Central air, window air conditioners, and split AC units aren’t the only ways to keep your home comfortable during hotter weather. If you’d prefer a cooling method that draws a little less on the energy grid and provides a little more fresh air, the best whole house fan might be the way to go.
A whole house fan is installed in the upper level of your home. It draws in fresh air and ejects the warm, stale air through a vent in the attic. The result is fresher air and more comfortable temperatures indoors. Keep reading to learn more about which of the best whole house fans is a good fit for you.
- BEST OVERALL: QuietCool QC CL-4700 Classic Series Whole House Fan
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Cool Attic CX1500 Gable Mount Power Attic Ventilator
- UPGRADE PICK: QuietCool QC ES-4700 Energy Saver Whole House Fan
- BEST BELT DRIVE: Cool Attic CX30BD2SPD Belt Drive 2-Speed Whole House Attic
- BEST DIRECT DRIVE: Cool Attic CX302DDWT Direct Drive 2-Speed Whole House
- BEST WINDOW FAN: Air King 9166F 20″ Whole House Window Fan
What to Consider When Buying the Best Whole House Fan
There’s a lot to know about how to choose the best whole house fan, but don’t lose your cool. The following sections will outline the most important considerations to keep in mind when shopping for a fan to cool your entire home.
As you might expect, there is more than just one type of whole house fan, and they differ in several ways. The three main types of whole house fans are standard, ducted, and insulated door fans.
- Standard whole house fans look a lot like typical box fans, but they are installed in the walls or floors of attics or other upper-level rooms. These fans have louvers or dampers that remain closed when the fan is not in use but open to allow the fan to push interior air outside.
- Ducted whole house fans have long, insulated ducts with a finished vent on one side and a large fan on the other. The fan is installed in an attic or knee wall, and the duct goes into the finished space to be cooled by the fan. Ducted fans are the quietest of the three options because the fan is typically more than 10 feet away from the finished space it cools.
- Insulated door whole house fans are generally designed to install in an attic floor. They have heavily insulated doors that remain shut when the fan is off but are open when it’s in use.
Once you decide the type of fan that’s best for your needs, the next decision is whether to get a direct-drive or belt-drive fan. Direct-drive fans have motors mounted directly to the fan blade. Belt-driven fans are standard whole house fans that have separate motors, with belts connecting the motors to the fans. Direct-drive fans are typically the most energy efficient, but belt-driven fans are quieter.
Size and CFM
Whole house fans are available in different sizes and airflow ratings, and it’s important to choose one that will work for your home. Installing a small fan in a large house won’t cool the space effectively, and installing a large fan in a small home might feel like living in a wind tunnel.
In their product literature, most manufacturers will indicate the size of the home for which their fans are suitable. They might also list the CFM (cubic feet per minute). CFM describes the volume of air that the fan can move, and the square footage of your living space determines the CFM your fan should have:
- 2,000 CFM whole house fans are suitable for smaller homes and apartments under 1,000 square feet.
- 3,000 CFM whole house fans are suitable for homes around 1,500 square feet.
- 4,000 CFM whole house fans are best for homes around 2,000 square feet.
- 5,000 CFM whole house fans work for homes with 2,500 square feet of living space.
- For homes over 3,000 square feet, a 6,000 to 7,000 CFM whole house fan will do the trick.
Fresh air is wonderful, but a constant, loud hum or chatter from your whole house fan will get old pretty quickly. For those who are sensitive to noise, some fans are better choices than others.
The quietest whole house fan option is the ducted type—by a long shot. Because the actual fan is on the end of a long duct and installed in a separate space, home occupants will hear very little noise.
The second-quietest whole house fan is a belt-driven standard model. The belt dampens much of the chatter and vibration, as long as the belt is in good working condition.
Remote Control and Additional Features
Whole house fans are convenient, but some are easier to use than others. Many whole house fans have built-in timers or temperature switches that can be programmed to turn on automatically. Others have remote controls. Though these options are very convenient, they are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to convenience.
Fans with Wi-Fi connectivity can be controlled via a smartphone app—and users don’t even have to be home to ensure the home’s temperature is comfortable. They can adjust fan speed, timers, and other settings directly from their phones.
If the whole house fan you purchase is not Wi-Fi enabled, there’s a work-around: Simply install a WiFi-enabled switch to control the fan and provide remote connectivity. While these switches might not provide the same functionality as a whole house fan–specific app, a simple on-off switch can make a world of difference on a whole house fan that isn’t Wi-Fi enabled.
Our Top Picks
There is a lot to think about when shopping for the best whole house fan, but choosing one doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. Those in the market for one of these fans should consider the following top picks, which are some of the best whole house fans on the market. Whether you’re on the hunt for a ducted fan or a more basic model, there are sure to be some good options for you among these leading products.
DIYers looking to add some quiet whole house ventilation should give QuietCool’s QC CL-4700 Classic Series Whole House Fan serious consideration. This ducted unit places the direct-drive fan in the attic space, which allows the fan to draw cool, fresh air into the home without noise and chatter.
The QC CL-4700 system is available in several sizes ranging from 1,472 CFM to 6,924 CFM, which are compatible in homes from 750 square feet to more than 3,000 square feet. The finished end of the duct features an attractive vent with built-in gravity dampers, keeping heat and cool air from escaping when the fan is not in use. The CL-4700 also comes with a remote control that can operate up to 100 feet away from the fan.
Shoppers who don’t have a ton to spend on their whole house fan can still get a lot for their money with this gable ventilator from Cool Attic. This unit installs in a gable vent and pushes hot air out of the home or attic, sucking fresh air in through the open windows. Though one air vent fan only draws 1,300 CFM, installing two units on either end of an attic space will bring in quite a bit of fresh air through open windows—and purchasing two of these fans is still less expensive than buying a single whole house fan from most other manufacturers.
As inexpensive as it is, the Gable Mount Power Attic Ventilator still offers some desirable features. Its direct-drive motor is low maintenance, so users won’t have to worry about changing belts. There’s also a built-in temperature sensor that can be set to turn the fan on automatically, which ensures the home stays cool when the heat rises.
Sometimes, spending a little extra now saves money in the long run. QuietCool’s QC ES-4700 might cost a little more than the company’s other units, but this series’ brushless direct-drive motors are efficient, quiet, and require minimal maintenance.
The ES-4700 Series is a ducted fan unit with a dampered vent for temperature control and comfort. This model comes in sizes ranging from 1,434 CFM to 6,878 CFM for cooling homes from 700 square feet to over 3,000 square feet. It also comes with a wall-mounted remote control that can operate the fan from up to 100 feet away.
Those looking for a simple, effective approach to whole house cooling should check out Cool Attic’s CX30BD2SPD 2-speed, belt-drive fan. This model comes in both 24- and 30-inch sizes, which are suitable for homes between 2,000 and 3,000 square feet. With its belt-driven motor and stabilized framework, it cools those homes quietly.
Installed in an attic floor, this fan is equipped with a set of louvers that are closed when the fan isn’t in use. Users can choose how much airflow they want in their homes by setting the fan to one of two speed settings. While the Cool Attic doesn’t come with a temperature switch or a timer switch, it does have both an on-off switch (which DIYers can replace with a Wi-Fi model) and a high-low switch. This fan is made in the USA.
Those looking for an efficient, effective whole house fan that doesn’t require a lot of maintenance should give the Cool Attic CX302DDWT Direct Drive 2-Speed Whole House attic fan particular consideration. It has a weather-resistant, powder-coated finish; once installed in an attic, the fan draws air in through open windows and out through the attic’s exhaust vents.
This unit has an on-off switch and a high-low switch, which allow users to power up the fan and adjust its speed. Since Cool Attic has improved the motor’s mounting framework, this direct-drive unit runs quieter than most. Made in the USA, this whole house fan is available in two sizes for cooling homes up to 3,000 square feet.
Not everyone can, or wants to, cut into their ceilings or walls to install a whole house fan, and Air King’s 20-inch whole house window fan is an attractive choice for those who fall into that category. When installed in a home’s upper-level window, this fan pushes warm interior air out and replaces it with fresh air drawn from open windows on the lower level. The Air King also features three speed settings, drawing 1,100, 1,450, and 1,600 CFM.
One of this product’s biggest selling points is its flexible installation shroud, which allows the fan to fit any window between 27 and 38 inches wide. If the weather outside is nasty, no worries—the Air King has a Storm Guard that allows users to close the window during inclement weather.
FAQs About Whole House Fans
In spite of all of the information presented here on the best whole house fan, you may still have questions about how they work. If you still have questions about whole house fans, be sure to check the answers below.
Q. How energy efficient are whole house fans?
The best whole house fans are reportedly 50 to 90 percent more efficient than air conditioners.
Q. Are whole house fans effective at cooling?
They’re effective at cooling when the exterior temperature is lower than the temperature inside the home. The airflow these fans create can make a space much more comfortable, even if it doesn’t lower the temperature inside very much.
Q. How much CFM do I need for a whole house fan?
It depends on the size of the home and its design, but some general guidelines are:
- 2,000 CFM for homes under 1,000 square feet
- 3,000 CFM for 1,500 square feet
- 4,000 CFM for 2,000 square feet
- 5,000 CFM for 2,500 square feet
- 6,000 to 7,000 CFM for homes more than 3,000 square feet
Q. Can I run a whole house fan all night?
Yes. During hotter months, nighttime is actually the best time to run a whole house fan. You can also install a timer or a Wi-Fi switch if you’d prefer to schedule when the fan runs.
Q. What’s the best way to control your whole house fan?
Some fans are available with Wi-Fi controls, but many come with remote controls. If you’d prefer to control a non-app-controlled fan via your smartphone, you can install a WiFi-enabled switch.
Q. How do I maintain my whole house fan?
Direct-drive motors don’t require much maintenance—just ensure that the fan is clean and unobstructed. Belt-driven fans will require new belts every 2 or 3 years. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for specifics on your model.
Q. How long will my whole house fan last?
An attic or whole house fan is a very simple design, and users can expect to get around 15 years of use from a fan before having to replace it.