Whole House Fan vs Attic Fan

whole house fan vs attic fan

Without proper ventilation, attic temperatures can reach up to 150 degrees during the hotter days of the year. Two products can prevent this scenario: whole house and attic fans. Choosing the right one can make your home more comfortable.

Whole house and attic fans essentially perform similar functions — one of which is to improve ventilation. However, it’s best to understand their pros and cons to identify which one would serve your requirements best. Read on to learn everything you need to know to choose the ideal product for your property.

What Are Whole House Fans?

what are whole house fans

A whole house fan is a cooling appliance used to eliminate or reduce the need for artificial cool air. Many homeowners appreciate this device because it produces about one-third as much electricity as a standard air-conditioning unit. You can turn on this machine when the temperatures outside drop to use the cool air to ventilate your property.

Here are some things to remember about whole house fans:

  • You mount them between your living space and attic.
  • It’s best to use them in the evening and early morning — or any time the temperature is much lower outside
  • These instruments pull warm indoor air toward the attic and push hot air out of your home.
  • When you open windows in your living spaces, they draw cool air from outside.
  • As they cool your living spaces, they drive heat buildup out of your entire home.

What Are Attic Fans?

what are attic fans

As the name suggests, you install attic fans on your attic ceiling. They draw hot air out of your loft and push it outside. They work well with your heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system.

Unlike whole house fans, it’s best to use attic fans during the hottest times of the day to reduce heat buildup. Doing so helps you ventilate your attic space only.

Below are some features of attic fans:

  • You mount them between your attic and outside space.
  • It’s best to run attic fans when it’s hottest outside.
  • These mechanisms actively remove hot hair from the attic.
  • They create negative pressure in your loft and pull outside air through the roof.
  • These instruments minimize the heat buildup in your attic and keep temperatures as comfortable as possible.

Whole House Fan vs Attic Fan Comparison

In a nutshell, below are some of the factors that differentiate whole house fans from attic fans.

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Keep reading to delve deeper into the mentioned components.

Major Differences

One of the most obvious differences between whole house fans and attic fans is the areas they serve. While a whole house fan pulls out air from the entire house, an attic fan only works its magic in the attic.

Depending on your whole house fan’s capacity and home size, your electrically powered machine can change the air up to six times per hour. The vents open and close in sync with the fan’s movements.

For whole house fans to perform at their best, it’s essential to allot one square foot of opening for every 750 cubic feet per minute (CFM) of fan capacity. You can use various vent types, including dormer, eave, or ridge to stimulate attic vending.

On the other hand, attic fans or attic ventilators shoot out hot air from the attic upon the signal of automated thermostat triggers. You also need air intake for the technology to work. There are two usual attic fan types:

  • Gable attic fans: You can mount this fan type on your existing gable. As soon as temperatures drop, they push warm attic air out the gable.
  • Roof attic fans: As the name suggests, you can find a roof attic fan partially inside the attic and partially toward the roof. It should not be closer than two feet to your roof’s ridgeline.



Winner: Attic Fans

Whole house fans end up in your attic, but you have to connect them to your ceiling through a vent. In most cases, they reach a span of 36 to 40 inches. This length should be long enough to cover ceiling joists.

Attic fans are always less visually obtrusive than whole house fans because you don’t need to connect them to your living space. However, if you put one behind an existing gable vent, you can almost see it from the outside. These appliances are not as noticeable as whole house fans because they can fit behind a gable’s opening vent.

The Installation Process

whole-house-vs-attic-fan_the installation process

Winner: Attic Fans

If your attic has live electric power, the most challenging part of installing whole house fans is going through walls to attach the damper box to ceiling joists. Naturally, big fans are more complicated to install. However, you can use 20-inch vent tubes to suspend your fan with ranger straps.

On the flip side, attic fans are easier to install than whole house fans. You can install one quickly as long as you have a power source in the attic. However, keep in mind that this process becomes more difficult if you have powered roof vents because you need to make a hole in the roof.

Cooling Capabilities

whole-house-vs-attic-fan_cooling capabilities

Winner: Whole House Fans

As long as the temperature outdoors is lower than inside your home, whole house fans will work to your advantage. During such times, you can use these machines instead of energy-hungry air-conditioning units.

In most cases, whole house fans are better at cooling your home than attic fans are because they move air throughout the house. Their effects are not the same as standard room fans, but you can feel the temperature difference when you turn it on.

Attic fans may cool your home, but you might not need them if you have a well-insulated property. Their goal is to produce comfortable living temperatures and lessen the instances of searing humidity inside the house.

However, if your attic has poor insulation, attic fans can help you cool down the living areas. These appliances drop home temperatures by reducing the heat in the attic and never move air around the house as whole house fans do.

One bonus benefit of using attic fans is preventing mold and mildew growth in your home.

Ease of Operation

whole-house-vs-attic-fan_ease of operation

Winner: Attic Fans

Using whole house fans involves manually turning them on and off. You’ll have to open screen doors before you can open the fans.

However, there are ways to make the process more convenient for users. For instance, you can install a pull cord from the ceiling or with a wall switch. One major drawback is that these machines only work when the air outside is colder than the air in your house.

For attic fans, you won’t have any trouble operating them as long as you install them properly. It’s also best to have easy access to a switch. However, these appliances can turn on and off automatically. If the temperature inside your attic shoots up, the mechanism will send the fan a signal to turn on.

Noise Levels

whole-house-vs-attic-fan_noise levels

Winner: Whole House Fans

Older whole house fan models are known for their noise, especially after many months of use. The moment your fan blades get weak, they knock around the machine as they turn. Loud sounds are signs that you might need to replace your fans.

However, whole house fans have evolved into quiet indoor tools. You can find some on the market with lower sound levels than 42 decibels — just like a quiet library.

On the other hand, attic fans are mechanical devices that can be noisy. They may be several feet away from the gable but they can still reach high sound levels. If you find that they make too much noise for you, you can check out soundproofing options.

The Verdict

Winner: Tie

Sure, attic fans look better and are easier to install and operate. However, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for any home, so the best investment to make is the one you need. Also, remember that these products are not mutually exclusive. If you need whole house and attic fans to make your home more comfortable, you can install both of them on your property.

If you need to keep your whole house cool during the hotter days of the year, it’s best to go with whole house fans. And if you want to add ventilation to your attic, choose attic fans. Now that you understand their similarities and differences better, you can determine which product suits your needs best.