Current house came with a whole house fan (not an attic fan, but the
kind in a hallway ceiling that sucks air into the attic). I was happy to
see that because I really liked the one in my old house. However the one
in the old house had a variable speed dial on it, and the new house's
fan has just one speed - high and loud with a simple off/on switch.
Is the variable speed a function of the fan itself or can that be added
at the switch? I'd definitely be having an electrician do it, but I'm
just trying to figure out if it's even doable, or if I'd end up needing
an entire new fan. And if so, would replacing an existing fan and switch
be difficult (ie cost me an arm and a leg)?
It sucks conditioned air from inside the house into the attic? Is it a
finished attic? Otherwise I can't see any logic in using this fan. Sounds
like the only speed setting you'd want on it is OFF.
But as far as speed control, it would depend on the type of the motor. It
is very likely a single phase AC, and so this controller Grainger sells
http://www.grainger.com/Grainger/items/5JJ60?Pid=search (it's only 2.5A
but cheap, and they have beefier models, too)
I guess, you'd need to get up there and see the motor first. Getting a
wrong speed controller will most likely kill either the motor or the
Whole house fans suck fresh air from outside through the open windows and
door and push it out the attic. On cool nights, it is a very efficient way
of cooling down the house. It does not replace AC on hot and humid days.
Some homes in SW Georgia (in the late 80's) had just a fan like the OP
mentions. It had just a light switch in the hall.
If you had very large shade trees and the Sun was right you opened a
window on the cool side of the house. Create a draft. In the kitchen,
close all windows and open the back door while cooking. It drafted the
heat into the hall fan and out the attic.
At night only open a BR window.
It also sucks non-conditioned air from the house and causes cooling
breezes, which is its main function.
You'd have to own one to know the benefits.
Before AC, fans were the only choice for comfortable air. They still
perform the same function.
It may be comfortable in the house without AC, but the sun has been
beating down on your roof all day, but if you have to go into the
unfinished attic to look for something stored away, the fan can replace
the hot attic air with outside air from open windows below the fan.
Burn something on the stove? The fan can remove the smoky air in the
house within a few minutes. You don't have to call the FD to aerate the
Still smell last night's fish dinner? Suck the smell out of the house.
Jasmine came in with the remnants of a meeting with a skunk? OK, you'll
have to run the fan a whole lot longer. (N.B.) Jasmine was my Golden
Retriever, and yes she did.
I have a WH fan and central AC and I use either of them at various times
of the year.
It is a function of the motor, which will be a split-phase induction motor.
You either have a motor designed with multiple windings for multiple speeds,
or you don't. If you don't, the only practical way would be to replace the
motor with one designed with multiple windings, or get a new unit.
If you do have a motor designed with that feature, it will be a simple
manner of wiring up an appropriate switch to select between the speeds
On Sat, 10 Jul 2010 23:18:19 -0400, "Ed Pawlowski"
It's said that motors won't run off of light dimmers, but of the 6 or
so table fans I've used over the years, all but one worked fine. The
other one required a fan speed control, usually used for ceiling fans.
I got one at a surplus store.
I wouldnt' let the fan get so slow it stopped, althoughif the dimmer
is at the very bottom when this happens, maybe it's okay.. Depending
on the fan, it might well overheat if it did that, and burn out the
fuse (or worse?). Also if a whole house fan gets too slow, it won't
open the louvers I think, which are just sucked open.
*Induction* motors won't run off light dimmers. Universal motors will
(off dimmers rated for inductive loads). Small motors are almost
always universal motors. Whole house fans are likely a mix, with the
better ones being induction motors. Generally a belt is the tell
(belt => induction motor). I would guess the crossover is about
And of course, back to the oP's question, they sell fan speed controls
that mount like wall switches. Often there's a switch there for the
light that often comes with a ceiling fan. I presume whole-house fans
use more current than ceiling fans, but would the speed control be big
He could use teh toggle swtich for any old thing, including perhaps
turning off the fan without changing the speed setting.
Thanks. Is that something an electrician could tell by looking at the
unit? (No point in telling me what to look for, I'm not built for
climbing a ladder up into that little trap door to the attic... or worse
trying to climb back down!). I got the old fan at Sears and also got the
variable speed dial there. I can't remember what I paid for that fan 20+
yr ago, but I know it wasn't a top of the line or anything special. I
sort of assumed they all worked the same and was surprised when I
encountered this one.
I can't use the fan too often, living in the mid-Atlantic where it's
often too humid to suck that wet air in. But we've had a few really
pleasant evenings where the humidity was low, and it would be nice to
turn off the A/C and feel like I'm saving $.
Yes, it's doable. There are variable AC motor controllers. They are not
cheap. Might be cheaper to replace the motor with a 3 speed wound rotor
motor or a DC motor with speed controller. Electrician can give you an
Whole house fans are great. Yes you can put on a variable speed
controol, but I suggest you over-rate the control amperage you buy by
double. For example if the fan draws 5 amps then get a 10 amp
control. Also when turning it on make sure the control passes through
the higher speed, then you lower it. This is so the motor gets enough
starting current. I replaced the Off/High/Low switch on mine with a
variable speed. You only use the High speed motor input wire, just
cap the low speed wire.
While a full variable speed controller would be nice, I wonder if
it really adds that much to the benefit of the fan. For instance,
the louvers of the fans require a minimum amount of pressure
differential for the air to open them, eliminating the lowest
speeds you could get with the controller. The one I installed in
our first house had a 2-speed switch for High/Low operation and we
seldom used it in any position other than High. Our second house
had two of the fans and again, both were left on High.
If the OP investigates and finds that his fan is a 2-speed one, my
suggestion would be to invest first in a DP switch and use the
high/low speeds to see if it's worth the added cost of buying a
full controller for anything intermediate or lower.
I needed a speed adjustor because sometimes you choose to not open
enough widows to keep up with the fan draw, so a nice slow fan is nice
if you just want one bedroom window open at night. Even on low, may
fan was overdrawing most of the time, its a 30 inch belt drive.
Also depending on how much output venting the user has in their roof
and eves, a variable speed lets you not overload the amount of air
your attic is capable of evacuating. Its cheaper than installing more
vents. Also the variable speed saves kilowatts. The louver spring
can be easily adjusted to require only a very light amount of air to
open them, mine pops open very easily.
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