LESLIE: Next up on the Money Pit, we welcome Tim from Delaware.
Tim, what’s going on?
TIM: Yes, hi. How you doing today?
LESLIE: Good, how are you? Tell us what’s happening?
TIM: I have an attic fan in a house that we just bought. It’s a 1962 house; when it was built.
TIM: It doesn’t seem to be performing right.
TOM: Why do you say that, Tim?
TIM: I feel air coming out of the outlets and I don’t feel a lot of air coming in the windows.
TOM: When you say a ceiling – well, when you say a fan, are we talking about an attic fan that’s mounted in the roof of the house or are you talking about a whole-house fan that’s in the ceiling?
TIM: Yeah, it’s a whole-house fan. Sorry.
TOM: Alright, it’s a whole-house fan. So you say it’s not working right. You’re talking about feeling air in the outlets. Explain that to me.
TIM: Like if you go to turn on a light or plug something in, when it’s on you can feel air coming out.
LESLIE: Well, that sounds like an insulation issue.
TOM: A whole-house fan is a good thing to have because it does cool the house without the air conditioning on. The way to use it is to have the fan on and some of the windows in the house open so it draws air in those windows and exhausts it through the attic. Now you’ve got to have good exit ventilation, exhaust ventilation. Do you have that in the attic space, Tim?
TIM: That’s what I’m not sure about.
TOM: Well, you should be able to see it. I mean you ought to be able to see louvers coming out of the gable. How old is your house?
TIM: It’s ’62, so what’s that – 30 …?
TOM: Ah. Well, I’ll tell you. A 1960 house traditionally does not have enough ventilation in the attic space. Typically, they’re under-ventilated and what you might be doing is pressurizing the house or pressurizing the attic space and then it would not work correctly because you need to pull that air somewhere. You can’t just dump it in the attic and expect it to find a way out. What you might need to look at is the level of ventilation in that attic. In a perfect situation, you ought to have a ridge vent which goes down the peak of the roof and also soffit vents at the overhang. Because this way, all of that air gets pulled into the attic and has someplace to go. If it doesn’t, it's just not going to work right.
TIM: OK. Yeah, that’s why I was kind of wondering if I need to put another fan up there or the ridge vents or the soffit vents.
TOM: Yeah, not another fan. OK? You don’t need an attic fan. You already have a whole-house fan; that’s good. I don’t recommend attic fans except in very rare circumstances because what happens with an attic fan is you usually use that in the summertime and then it will pull cold air out of your house as well, especially if you have a big louver in the ceiling from the whole-house fan. So what I would recommend is figure out how much attic exhaust ventilation you have right now. Typically, in a 1962 house, you’re going to have a couple of small vents at the gable ends and you might have some small vents in the soffits. But you’ve got to have probably more to make that work right.
LESLIE: Tom, is there a rule as far as how much square footage you have in your roof or house or your attic for how much ventilation you might need?
TOM: Yes there is and, typically, homes that are built in the 60s just don’t come near enough in terms of making that work. It really needs more ventilation. Continuous soffit vents, continuous ridge vents is really the best situation. So go assess what kind of vents you have right now and if you don’t see that level of ventilation, Tim, you need to add some more.
TIM: Yeah, I just have the ridge vents on the edge. I don’t have any soffit or the roof vent; like what you were saying.
TOM: When you say ridge vent on the edge, do you mean at the peak of the roof?
TOM: OK, well that’s good. Check the soffit vents and the other thing to check, Tim, is look at your insulation. If it’s pushed too far towards the exterior walls, it could be blocking any soffit vents that you have there and, in that case, you need to pull back. And that’s going to help you. It’s going to keep that roof cooler. It’s going to keep the whole house cooler to boot.
TIM: OK, now do you recommend like the round soffit vents that you can find at the big box stores?
TOM: The best kind of soffit vents are continuous vents. You typically, in a 60s house, have plywood soffits. What you could do is remove the plywood soffits and install perforated soffit material. It’s got a lot of little holes in it and it really opens it up and lets a lot of air in that attic. And if you do that, you’re going to see a big difference in the performance of the whole-house fan.
TOM: Alright. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.