Is your homebuyer or seller concerned about high energy bills? During the hot summer months, more than half of the average homeowner’s energy bill can be attributed to the cost of cooling their home. So, instead of continuing to pay those high bills – consider cooling off with a cost-saving whole house fan!
Whole house fan expert, Carl Moody, speaks with first tuesday’s Carrie Reyes about everything an agent needs to know about whole house fans in California.
How does a whole house fan work?
A whole house fan works best when you run it during the coolest times of the day. For most, this is during the late afternoon, evening and early dawn hours, especially in Southern California. The whole house fan will pull the cool air in and push the heat out of your attic, cooling the home’s walls, furniture and floors.
This circulation pre-cools the house for the day, allowing you to hold off turning on the air conditioner (A/C) until later.
In this way, the whole house fan augments the efficiency of you’re A/C system. They work together. Use of a whole house fan may reduce your total cooling costs up to 90%.
What’s the difference between an attic fan and a whole house fan?
An attic fan cools only the attic, that’s it. A whole house fan cools, well, the whole house!
The cost of an attic fan can run around $70-$100. A whole house fan is slightly more expensive, at $300-$1,500.
However, the savings a whole house fan affords are much greater. For a homeowner who lives in, say, Palm Springs, where it’s hot during both the day and night, an attic fan may create a 10% savings. In the same area, a whole house fan will probably create a 30%-50% savings in A/C operational costs over the course of a calendar year. Thus, a whole house fan quickly pays for itself.
How do you know what type of whole house fan to buy?
You need to buy a whole house fan system that circulates a minimum of 2 cubic feet of air per minute (CFM) for every single square foot of home. This is according to the 2013 Title 24 Building Code (California’s energy efficiency code). So if you have a 2,000 square foot home, you will need a 4,000-6,000 CFM system.
Also, your attic must have one square foot of ventilation per every 750 CFM. Ideally, you will need a minimum attic height of 24 inches. But, there are also roof mounted applications that work for low volume, flat, commercial and modular home style roofs.
Where in California are whole house fans going to save homeowners the most money?
There are two areas that really benefit from using whole house fans.
The first are places where there are big variances in temperature. These are places where it’s cool at night and hot during the day, like Riverside. In these areas, you can pre-cool the home at night, offsetting your cooling costs during the day.
The second place that benefits from whole house fans are areas where you don’t necessarily need an air conditioner. For example, if you live on the coast or in the mountain areas, you can use the whole house fan to circulate fresh air throughout the home. So if there’s an area of your house, like a back room, that doesn’t have access to that cool sea breeze or mountain air, the whole house fan can bring fresh air to that room. No air conditioning necessary.
How quickly can the installation of a whole house fan start paying off?
It varies by the size and location and construction of the home. A 50%-90% reduction in cooling costs per month is widely regarded as the average. Before I got my whole house fan, my personal electrical utility bills were $400-$500 a month in the summertime. With the whole house fan, I spend about $120 a month. Over the course of a year, I save about $1,500.
Can whole house fans be installed by the homeowner? Or do you need a professional?
We have professional installers throughout the country, but around 40% of our whole house fans are installed by homeowners and handymen. They are really easy to install, requiring roughly the same level of skill it takes to install a ceiling fan.
Are there any rebates available for California homeowners, such as with solar?
There are many options. Almost every utility provider in California has a $50-$200 rebate for installing a whole house fan. If you go to PG&E you can submit your information online and it will tell you about rebates in your area.
In Riverside, there is a program called HERO that allows you to finance a variety of energy efficient improvements (including the whole house fan). You can put up to 10% of the value of your home towards the cost of new improvements, and the bill is attached to your property taxes. There is a variable interest rate on this loan program, which is usually around 7%-8%. When you sell your home, the bill transfers to the homebuyer.
Here’s the thing about solar: it usually takes 10-20 years for your investment to begin paying off. With whole house fans, the investment pays for itself in one and-a-half to two years, even without the rebate.
Aside from the cost advantages, what other benefits do whole house fans offer?
The health benefits of whole house fans are really amazing. A whole house fan basically replaces the air in the home every three minutes. People call who have pet allergies and say that since they’ve started using the whole house fan they have stopped needing to take their medication. I’ve never had a call about the opposite – the fan bringing allergens into the house.
Back in 2008, when it was super smoky outside due to all the wildfires, we wouldn’t turn on the whole house fan because it made our house smell like a campfire. But, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that a non-ventilated home has air that is three to five times dirtier than the air outside – even the air you would find in a polluted city. So the health benefits of the whole house fan are significant.
What kind of maintenance does a whole house fan need, and how often?
Whole house fans are very low-maintenance. You can shut them off for the winter, winterize them, turn them back on in the spring, and they’ll still work great.
QuietCool fans have a 10-15 year warranty on them, depending on the type of system, so you shouldn’t expect to have to replace your whole house fan anytime soon.
How prevalent are whole house fans in California? Is this number increasing?
Our brand is about 10 years old. We have doubled our business the past two years in a row. I think that the increased energy costs are forcing people to look for alternative ways to save.
We have a whole house fan in my house, and sometimes it seems like the microwave – I wonder, “how did I live without this?”
If you could let California agents and brokers know one thing about whole house fans, what would it be?
It’s important to understand the whole house fan so agents can be prepared to counsel clients on the value and benefits of the product.
Also, whole house fans can be great for homeowners, but they can also help people with rental properties. If you have a rental property with a whole house fan, you can market the monthly energy savings to potential tenants, possibly justifying higher rent rates. Or, if the property manager pays the cost of utilities, the whole house fan will undoubtedly help.
Carl Moody is the Director of Sales for QuietCool. He gained his real estate experience in Utah, and has a background in the construction industry in Southern California. Carl is a member of the Building Industry Association.
FARM letter: No A/C? I’m a big fan