08:16AM | 08/10/01
Member Since: 06/08/01
5 lifetime posts

My husband and I are planning on renovating a duplex apartment on the top floor of a small co-op in Manhattan. The apartment has skylights and gets extremely warm during the summer months.

I was wondering if it would be possible to install either an attic fan or a whole house fan in an apartment building, lacking what may be essential: an attic. Could one of these be installed to go directly out on the roof? Would it be effective?

The other option would be to install CAC which would be costly to install and operate. Any advice is appreciated!

Jay J

08:48AM | 08/10/01
Member Since: 10/26/00
782 lifetime posts
Hi chymes,

What is the current roofing system? Is it flat? And what's it covered with? Is it a traditional 'A-framed' roof? And what's it covered with? In either case, is the roof line vented with either soffit vents or eave vents?

To partially answer your question, an attic fan is used in an attic (which you don't have.)

RE: A whole house fan, I've heard of them being installed but you have to consider a couple of things. 1) You will be venting to the outside, DIRECTLY. How will you 'protect' the fan from the outside 'elements', including rain, sun, snow, hail, and such? 2) Will you be able to install the fan in such a way to keep out bugs and such? 3) Assuming you understand how a whole house fan operates, Air-Out MUST = Air-In. How will you 'feed' the fan?

If you don't understand how a whole house fan works, even assuming you can 'handle/fix' any problems associated with the elements and bugs, the fan needs to be able to do what it's DESIGNED to do. All I'm saying is that EVEN if you can do this, you should read up on how the fan is 'fed'. If you can't meet this requirement, in spite of handling any 'problems' w/Mother Nature, I wouldn't do it.

I've only heard of someone doing what you've described doing only once. And at the time, they had no problems. I never did see the install and never got to 'question' anything. W/that, I can't say if it was a 'success'. Unless you can find a fan designed for your particular installation AND find one which can be adequately 'fed', again, I'd skip it. So, what are your alternatives?

Well, the good news is that hot air rises. The installation of a skylight or 2 may be the answer. Again, in order to 'push' out the hot air, the room(s) will need to be fed w/air. Perhaps opening a window or 2 will suffice. A screen will slow down the movement of the hot air but it won't stop it from being pushed out. And to boot, I suggest a Manually Opened window vs. one that works w/a motor. If you have a flat roof, the skylight will need an 'extension kit' to deal w/snow and water build-up. Of course, once you put holes in your ceiling, you're potentially exposing yourself to leaks. If it's a peaked roof, you MAY not need the extension kit but the potential for leaks is still there. (That's the nature of the beast.) Just be sure you have a Pro install them. Preferably, get a pro that is recommended by the Retailer. (He's gonna have to put his reputation on the line a little so you know he won't be refering you to a fly-by-night pro.)

Others may have more to say so stick around a few days. Velux sells nice skylights, and their windows come w/extension kits, if necessary. My best to ya and hope this helps.

Jay J -Moderator


09:15AM | 08/10/01
Member Since: 06/08/01
5 lifetime posts

Thanks so much for all the information, you gave me much to think about.

The apartment is really peculiar. It's an old prewar building (120 years old) and we are buying the other units on the floor and combining. Ours is the only unit on the floor with the duplex, which was added in 1986, when the building went co-op.

There are essentially two roofs: one which lies over the other 2 units and slightly slopes for drainage, and is going to be a roof top garden (which I hear is good way to insulate the building) and the other is higher up, the roof over our duplex portion of our apartment, which is flat. The skylights that were added in the 80s slope from the top of the duplex to the top of the floor underneath and are permantly shut. We have electric blinds on them to help keep the apartment cool.

My mother's house has a whole house fan in her hallway, which is where I got the idea of doing something like that. In her house, we open the windows to feed the fan, and I was figuring on doing the same here, should we install such a unit. I imagined that we would be able to install some sort of protection on the roof, over the unit, to protect it from the elements.

Would an exhaust fan fit my needs? How do they differ from whole house fans?

Jay J

12:10PM | 08/10/01
Member Since: 10/26/00
782 lifetime posts
For starters, don't forget to read Harold's follow-up on your 'duplicate post'. He says the same thing (in other words) that I said, plus he give another option.

The KEY to what you do when it comes to fans is that in order for the fan to 'do its job', it MUST be able to have a 'source of air' to replace the air it pushed out (whatever it's using to push the air THROUGH - a duct, a window, a whatever.) Again, air-in = air-out. A fan that does a VERY SLOW draw will not need a LARGE source of air to use for 'replacement'. However, at the other extreme, a whole house fan requires that you open up the windows on the LOWER floor of the house to 'assist' the fan in replacing the air it's pushing out. In your case, I don't think this is an option on the extreme end. Yes, something like an exhaust fan might be useful. Have you seen those mushroom-type fans on the tops of buildings? Maybe they make one for the residential home. You might want to stop by a local Grainger Store. (See to locate a store. You'll need to ENABLE cookies ...)

You may also want to talk to a FEW Contractors in the HVAC business for ideas. My best to ya and hope this helps.

Jay J -Moderator

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