Watt, Why & How e-Newsletter

Stay Cool and Save Energy with Solar Attic Fans


Source: www.energy.gov
Solar attic fan
In most homes, the attic is the hottest place to be in the summer. That is because solar heat gain radiates through the roof and lingers there. While you may not spend a whole lot of time in the attic, some of that heat can spread through the rest of your house, making your home less comfortable and more expensive to cool.  


Attic ventilation is a proven strategy for keeping heat from building up in your attic; keeping your home cool and lowering your energy bills. While standard soffit intake and ridge exhaust vents are simple and cost-effective, powered ventilation units can help augment static ventilation in certain situations.

Electric fans use power, however, and they can take a chunk out of the potential savings you could receive by reducing your air-conditioning costs. Solar attic fans are a great alternative; they help to make your home more comfortable on hot summer days, and they are powered by free, renewable energy from the sun. 

Benefits of solar-powered fans

While solar attic fans require a small investment, they provide a number benefits for you and your family:

  • Increased comfort. Attic ventilation prevents heat from building up during the hottest part of the day, keeping your home cooler.
  • Lower energy bills. Solar-powered units cost nothing to operate and lower your cooling costs.
  • Reduced environmental footprint. Solar fans do not use fossil fuels and they help to reduce the energy used for air conditioning.
  • Higher property value. Solar units add green appeal, which can be attractive to potential homebuyers in the future.

Solar attic fans do have drawbacks; their exhaust power is typically less than a conventional electric-powered fan and they do not run at night; potentially leaving trapped air inside the attic. 


How solar attic fans work 

Solar attic fans use a small (typically 10 to 20 watt) solar panel to power a direct-current (DC) motor. The fans run fastest in the middle of the day, when they are needed the most. In the morning, they slowly speed up from a standstill. In the evening, they slow down gradually then come to a standstill at night. Most models come with a thermostat to keep them from running in the winter. 

Solar fans are normally mounted high on the roof, near the ridge. It is best to install them on the south face, where the unit can receive the most sunlight at the right time of day. Also, consider trees, larger buildings or other potential obstructions. For best results, solar-powered fans should be used in conjunction with proper intake and units, such as soffit and gable vents, as well as proper attic sealing. A roofing contractor can usually supply and install the units.

Solar fans cost more to purchase than conventional units. They typically run $400 to $600 retail, compared to an average of $200 for traditional electric-powered vents. However, solar units do not require wiring which can help to reduce the installation cost. And, since there are no operating costs, they more than pay for themselves over the life of the fan.

Work with a contractor to analyze the ventilation system in your attic to determine if solar attic fans would be a cost-effective solution. 

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