s ability to fight off outside heat in summer.
This map and table show recommended ceiling, wall and floor insulation levels based on your Climate Zone.
Add Insulation to Attic
Existing 3–4 Inches of Insulation
R30 to R49
R25 to R30
R30 to R60
R25 to R38
R13 to R19
R30 to R60
R25 to R38
R19 to R25
R38 to R60
R25 to R30
5 to 8
R49 to R60
R38 to R49
R25 to R30
Meeting these minimum standards, replacing weak or missing caulk and adding weather stripping to doors and windows will keep your home cooler during the day.
An investment in improving your home’s insulation will pay you back in lower energy costs and a more comfortable home.
Pros and Cons Bottom Line
Climate plays the major role in whether a whole house fan is a good idea.
The right climates for a whole house fan: You can save a lot of money and still have a comfortable home using a whole house fan instead of central air conditioning in Northern, Northwestern and high-mountain desert areas of the West and Southwest.
The wrong climates for a whole house fan: The Southeast and South are too hot and humid to get enough cooling from a fan during the warmest months. But you still might get use of the fan before and after AC season.
You can always experiment. Buy two or three box fans for windows. While they won’t exchange air nearly as fast or as quietly as a whole house fan, they’ll give you an idea of whether just exchanging air is enough to make your home comfortable at night and to keep it comfortable during the day. Let the fans run for 3-5 hours after the house feels cool, because remember, you have to cool down the house structure too. Then, shut up the house tight, close blinds that allow daytime direct sunlight, and watch how high the temperature climbs. If it stays comfortable – or nearly so – then a whole house fan will probably keep you as cool as needed.
Or DIY a low-cost fan. The Cool Attic CX24DDWT in the Best Whole House Fan list is very affordable, as are other basic direct drive models. As we noted, even in the hottest climates, a whole house fan can provide all the relief you need during warm spring/fall weather before and after air conditioning season.
Features and Options
There are a few features to consider as you shop for fans.
An electronically commutated motor uses 25% to 35% than PSC motors, so the energy savings can be significant. The fan, however, will cost up to $150 more when features are otherwise the same, but you’ll recoup the cost in 3-7 years depending on how much you use the fan.
Basic whole house fans have a frame, motor, fan and shutter – but not insulated doors. This means that during fan season, heat from the attic might push down through the fan opening, making your home warmer when the fan is not in use. And in other seasons, you should get into the attic and cover the fan with a layer or two of roll insulation. That’s a hassle.
Many homeowners believe it is worth the money and convenience to buy a fan with insulated doors that automatically close when the fan isn’t running. Doors with up to R50 foam insulation are available.
Noise reducing features:
These are the quietest models. The actual fan is suspended in the attic about 6 feet from the ceiling opening, so noise is lower. Vibration is less too than if it were attached to the ceiling framing. There are a couple ducted whole house fans in the list above of the Top Whole House Fans.
Synthetic rubber belts are driven by the motor and turn a pulley that drives the fan. Belt-driven fans make less noise than direct-drive models, but more than ducted fans.
Low speed is quieter than high speed. Many homeowners put the fan on high speed to quickly cool indoor air and then turn the fan to low speed for quieter operation while it maintains cooler temperatures.
The most basic fans have pull-chain operation. That’s not very convenient.
The most basic control upgrade is a wall switch. This improves convenience, but the switch has to be wired at $200-$300 for a qualified electrician.
The benefit of this upgrade is obvious. Most ducted fans come with a remote. They are a “sold separately” option on others.
A few fans, like the Ventamatic CX242DDWTHUB in our Best Whole House Fan list above, come equipped with WiFi connectivity. Download the app, and control your fan from anywhere. It’s a great way to make sure your home is cool when you arrive there in the evening.
Smart home options: Many homeowners use smart home equipment to control their fans. This includes plugging the fan into a WiFi outlet and using a smart home hub or voice-controlled Alexa or Google device.
Sizing Whole House Fan
You definitely want a fan large enough to pull enough cool air to make your home comfortable.
The first piece of information is knowing the number of square feet of living space in your home. Don’t include basements. We’ll use that to determine how many CFM or cubic feet per minute the fan should move.
So, it has to be large enough. Another part of sizing a whole house fan is answering the questions, “How fast do you want to cool down?” and “Do you want to feel a breeze?”
Here are two answers.
Moderately fast, and I don’t need the breeze.
This requires a smaller fan, and it will use less energy too.Mo
Your formula is:
Square feet x 1.5 to 2.0 = CFM
If your home is 2,000 square feet, you should shop for fans with a CFM rating of 3,000 to 4,000 CFM.
Quickly, and I like a breeze!
OK. You’ll need a bigger fan. Use this equation:
Square feet x 2.5 to 3.0 = CFM
For that 2,000 square foot home, you will want a fan in the 5,000 to 6,000 CFM range.
Wait. I have a 10’ or vaulted ceiling!
If you have 10-foot ceilings everywhere increase your CFM by 15% - that is, multiply the CFM from above by 1.15.
For a two-story entryway or a vaulted ceiling in part of your home, increase your CFM by 15% to 25% based on how much of your home is affected. I.e., multiply CFM by 1.15 (15%), 1.2 (20%) or 1.25 (25%).
Adequate Attic Vents: Letting Hot Air Out
Your attic must have enough vent space for the fan you choose.
Here’s the idea. You’ll be pushing a lot of warm air into your attic. It has to be able to get out to be effective.
For this to happen, you must have enough square footage of venting in the attic. If you don’t, then the warm air will just back up into your home.
Ridge, roof and gable vents are best, since warm air rises. But soffit vents help too.
There’s a formula for this too:
CFM / 750 = square feet of vent required
Example: 5,000 CFM / 750 = 6.67 square feet of vent.
This vent space is technically called Net Free Area. The definition is simply the total (net) free (unobstructed) area (square feet) of vent.
Again, any type of vent works. Though if you have to add vent area, we recommend gable, roof or ridge vent.
Measure and total your vent area: The best bet is to get into the attic, or pay a handyman to do it, and measure all the vents. Total them up for a grand total.
Example: (to convert square inches to square feet, divide by 144)
Gable vent: 24” wide x 24” high = 576 square inches or 4 square feet. 4.0
Soffit vent: 6” wide x 70 feet long = 420 square inches or 2.9 square feet. 2.9
Ridge vent: 2” wide x 35 feet long = 70 square inches or about .5 square feet. 0.5
4.0 + 2.9 + 0.5 = 7.4 square feet. You are good to go!
Installation: Cost, Process and DIY Potential
The cost to install a whole house fan depends on the type and what must be done.
Here are three scenarios and their cost.
Example 1: Simple
Fan with pull-chain or remote controller. Attic outlet available to plug the fan into. This is a job for a handyman.
- Time: 1.5-2.0 hours
- Cost: $90-$250 based on installer’s hourly or flat fee.
- DIY potential: High
Example 2: Moderate
Install fan, run a dedicated 115-volt outlet and a wall switch. This is a job for an electrical contractor.
- Time: 4.0-5.5 hours
- Cost: $400-$685
- DIY potential: Medium
Example 3: Difficult
Cut ceiling joists, frame a fan box, install fan, run dedicated 115-volt outlet and a wall switch. This is a job for an electrical contractor.
- Time: 6.0-9.0 hours
- Cost: $550-$850
- DIY potential: Low
One easy way to save money is to skip the wall switch and use a smart outlet instead. They plug into a standard outlet and can then be controlled by a remote or with WiFi depending on the brand and type.
What about DIY installation?
Well, you’re the best judge of your skills and the time you have for the task.
The difficult tasks are wiring a new outlet and framing a fan box if the fan you choose won’t fit between your ceiling joists.
Most joists are set 24” apart, and most fans are designed to fit between them. Only a few non-insulated direct-drive and belt-drive fans are 30” and require cutting a joist and framing a box.
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