Whole house and attic fans move air. There are attic, whole house, ceiling and window fans. A whole house fan can do a better job cooling. Moving air feels more comfortable than still air. The question is, do we move the air within the room or from down the hall?
The whole house fan feels better because it changes the air in the house and the attic. It is also more expensive to install than a ceiling fan because a hole must be cut in the ceiling and power needs to be run to the fan and down to a switch.
Both types of fans can cost from $100 to more than $500. The beauty of a ceiling fan is that it can replace a ceiling light fixture without requiring any major construction. Remove the light fixture and install the fan. Bang, you are done.
The effort to install a whole-house fan is worthwhile because it exchanges all the air in the house rather than stirring the existing air. The whole-house fan is usually installed in the hallway. It draws air from any open windows and pulls it through the house up into the attic. The resulting air current lowers the temperature of the attic and helps cool the living area of the house at the same time. Whole-house fans can be expensive to install and usually are not purchased in a size capable of exchanging the air in the whole house at once. Some tricks for improving fan efficiency include closing the windows on the sunny side of the house and any windows over a concrete or warm area.
In my old house I closed all doors except for the door to my room. Then I left open the door on the opposite end of the house. This created a lovely breeze through my window and an undivided “funnel” of air through the house.
An attic fan will not do much for the living area of your house. It will take a little of the heat from the ceiling but it won’t do anything for air movement where you need it most, which is across your immediate location. A roof mounted attic fan is essential when you don’t have enough roof vents and excess heat and humidity is causing the paint on your ceilings to peel.
A better strategy is to let gravity do the work by adding a few correctly placed roof vents. Now the hot air can rise through the upper vents and gravity will draw cooler air through the lower ones.
Most ceiling fans run in both directions. This allows the air to blow directly on or around you. The rule of thumb for ceiling fan direction is “down in the summer and up in the winter.” When air is blowing directly on you it seems cooler so down is the direction for the summer. In the winter you want the fan to slowly stir the air so reverse is usually used then. The drawback is the lack of portability; you won’t want to move the ceiling fan from room to room. Enter the hassock fan.
The hassock fan is an upside down ceiling fan. It is the size of a round footstool. The hassock fan draws air down from the ceiling and blows it out the sides of the hassock. The drawback is finding a place to put it, but the gain is portability. Most hardware stores will order them for you.
Attic insulation is important no matter what fan you choose. Please add more as six inches of insulation in this day and age isn’t enough. I’m not happy with twelve, but it will do. Your attic insulation investment has far greater return than most any other home improvement project that you can do. Appropriate attic insulation provides added comfort in both summer and winter helps prevent power outages and saves on heating and cooling costs year after year.