September 03, 2015

Window fans

One nice thing about living in the high desert is that while summer daytime temperatures can climb to 100 degrees (Fahrenheit), they often sink to a comfortable 65-70 degrees at night. Except then the problem is getting the hot air out and the cool air in.

Building codes in the U.S. stipulate wall and ceiling insulation ratings but rarely Whole House Mechanical Ventilation. And in an apartment (especially a forty-year-old one)? Fuhgeddaboudit. Unfortunately, because ventilating an apartment would be easy.

(The air conditioner and refrigerator in mine are as old as the apartment; the hermetically sealed compressor pioneered by General Electric is an amazingly rugged piece of machinery. But they are power hogs.)

When I was a kid back in the prehistoric times, my dad installed a WHMV system in our big baby boomer house. That plus tons of insulation in the attic made a huge difference, and was orders of magnitude cheaper than central air conditioning.

My solution has always been to buy a box fan and attach screws to mount it in the window. The first one was the best, with metal blades that were quiet and didn't turn too fast. They've been plastic ever since and noisier. But the last two really disappointed.

My previous Aerospeed fan wasn't unbearably loud but became steadily unbalanced (like a wobbly wheel). I started hearing what I thought was outside helicopter traffic (not that unusual where I live). It was the fan putting on a convincing ventriloquism act.

Its replacement, an inexpensive Lasko B20301, was well-rated on Walmart. That thing is a screamer, a turboprop ready to take off. I'm sure it'd be fine in a barn or a 2000 square foot house. It was too loud even from the bedroom.

So it was time to get a purpose-built window fan. The top-selling twin fan on Amazon is the Holmes HAWF2021. But the bad reviews (always read those) consistently mentioned the noise, and that made me nervous. I didn't feel like rolling the dice again.

In the reviews, somebody recommended the HDX FW23-A1 as the superior choice. HDX is Home Depot's store brand. Having decided I couldn't live with the Lasko, I took a closer look at the Home Depot listing.

Several reviews mentioned how quiet it was. That sold me. I trundled down to the local Home Depot and picked one up. It truly is the quietest fan I've had so far, and just ten bucks more than the Holmes. Plus, the airflow can be reversed with the flick of a switch.

Granted, it won't blow a gale through your living room; more like a gentle breeze. And in reverse, it's better than the air conditioner.

The accordion expander needs work. You have to play tug-of-war to get it out as far as in the picture. I wish they'd enclosed more than one of the Lego-like expansion "feet" instead. But the gap was easily filled by a piece of foam board.

The one disadvantage is that, unlike my old box fan kludges, when the HDX FW23-A1 isn't on it doesn't let much air through, which minimizes passive airflow. But that also means you don't have to hastily remove it with every change of the weather.

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