Kill Your Air Conditioner; Cool Your House With a Big Fan

Jeff Kart

The summer of 2009 has been cooler than usual in the Midwest, but Mother Nature can still pack a punch.  August has seen some 90-degree days in places like Michigan.  When it get this hot, some people like to stay inside in front of the air conditioner (based on recent Twitter and Facebook updates). But it doesn’t have to be this way.

The air conditioner, I mean.

A “whole house fan” that uses the attic for venting can keep your home cool with less electricity (and for less money) than modern-day air conditioning. 

My parents used to have one of these things in the 1970s and it worked wonders.

If you live in an area with cooler mornings and evenings in the summer, then the whole house fan can be a cheaper and just-as-comfortable alternative to refrigerated air.

The trick is to run the fan when the air outside is cool. Open your windows. The fan will push the hot air out of your house and pull the cool outdoor air inside.

Shut it off before the air gets warm outside. By that time, you should be enjoying cool rooms.

The Environment Report recently looked at people who are returning to this old-fashioned way of staying cool.

They profiled a couple in Ann Arbor, Michigan, that installed a whole house fan themselves for $250, versus the $9,500 estimate they got to install an air conditioning system. So far, they’ve been comfortable this summer.

Matthew Grocoff, with Greenovation TV, says a whole house fan costs about a nickel an hour to run versus up to 30 cents an hour with an air conditioning system.

His web site includes a guide to whole house fans.

The U.S. Department of Energy also has a “how to” guide for installing your own big fan (.pdf).  Whole house fans can cut cooling costs by up to 90 percent in the top half of the United States, according to R.E. Williams Contractor Inc. in Valencia, California.

(Image credit: At top, The Superfan, from R.E. Williams Contractor Inc. Above, U.S. Department of Energy).  Appears courtesy of Cleantechnica.

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3 comments

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$9500 for an air conditioning system? Not everyone gets central air installed. It is no more than $150 - $450 per air conditioner for a decent window/wall unit. Which still ends up cheaper but you can still drive the point home without the exaggeration.

Written in August 2009

an air conditioner seems more compact

Written in August 2009

melissa (anonymous)

my brother has one of these in his home in NY. its good for after sundown when its cooler outside, but does nothing during the day. still have to use air conditioner during the day if it gets too warm.

Written in August 2009

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  • Posted on Aug. 18, 2009. Listed in:

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