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Step away from that booster fan: Your home’s ductwork may have bigger issues

If an HVAC technician recommends a duct booster fan when you have major issues like these going on, it’s a cop out

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    I was driving the other day when I heard an ad on the radio about duct booster fans. I couldn’t help but laugh. On a recent job we did the homeowners was having trouble with their HVAC so they called us in. They’d had an HVAC technician look at it. What was their solution? A duct booster fan. Did it work? No.

    A duct booster fan — most people just call them booster fans — is a device that you can attach to your HVAC system’s ductwork. It’s supposed to increase airflow to rooms in your home that are far away from heating and cooling systems.

    Step away from that booster fan: Your home’s ductwork may have bigger issues Back to video

    That’s why most technicians or homeowners will install them on long stretches of duct. So if you have a room in your house that’s always cold in winter and hot in summer, the idea is that a booster fan can push air to that room.

    The problem is when these devices are used to solve issues that an HVAC pro should fix. For example, let’s say your home’s ductwork or furnace is undersized, or your furnace needs to be replaced or maybe flex line was used instead of proper HVAC ducts.

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    If an HVAC technician recommends a duct booster fan when you have major issues like these going on, it’s a cop out. Some people try to save money this way — it’s cheaper than a new furnace. But that’s a mistake.

    An HVAC pro should examine the entire system and find the deficiency. There could be a disconnection somewhere in your ductwork. Or maybe the seams aren’t properly sealed. It might be that it has nothing to do with your HVAC and actually with your insulation. The point is a booster fan isn’t a one-cure-fits-all solution.

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    Duct booster fans are consumer products — at least in my experience. I don’t remember an HVAC professional using or recommending a duct booster fan on any job I’ve worked on. The only reason you would want to install a booster fan is because the furnace is not blowing air to a specified area. But if you have a new furnace, do you need to install a booster fan? No.

    A booster fan is a good solution if you have a heating run that’s too long. Or if the exhaust venting for the dryer needs to make a long stretch to the exterior. A booster fan will give you that extra push so the air can get to where it needs to go.

    But if you want even distribution of airflow throughout your entire home, then having ductwork with even distribution is what helps. That’s basic and it makes sense.

    Ducts are like the veins of your house. They feed warm and cool air to all the areas in your home. You can’t expect proper airflow to every room if there’s no way of it getting there efficiently.

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    I’ve seen too many homes with 80% of the ductwork on just one side of the house. And then you wonder why some rooms are always cold. The problem isn’t airflow. It’s the ductwork. And if that’s the problem, not even 10 booster fans will make a difference — just a lot of noise.

    Booster fans are loud. They can sound like a jet engine is running in your basement. Some homeowners learn to cope with the noise. They’ll install the fan 20 feet from vents to minimize the sound from travelling. Other people can’t stand it.

    Some people love booster fans. Others think they’re a waste of money. I think you have to be smart.

    Booster fans are inexpensive. You can buy one for something like $60 or $70. I’ve even seen some for $25. Others can cost as much as $300. But like I’ve said a million times, you get what you pay for.

    I can understand why some homeowners opt for a booster fan. When you compare $10,000 to replace ductwork to $60 for a booster fan, it’s no surprise which one most homeowners are going to choose. Not everyone has $10,000 lying around, especially not for something that’s going to be hidden in the walls. But if a booster fan can’t fix the problem, I don’t care if it costs $2. It’s a waste of money.

    Bottom line: The systems in your home should do their jobs. No one said doing it right was easy or cheap. I’ll be the first one to tell you it’s not. That’s why there’s so much crap everywhere. But doing it right is worth it. Why live uncomfortably if you don’t have to?

    Catch Mike Holmes in his new series Holmes Makes It RightTuesdays at 9 p.m. on HGTV. For more information, visit hgtv.ca. For more information on home renovations, visit makeitright.ca.

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    If an HVAC technician recommends a duct booster fan when you have major issues like these going on, it’s a cop out

    How do I size a Radon Fan?

    We often hear customers ask, “what cfm does my radon fan need?” or “how big of a radon fan do I need?”. These are difficult questions. In the HVAC world, fans are always placed on a specified duct size (4″-10″+). Manufacturers can accurately predict how much cfm an inline fan will move in these ducts. However, with radon fans, you’re at the mercy of soil conditions, sub slab fill, suction pit sizing, and much more. Meet the fan curve: Fan curves tell you how much cfm you’re moving at a given resistance or suction (measured in inches of water column pressure). This is why you’ll often hear us ask you for a U tube reading.

    Radon fan sizing can be difficult even for licensed mitigators, not to mention do-it-yourselfers. When sizing a radon fan, there’s only one thing that matters: PRESSURE FIELD EXTENSION. Pressure field extension simply means: how far am I drawing radioactive air from beneath my home? It’s typically determined by taking specific measurements using a suction point and micro-manometer. For the DIYer, these tools are cost-prohibitive. If you want your radon mitigation system done right, always call a licensed, certified radon mitigator.

    In order to estimate your fan size for yourself, you’ll need three things:

    1. Size of the building footprint (in square footage)
    2. Current radon level (long-term test, if possible)
    3. Building type
      • slab on grade
      • basement
      • walkout
      • tri-level or garden level
      • crawlspace, etc.
      • mixed (how many sq ft of each type)

    It is for this reason, that it’s impossible to size a radon fan before the building is completed and a radon level has been established.

    With this information, PDS can help you size a fan by phone.

    PDS’ phone estimations are just that: estimations. Unfortunately, PDS does not take returns on DIY fan installs. Take accurate measurements and be confident in your selection. PDS is here to help. The only folks with a guarantee are radon mitigation professionals performing contracted work.

    Learn how to properly size a radon fan for your home. How much cfm do I need? Understanding pressure field extension and radon levels. What size radon fan