Simple whole house fan controller - and maybe the start of a hobby

We have a whole house fan. It does a fantastic job of cooling the house -- better than A/C most of the time.

However, on high it is very noisy. Very noisy. Hard to sleep. It has a variable speed switch (rotary, continuous) so I can turn it on anywhere from high (too noise to sleep) to low (tolerable).

Also, it rarely needs to be run all night. The usual drill is to turn it on as soon as it's under 75F outside and run it until the house is cool. In the middle of summer, this means it needs to run until anywhere from 1 to 3 hours, sometimes a little longer.

On very hot days (for here - it rarely gets over 85F), I will turn it on between 8pm and maybe 11pm on high. When we go to bed, I turn it down to medium or low. Then I get up between 1am and maybe 3am and turn it off altogether.

For years, I have been meaning to put a timer in series with the variable speed switch so that I could set it to run for 1-4 hours and then shut off automatically. The only problem with that is that I would need to cut another hole in the wall for another jbox. Not a big problem, but maybe there's a better way.

I checked around for a combination switch that is both variable speed and timer. Found nothing.

I posted a question over on and someone suggested X10. I looked into X10 many years ago and concluded that it had too many problems. Maybe it's time for another look.

Reading the messages here for the past eyar or so, it looks like there are newer technologies (Z-Wave, ZigBee, Insteon, UPB, etc.). There is appeal to being able to program the fan not only to turn on/off, but also change speed based not only on time, but maybe on temperature as well. And, of course, once I have a "system", I can then program the flood lights, the sprinklers, the thermostat, the Christmas lights, etc.... Hence, a new hobby.

But returning to just the fan, what would you all recommend as a starter system just to control the fan?

First of all, which technology is the most stable and reliable. Cost is not a major factor. Also, I don't mind if it is something of a hobby, but I do NOT want it to become a career. I want it to work well enough that I don't NEED to always be messing with it to keep it working.

Would it require a stand-alone controller, a dedicated computer, or what? I actually do have a spare PC that could be used.

I am also going to install a wireless network soon. Can that be used?

I do NOT want anything that requires Unix. I have Windows systems and want to stay that way.

If I want to just control this fan to get me started, what do I need and where do I get it? I want the fan to have speed control as well as on/off.

Also, are there local contractors I could get to set it up? I am on the San Francisco peninsula (Palo Alto).

Are there consultants (local or not) who could help me decide what to get and walk me through the set up?


PS: The house was built in the 30s and a lot of the wiring is very old. Many outlets do not have ground. The second floor was added in the 80s and is more modern.

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Im currently controlling my bedroom fans (without selectable speeds) using temp feedback to turn them on / off as required....Since im Oz based i use CBUS (hardware) and xPL (PC based)......

One of our xPL Developers has written a plugin for UPB and from his feedback its much more reliable than x10.....His x10 installation worked fine for quite a few years and then started being unreliable ...To use his plugin you are required to install Java 1.5....

xPL is free....check out the links

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There is a plugin for a temp device called TOM10 which allows you to connect up to 10 Dallas Temp Sensors...and can report in C or F....Not sure if this link works ....

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I use my own hardware for temp sensing which also has an xPL Plugin..

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Theres also currently a Z-Wave plugin being developed for xPL as well

HTH Frank

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Frank Mc Alinden

You could use Home Domination too. This can control X10 devices, but you can also use a U401 or U421 device from USBmicro to control things directly. It's helpful to have an electronics background for that though. You can use one pin for hooking one or more 1-Wire temperature sensors from Dallas Semiconductor to it and use other pins to control the fan. With Home Domination, you can have macros based on time of day, or the temperature, or both, and you can control other devices with X10 too if you like (the ones that don't require 100% reliability). You can monitor video cameras too and watch and control everything remotely, have it send status emails, and tons of other things.

If you have any specific questions, please email

Harry Strand StrandControl, LLC

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