Episode-10- Install A New Attic Fan

attic fan to cool down costs

Replacing the attic fan to cool down costs

Installing a new attic fan. Cutting energy costs and extending the life of my roof.

On a typical hot day with outside temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius or 90 degrees Fahrenheit an uncooled attic can get as hot as 65 degrees Celsius or 150 degrees Fahrenheit. The problems that can cause run the gamut of shortening the lifespan of just about everything associated with your roof and attic. If your attic is prone to dampness, the heat can cause mildew and mold to grow; which would definitely be a problem for the entire family. Excess heat can cause rafters to expand and require replacing and insulation can be damaged. But an effective attic fan can save up to 30% of electricity costs for running an air-conditioning system. Attic fans require as little as 300 Watts of power and once they are operating at the right thermostat setting they run less.

For almost two years I have had to install a new attic fan on my to do list but I only got around to doing it last Saturday June 11, 2011. We moved into our home in February 2009 and as I mentioned in other episodes I knew I would be finding problems as time progressed since the home was a foreclosure and had to be purchased in as is condition. So two summers ago I decided to explore in the attic on the first and second levels to see what they looked like, check for critters and see how hot they were getting. I started with the first attic and but I don’t recall crawling back along the 40 foot expanse enough to find the fan at that time or maybe I did find it but I didn’t know what I was looking at. The home I grew up in dated back to the late 19th century and my brothers and I spent a lot of time exploring the attic because that’s where we slept. It was actually kind a cool living in between the walls that closed in to an angle. It only sucked when we banged our heads on the walls. Anyway we did not have a large dedicated space to serve as the attic in that home and as such I was not used to having attic fans in a home.

When I got around to exploring the attic in the second level of my home I quickly realized that access and thus exploration was extremely limited. The attic is about 800 square feet but there is an 18 inch layer of insulation in place and cross beams throughout which leaves only enough room to enter the attic and access the attic fan. I remember going up into this space a couple of times and was quickly driven back down due to the extreme heat in that attic.

In both attics there are vents located about 2 feet below the pitches of the roofs and they act to draw air in but only if a fan is working to force the old air out. Eventually I did stick it out long enough to fool around with the attic fan switch and the thermostat on the fan. Each time I tried to power up the fan I only heard a low humming coming from the motor but the fan would not turn. I explained this to my neighbor at the time and he suggested that I needed an electrician to come and look at it. That was enough for me to decide the fan was not a necessity as I was not ready for another contractor to come into my home only to size me up for a payday. So that first summer I failed to do something useful for my home but mostly out of ignorance for not know much about the relationship between rood durability, energy costs and attic fans. By the time my second summer in house rolled around I educated myself more on the subject of attic fans and why they are important. I learned enough to decide that I did need to replace one and possibly two fans.

My first instinct was to search the web for an attic fan solution in Fairfax but that only brought up a list of local electrical supply and contracting companies. To keep things simple I decided to start with phone calls to a couple of the companies to see what would be required to replace my attic fans. I should have known better than to jum to a contractor for a solution because the three places I called each told me that I could expect to pay at least $400 per fan for replacement. I thought that was outrageous. $800 to replace a couple of 15 inch fans? Cut me a break.

I continued to search for a solution and found a company that was in the solar business and one of the solutions they had was a solar powered attic fan. I thought that would be cool. Why not try some alternative energy solution to solve this problem. That way I would cut down on electricity use while at the same time improving the efficiency of my air conditioning system. But again I found that the if I was going to attempt this solution that I would need even more money. $500 per fan was the price I was quoted and I was treated to the same garbage line that the conventional electrical contractors gave me. I would be getting superb service and warranted equipment and how could I do better than that. I might have been born at night but I wasn’t born last night. One of the things that the solar solution provider did not mention was the lack of operability during hot cloudy days. So I continued to look for a solution.

Before I researched any further I went up to the first level’s attic again and spent time carefully examining that fan. I found it to be in fine working condition and only required that I readjust the thermostat to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. That fan has been operating fine ever since but it must be old and due for replacement sooner rather than later.

By the end of August last year I found the fan I was looking for on Amazon and it cost just $50. This was the 15 inch Ventamatic CX1500 Power Gable Ventilator Fan and it is featured in the show notes. After reading some of the reviews and ratings on the various fans I opted for this one because of its reliability, ease of installation and 2 year warranty. As with anything I order from Amazon without paying extra for shipping it arrived within 5 business days. I was happy to get it and at the same time not so happy because I knew the installation process would suck regardless of how easy the online reviews made it seem. I knew my attic was going to be murderously hot and I wasn’t so comfortable after all about fooling with the electrical system. Also I knew the job would require at least two roof visits climbing up and down the ladder and all that jazz. Thus the fan sat in a room for 6 months and was later removed to a closet. There it sat until June 11 when I convinced myself that the hot attic could no longer be ignored. Not quite sure what convinced me to do it but I told myself it could be done within an hour and if I moved quickly and accurately that I would still have time to feed my bees before the afternoon storms hit.

So I turned the entire power supply to home off and got my screwdrives and socket set out, set up the step ladder, the flashlight and took a peak inside the attic to see about planning the replacement and installation of the attic fans. I quickly realized that the job would require getting on the roof to remove the cover and unscrew the old fan and rop into the attic. Once I was up on the roof I got the cover off easy enough but then realized that my socket set was a mess. I couldn’t find most of the sockets and my locking pliers were broken. I’m still trying to solve that puzzle. But I got off the roof and searched for my other favorite pair of pliers and got back to work. Not an easy task and half way through required using the large pipe wrench to unscrew the small bolts. Eventaully it came off and I kept the curses To a minmum. The new fan came equipped to be a complete replacement but only the fan and not the large ring or holding plates were required which made the installation of the fan a cinch. Also the bolts used to hold this one in were flat head screw driver tops and easy to emplace. Soon enough I was done asnd got off the roof and back into the attic to rig the wiring.

Unscrewing the old box wasn’t easy because the screw holding it in place were really long and had to be turned out by hand. But once that was done the wiring was very straight forward and I was done before I knew it. I set the thermostat to 40 degrees Celsius of 105 Fahrenheit and went to turn the power supply back on. I went back to the attic and flipped the power switch to on and the fan kicked on like a champ. I got back on the roof to check this fan from the outside as well as the fan on the lower level’s roof. To my delight both were working fine and especially the new one as it had much more excess heat to draw out.

The last task for this installation was to place a thermometer in each attic near the fans. This is not a fun task and I was not planning on doing it but my children motivated me to do it on Fathers Day this past weekend. They really wanted to climb up in the attic with me and although they had been up in the lower level’s attic before they had not gone in as far as the fan. This time they did and they overcame they initial tinge of fear of hauling themselves up into the attic. They’ll eventually have to know how to do some of things I do for the house so starting them young is never a problem provided we follow safety rules. The experience with this new fan went so well that I will be ordering another fan for when the old one on the lower roof expires.

If you need an attic fan installed check with a friend who has electrical wiring experience or in this economy it may be worth the effort to call a local service provider to your home and ask them for a free visit to estimate what may be involved for your solution. You could also negotiate installation only if they let you purchase your own fan. Then make comparisons with at least three providers if you’re not comfortable doing the work yourself or if you don’t have a friend who can help you. Tell the vendors the estimates of their competition in order to try to get the best possible service at the best price. Whatever you do don’t delay to have properly insulated and cooled attics. That’s it for today now go and do something useful.

Disclaimer: Neither this site or its owner are in anyway providing anything other than a personal story of what was required to remove an old attic fan and install a new one. No responsibility is to be attached to the owner or site for what you actually do with the information provided.

Gardening chore – Constructing toad castles

What a toad castle looks like.      

I got the idea for constructing toad castles from the self sufficient gardener Jason Aikers. Jason’s site is selfsufficientgardener.com and he is a master gardener because he is able to teach others how to begin gardening and learn from his experiences. In episode 8 Jason goes into detail about why we should consider building toad castles. I have a link in the show notes to the episode and you would be better served by going there to watch Jason’s video and listen to his advice on these unique garden structures. My motivation for getting my children to help me build these back in April was 1.) To control garden slugs, and other slimy garden raiders who come out at night. The second reason was the voracious appetite for mosquitoes that toads have.
From the pictures on the website at todolisthome.com you can get an idea of how something cool can be created from just extra stones you may have in your back yard. I have only recently started to go out in the evening and look around with a flashlight to see if I could find any toad taking up residence in any of the three castles I built. I have seen any yet but there certainly are a number of toads in the area and probably the back and front yards. Last night they were all croaking along in repetition. Those sounds along with the buzzing of the bee hive make these evening visits enjoyable and long. Usually when I get around to going back in the house my family is wondering where the heck I’ve been as I am always returning close to an hour after I took the dog out for his evening pee.
So go to Jason’s site and learn about toad castles and if you have the material laying around somewhere put it to use. I don’t recommend spending money anywhere to construct these castles. As I am finding out it may be a 50-50 chance for a toad to actually take up residence in them.

How to do your own podcast continued. See Episode 9 for more great links to get you started.

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