Economical and Ecological Whole House Fans
Whole house fans, not to be confused with ceiling fans, are usually installed on the ceiling of the upper floor hallway, and are designed to pull air in through windows and send it into the attic.
Ceiling fans have large blades, and move large volumes of air around. They are also good for heating and cooling through cross ventilation.
Cross ventilation is the breeze you feel when you have two windows at different sides of a room open; by creating pressure differences between the warm and cool air, a current is created. There is usually a pull-switch or electric switch on the ceiling fan to change the direction of the blades (clockwise for heating and counter-clockwise for cooling).
The principal behind whole house fans is stack ventilation. Stack or the chimney effect has to do with warm air rising, drawing up cooler air from under it. So, with a well-ventilated attic, and a cooler basement, a house fan helps draw the warm air out in the summer through the attic vents (read more about attics here), or push warmed air down in the winter.
In areas where the air is cool at nights and comfortable in the mornings,(Northeast U.S., for example), you can close your windows and use insulated shades to block the sun during the day. In higher latitudes, many houses have overhangs at angles specific at that latitude that blocks the sun's rays during the summer, when it is high in the sky, while allowing the sun in during the winter's lower angle in the sky.
In the evenings, you can open the windows to cool the house. This works relatively well if you are not in the house during the day, or don't mind keeping things shut. A mechanical fan, either a whole-house fan or ceiling fan, along with opening the north side windows is pretty effective at allowing cool breezes through.
Both whole-house fans and ceiling fans are very affordable alternatives to central air conditioning. Whole-house fans cost about the same as a conventional air conditioner, but much cheaper than central air. They consume very little energy to operate, and can easily save about 10 to 35 percent in cooling costs. They are also very quiet to operate compared to air conditioners. You can find multiple speed, Energy Star ceiling fans for a couple of hundred dollars at home centers and many hardware stores. If you have a ceiling light fixture, you can switch it out with a light and ceiling fan combo easily.
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