What is a Whole House Attic Fan?

J. Beam

A whole house attic fan is a fan that pulls air through the main parts of a house and up into the attic. Though not a standard part of the heating, cooling, and ventilation mechanics typically found in most homes, a whole house attic fan can be a valuable addition to a home, especially in certain climates. Not only can a whole house attic fan help cool a home by creating a continuous draft, most whole house fans are more energy efficient to operate than air conditioners and can achieve the same level of comfort when there is little humidity in the air.

Considerations to take into account before deciding to install a whole house attic fan include your climate and house size.
Considerations to take into account before deciding to install a whole house attic fan include your climate and house size.

Whole house attic fans started appearing with some regularity in homes built in the late 1950s and early 1960s. They are typically comprised of two parts – a large, belt-driven fan mounted in the attic and a louvered vent mounted beneath it in the ceiling. The best location for a whole house attic fan is in a central hallway of a house. When you open select windows throughout the home, a continuous draft is created by the flow of air pulled through the windows by the fan.

In a home where a previous whole house attic fan exists, replacement with modern, more energy efficient models is easy and fairly affordable. Higher-end, more efficient and quieter running fans can be purchased from dealers, but basic models can be found at home improvement store chains and installed to replace an existing fan. If you want to install a whole house attic fan in a home that doesn’t already have one, you might consult an HVAC specialist. Many HVAC dealers will have access to and experience with installation of whole house fans and the necessary wiring and switch plate installation.

The price of a whole house attic fan will vary and is dependent on size, make and model. Custom installation and models will obviously be more expensive than purchasing standard models from a home improvement store and installing one your self. When purchasing a whole house attic fan, be sure to pay attention to the information on the box or packaging and buy one that is designed for your size home.

Other considerations to take into account before deciding to install a whole house attic fan include your climate and house size. In areas where humidity is common and highly present during more than two or three months out of the year, a whole house fan will provide little relief. Though they are ideal as a source of cooling in warmer temperature seasons and climates, you will need to use your home’s air conditioning unit for cooling relief in hot, humid seasons and climates. Similarly, in large, multi-story homes a whole house fan may not provide sufficient cooling in some areas.

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Discussion Comments


@Logicfest -- those can be very effective in humid climates in the fall, spring and during hot months when the humidity is somewhat low. They can't get rid of humidity, but they can boost air circulation and that can save you from having to run your air conditioner in the spring and fall.


One of the main reasons an attic fan doesn't provide much relief during the summer in humid climates is because they don't remove humidity from the air. One of the great things an air conditioner does is pull humidity out of the air. That feature is often as important to your keeping cool as blowing cold air into your home is.

Ever wonder why air conditioners have to have a water outlet? That is because they get rid of humidity. An attic fan cannot do that, so they are of limited use in humid climates.

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