top of page

Whole House Fan Buying Guide

Updated: Mar 14

A whole house fan installed in the attic of a blue multi-story home.
Whole house fans are a time-tested home cooling system. Which whole house fan is best for your home?

Whole house fans have been used to cool indoor spaces for decades, but technological advancements have made them more efficient, stylish, and quieter than ever before. Whole house fans cool homes using a source of fresh, cool air from the outside, pulling the air through every level of the home and expelling hot air through the attic ventilation.

But what is the best whole house fan? QuietCool whole house fans and Centric Air, two well-established brands with great reputations for quality, reliability, and customer satisfaction, are the most popular according to Popular Mechanics. But which whole house fan is best for you actually depends on your home, what kind of results you're looking for in a whole house fan, and a few other factors.

With a wide variety of makes, models, sizes and added features available, this whole house fan buying guide will help you choose the best whole house fan for your home.

What to consider when buying a whole house fan

• The different types of whole house fans • How your home plays a role • The importance of attic ventilation • Your desired results

• Choosing the right contractor • Total cost of fan and installation

What is a whole house fan?

Whole house fans, often mistaken for "attic fans," are a 2-in-1 home cooling and ventilation systems. Though they are installed inside the attic, whole house fans are connected to your living space and powerful enough to cool and ventilate every level of the home. Attic fans are installed on top of the roof or inside an existing attic vents — not connected to your living space — and provide only enough airflow to ventilate the attic.

Whole house fans come in ducted and ductless models. Ductless whole house fans, often called "traditional" whole house fans, have been in use for decades. The fan body is installed between the joists inside your attic, with automatic shutter doors or a damper box installed in the ceiling above the living space.

Ductless whole house fans are:

  • More powerful than smaller ducted systems, providing maximum airflow

  • Great for larger homes and for those looking for more powerful cooling effects

  • Louder than their ducted counterparts

An uninstalled traditional whole house fan
Traditional whole house fans have been in use for decades and are designed to maximize airflow.

Ducted whole house fans are the product of technological advancements in the industry, making them more efficient and less noisy than traditional whole house fans. Rather than being installed between the attic joists, the fan head and motor are suspended from the rafters in the attic. A damper box is installed in the ceiling above your living space and connected to the fan head via an insulated duct.

Ducted whole house fans are:

  • Quieter and more efficient than traditional whole house fans

  • Better for smaller homes or homes with existing home cooling systems

  • More convenient, with variable speed and control settings

How your home plays a roll

One of the biggest factors in choosing the best whole house fan for your home is the size of your home in above ground square-footage. The size of your home, in most cases, will determine the size of fan (and amount of airflow) you'll need, especially if the whole house fan is the primary cooling system. If you already have an existing home cooling system, like an air conditioner or evaporative cooler, a smaller, less powerful whole house fan may be an option to increase the efficiency of your AC, but a larger fan can replace the need to run your AC altogether.

Whole house fan systems are designed to work in nearly any residential home, but there are times when installation doesn't make sense. One such case is when a home is "sealed" with a thermal barrier, meaning the home is completely insulated and does not have any attic ventilation. Because whole house fans draw fresh air from the outside and push it out of the attic, the thermal barrier would have to be broken for the fan to operate correctly. If your home has a thermal barrier, weigh the pros and cons of breaking the barrier before installing any kind of exhaust fan.

Other times, a whole house fan installation doesn't make sense simply because, it's not possible. A whole house fan may not be able to be installed if your home has:

  • A very tight attic space, or no attic space at all

  • High vaulted ceilings

  • Ductwork or other appliances inside the attic

  • Existing structural damage

Vertical adapters, smaller fans or even roof mounted whole house fans may be an option for homes with limited attic space, but these solutions can add to the total cost and may provide less-than-desired results. If your home has any unique features, or you don't know, it's best to get an on-site estimate from a professional installer.

Attic ventilation is more important than you may think

A solar attic fan and powered roof vent expelling hot air from a two story home.
Attic ventilation comes in many forms and is an important factor in any whole house fan installation.

A whole house fan can only move as much air as it can exhaust, meaning the amount of available attic ventilation directly impacts the performance of a whole house fan system. Attics are ventilated in a number of ways, both passively and actively.

Passive attic ventilation includes:

  • Soffit vents

  • Ridge vents

  • Gable vents

  • Roof vents

Active attic ventilation includes:

  • Powered vents (also known as attic fans)

  • Solar powered fans

  • Gable fans

Passive vents allow hot air to escape your attic naturally while active vents and fans create airflow to forcibly push the air out of the attic, which also prevents moisture buildup and maintains cooler attic temperatures.

Sufficient attic ventilation is an important factor in any whole house fan installation because the fan relies on the vents to release the air it's moving through the home. QuietCool, the leading manufacturer of whole house fans, recommends a minimum of 1 square-foot of net free area venting for every 750 CFM provided by the whole house fan. If the whole house fan provides 4,700 CFM of airflow, for example, a minimum of 6.32 square-feet of attic ventilation is required to properly ventilate all the air the fan is pulling in. Whole house fans move a tremendous amount of air in order to efficiently cool and ventilate a home, but the fan will not be able to work properly without sufficient attic ventilation, resulting in lackluster performance and damage to the fan motor. Prospective installers should make sure you have enough attic ventilation to support the properly-sized fan for your home, or offer solutions if you need more.