Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Installing a Whole House Fan

I installed a whole house fan a couple of weeks ago, and have enjoyed the cool results ever since. The purpose of this kind of fan is to suck cooler outside air in through any open windows in the living area and push warmer air into the attic, where it will vent out any gable vents or open windows.

After a lot of research, I decided to purchase a unit called The Ghost built by Tamarack Technologies in Buzzards Bay, MA. I was drawn to this model for a number of reasons, but the main ones had to do with ease of installation:
  • It is contolled by a RF remote, so you don't need to wire up a switch in the house.
  • The fan has a 6-foot cord which plugs into a standard outlet, no need to run a junction box to the fan.
One concern I had was that The Ghost seemed to be designed to cool a much larger house than the one I live in. I called up their sales department, they said a larger fan could possibly over-pressurize an attic, forcing stale attic air back into the living space. Fortunately, they manufacture a smaller model named the HV-1600 that I ended up purchasing. I've been extremely happy with this unit.

The fan installation went well. There were two main parts to the job: getting more power up to the attic from the main panel, and the installation of the fan itself.

Running the power went a lot smoother than expected; I found an abandoned vent pipe ( I believe it was once connected to a long-gone furnace) that ran from the basement almost up to the floor of the attic. It didn't go all of the way up, but I was able to access it in the wall between two of our closets on the second floor. I tore into the wall, cut a hole in the pipe with a hacksaw and tin snips and used it as a conduit to run some armored cable the rest of the way to the attic. After pulling the cable, my father helped me install a subpanel with a couple of breakers. I then wired up a plug close to the point where the fan was going to be installed.

Installation of the fan was straightforward. The lower housing is separate from the fan itself. You need to cut into a rafter and frame a box for the lower housing to sit in.

After this, you then cut an opening in the ceiling below and install the grate. Surprisingly, this was the hardest part of the job, mainly since my 1890's house is really overengineered by today's standards. The lathe and plaster in this part of the house was in much better shape than my kitchen. I was also down to my last wood bit for my RotoZip (and I didn't feel like making a run to the Depot), so I went really slowly. If you are installing the fan in a house with drywall I think it would go much quicker.

Once the grate is installed, the fan (complete with insulated motorized doors) simply drops into the lower housing and is affixed with screws. You plug it in and you're ready to ventilate!

Using the remote is very easy. There are two buttons labeled "1" and "2". Pushing 1 turns the fan on; the insulated doors open up like a missle silo and the fan turns on. Pressing 1 again closes the doors and shuts the fan off. The "2" button is the fan speed control; high/low. High is pretty loud but seems to move a lot more air. I typically keep the fan on low.

If you're considering a whole house fan, I would strongly recommend this unit.

No comments: