Solar attic fans (aka solar roof vents) are solar-powered vent fans that replace passive square roof vents and electric power attic fans and provide a workable solution.
Hot attic temperatures devastate the life of your roof, your home’s comfort level, and energy costs. With the rising energy costs, you need forward-thinking to manage your costs and the impact of extreme weather.
Solar attic fans and vents are a viable solution to tackling the problems caused by extreme heat inside attics. They are an environmentally clean way to reduce attic heat. Solar attic fans combine the ventilation benefits of a power ventilation fan without electrical wiring. Solar roof vents save about 30% on energy costs and pay for themselves in roughly 3 years.
Insulation is still the best way to improve your home’s energy efficiency. As conversations continue to address ways to reduce carbon footprints, solar attic fan models are becoming an effective way to manage your home’s attic temperatures and reduce strain on your HVAC system or air conditioner.
Here are the best solar attic fan options in homes in our area.
The Remington Solar Attic Fan is our top pick for those that need a solar roof vent that can run day and night. It features a powerful brushless 30-watt motor for quiet operation. It's powered by the sun, so it runs free of electricity costs but has hybrid 110v power to run at night if needed.
The tiltable solar panel allows you to capture more southern sunlight for maximum effectiveness. Not all solar vents offer this feature.
It has a thermostat and humidistat to keep your attic at the perfect temperature and humidity. It's also hail and weather resistant, so you can rest assured that it will stand up to any condition.
Features a 30-day money-back guarantee, a 15-year warranty on the fan, and a 2-year warranty on the 110v adapter.
The 4 Seasons solar roof vent is perfect for keeping your home cool and comfortable all summer. The fan vents up to 400 CFM and cools up to 500 sq feet of attic space. The 10W monocrystalline solar panel provides plenty of power to keep your space cool, and the durable, weatherproof design ensures that it will last for years.
Installation is easy, and the quiet operation means you won't even know it's there. Plus, it comes with a 10-year limited warranty on materials and craftsmanship. Our main drawbacks are that it needs direct sunlight so effectiveness can be reduced in overcast conditions and is not designed for night use.
However, it's a great product and works well in areas that receive lots of direct sunlight.
How Solar Roof Vents Work?
Unlike traditional power roof ventilation fans that use electrical wiring for power, solar roof vents use solar energy to power the fan motor when needed. The built-in humidistat measures attic heat and humidity and signals the brushless motor to turn on. Some can even work in low light conditions, although low light conditions can diminish results depending on the solar attic fan model.
For night use, you’ll need a solar roof fan with a hybrid 110v power adapter that allows you to plug the fan into a standard electrical outlet inside your attic. The 110v power allows the solar fan to operate at night.
Here’s a quick rundown of how solar roof vents work:
Most homes have attics. Attics are the first accumulation point of hot air when temperatures rise. Once the temperatures get past the roof, the heat settles in the attic and can affect the comfort level inside your house.
Heat build-up is not just felt during hot months. There’s a reverse effect during winter, too. The hot air melts snow on the roof, converts snow to ice sheets, and plunges interior temperatures further. The result is an overworked temperature management system and escalating energy bills.
Solar vents are made to mitigate the effects of hot air and circulate that air so your home maintains a normal interior temperature.
Your home has to have installed passive vents. However, these passive vents do not have the pressure to push hot air out of the attic to allow proper air balance. Therefore, a solar roof vent sucks hot air from outside, powers the fan, and creates the pressure that will make the air circulate. The balanced air is then pushed out through the vent.
A solar roof vent won’t work overnight without a hybrid 110v adapter. However, most solar roof vents will work in overcast conditions.
How Many Square Feet Will Solar Roof Vents Vent
The number of square feet a solar roof fan will vent will depend on the solar vent you buy and your attic conditions. Generally, a solar attic fan will vent up to 500 square feet and carry a 400CFM rating.
CFM stands for cubic feet of air movement. The CFM rating on solar attic fans is improving. The fan motors inside solar vent fans are not as powerful as traditional power vent fans, which can cool 700sf to 1000sf. So you’ll likely need two solar fans for your current power ventilation fan.
Replacing a passive box roof vent or turbine vent with a solar vent is a one-for-one exchange.
The Broan-Nutone compact design solar fan has a 537CFM rating and can ventilate up to 3200 cubic feet. The drawback is it lacks an adjustable solar panel.
Broan-NuTone is a brand leader in ventilation fans. The low-profile solar attic fan features a compact design with a 537CFM rating higher than most solar attic fans. At 537CFM, this attic roof fan can vent up to 3200 cubic feet.
Are Solar Roof Vents Worth It?
There is debate about whether or not solar attic fans are worth it or not. Most newer homes with adequate ridge and soffit vents won’t need additional attic vents.
However, older houses and manufactured homes with gable vents, roof mount box vents, turbine vents, or powered vents can benefit from switching to solar-powered attic fans.
If you have sufficient soffit venting, ridge venting is the best option for proper attic ventilation. However, many older homes don’t have any or enough soffit vents. Ridge vents need soffit venting for maximum effectiveness.
Also, a poorly installed ridge vent is ineffective as well. As an inspector, I’ve seen instances where roofers did not allow enough space for the ridge vent to allow hot air to escape. There are also instances where organic debris collects inside the attic from poorly installed ridge venting.
A solar power attic fan is an excellent replacement for a standard box-style roof vent, ugly turbine vent, or old energy-hungry power ventilator fan. They can also work well on roof types like hip roofs where there isn’t enough ridge length for proper ventilation.
Solar roof vents are worth it due to their multiple benefits to a home’s ventilation. Those who bought solar vents can attest to their amazing advantages.
Here’s one review from a happy customer.
Ruth Parks 5.0 out of 5 stars
Great Product for the long haul!
“I had this fan installed in my daughter’s home. It is working well. There is a 30-degree difference from last year to this year in the attic in the summer. Before we had the fan installed, temps in the attic were at 143 degrees in the attic at noon. Temps are now at 115 degrees at the same time of day. With the 25 year warranty added to this fan, I feel we are getting a good product for the money. (P.S.: It cost about $200 to install it from a contractor.) Hope this helps.”
Gable Mount Fan Options
If you live in a home with a gable roof, you likely have gable vents. Many older homes only have gable vents with no other venting, like soffit or ridge venting.
The QuietCool is a solar-powered gable mount attic fan installed inside your attic against the gable vent for proper ventilation. The small solar panel mounts on the roof and powers the fan through a small cable.
It features a 40-watt solar panel connected to an ultra-energy efficient DC motor. Plug the AC/DC inverter into a standard outlet for night operation.
The fully adjustable solar panel has a 60-degree tilt allowing you to collect as much southern sunlight as possible.
When passive vents alone cannot maintain the home’s optimum interior temperatures, solar vents are worth the cost. Once you install the roof vent, you have a system that will serve you all year.
While most of the federal tax credit has expired, you can still benefit from partial federal tax credits. Many states still offer tax credits for installing solar products on homes.
Solar vent fans are also good for venting storage sheds and other small outbuildings.
Let’s explore the pros of solar roof vents and why you need to install them.
Advantages of Solar Roof Vents
1. You’re Using the Direct Sun
Solar is the best choice to make your home comfortable during harsh weather. You are using the sun to fight the effects of the sun. And in places where the sun shines for most of the year, this is a big win.
The sun is a powerful renewable energy source. You can guarantee that your system will always have a comfortable attic in terms of internal temperature as long as your solar roof vent is working at maximum capacity.
The solar roof vent is not hooked up to your electrical setup. Therefore, you are cost-cutting your energy bill to keep your home comfortable.
2. Solar Attic Fans Harness the Power of Sunlight
Solar vents are 100% reliant on the sun’s rays. Open skies and bright sun mean that your solar vent will be working its hardest when it’s hottest outside. However, there’s a dark side to that, too. A slight obstruction means the solar vents also slow down.
While no studies have substantiated these findings, contractors and manufacturers suggest solar attic fans can save as much as 30% on energy costs compared to power ventilator fans. Power ventilator fans, particularly older ones, consume a lot of electricity. Removing old attic fans and installing new solar fans saves on your electricity consumption over the year.
3. You’re Promoting Green Energy
Solar roof vents use the same principle as electrical fans. However, they are using natural resources to save you money. You’re saving money by installing energy equipment that does not increase the need for non-renewable energy sources.
Your home’s electrical HVAC systems are less strained. Since they use less energy, there are fewer emissions to the atmosphere. You contribute positively to reducing the global carbon footprint while keeping your home energy efficient.
4. You Don’t Need an Electrician to Install Solar Vents
Solar vents come as a fully assembled functional unit. All you would need is to know the layout of your attic so you can avoid compromising any support beams. Don’t get it wrong, though. Be prepared to put in work as you cut through the roof.
Your toolbelt will come in handy to secure the vent after you install it. Precision matters. You don’t want any holes left during and after installation. The hole you cut through the roof should be large enough to effortlessly fit the vent and not leave spaces where rainwater can seep through.
However, if you cannot DIY the installation, a qualified professional will be a worthwhile investment.
Some Disadvantages of Solar Attic Fans
- The panel only works at total efficiency when there’s sunlight. Cloud coverage will reduce or completely stop the solar vent.
- Heat gets trapped in the insulation. The attic is still hot by sundown and later into the night.
- During the hottest months, some solar roof vents only move about 800-1000 cubic feet of heat per minute. (CFM). You need to move double that amount to feel any change inside.
- Solar attic fans do not work at night without hybrid power, and their effectiveness is reduced in overcast conditions.
Do Solar Vents Work in Winter?
Ice damming is a real concern for people in northern climates. It occurs when hot attic air melts snow-covered roofs and re-freezes along the eaves and gutters. Water then causes roof leaks that lead to significant structural damage. The best way to combat ice damming is with insulation improvements.
Solar vents can help in winter too. However, you get less impact due to the angle at which the sun’s rays hit the panel. During winter, the sun rises to a shorter degree than in summer.
You can get up to 63.44° angle at midday in summer, meaning the roof is more exposed to the sun. However, the sun’s angle at noon is only about 16.56° in winter.
The decreased exposure reduces the solar vent’s output. The solar attic vent is essential to balancing hot and cool air during winter. The attic during winter is a warm moist place. This makes the house susceptible to mold, mildew, and condensation damage.
The vent exchanges cool dry air from outside with the warm, noisy air inside to keep your attic cooler. The ice on your roof doesn’t melt due to internal roof temperatures, and your home stays damage-free.
If you reside in a cold climate that experiences frequent freezing temperatures, your roof will be covered with snow regularly. You’ll want to ensure your home is airtight and loose-fill blown insulation is R60 or at least 17 inches thick.
In poorly insulated houses, heat generated within the interior ceiling escapes into the attic and warms the roof decking. Even in sub-zero temperatures, your attic may be warmer than the exterior temperature since the sun melts the snow. Problems relating to your attic in winter include:
- It will be challenging to keep your home warm in the winter. Your HVAC system has to work extra hard, causing equipment failure sooner than expected.
- Cold air temperatures can cool the heat as fast as it is produced if your ductwork is located in the attic. This raises your energy costs.
- In poorly insulated houses, heat loss from the interior warms the attic, causing snow on the roof to melt. The water then travels down to the unheated eaves and re-freezes, forming ice dams on the roof and gutters. Ice dams cause damage to your roofing system that can lead to leaks in your home.
What’s the Actual Cost of a Solar Vent?
A quick browse through e-commerce stores such as Amazon will give you a list of well-rated solar vents that cost up to $280. The average cost, according to HomeAdvisor, can vary up to $500 for a pricey unit.
Surprisingly, solar vents are not too capital intensive. The fact that you can DIY the installation could further reduce your costs.
You will also need a roofer to ensure your roof is cut professionally and sealed well afterward.
An electrician’s hourly fee ranges between $60 and $85. Professional roofers charge up to $75 an hour. If you have a carpenter in the work team, costs increase by another $70 per hour. Installation of the solar unit takes approximately two hours. So, you’re looking at a total labor cost of up $500.
How Long Do Solar Roof Vents Last?
Cheaper roof vents will give you about 5 years before they bog you down with repair costs. However, premium units can go up to 15 years with proper maintenance.
You have put in about $500 in unit purchase alone, so you want a solar roof vent that will justify the cost. Some solar roof vents come with a 25-year warranty. Most solar roof vents won’t need too much maintenance. However, you don’t need the hassle of repairing leaky roofs and faulty fans.
How Many Solar Roof Vents Do You Need?
You’ll need about one solar roof vent per 500 square feet of attic space. Other factors like soffit or gable venting and insulation levels will also affect attic ventilation.
And you would need more than that number if your solar roof vents are not properly maintained. When not taken care of properly, solar roof vents won’t last as long as expected.
For an attic space that is 1800 square feet, you’ll need about four solar vents to provide enough air movement.
Ensure the Surrounding Roof Area is Clean
The roof is a collection point for falling branches and leaves. Keep the area clear to prevent accidental clogging in the solar roof vent’s fan blades. If debris gets into the fan blades, the mechanical damage could cost you more in repairs or force you to get a new unit if the damage is severe.
The windy season and the aftermath of storms is a great time to check the roof. Otherwise, debris clearance should be a biannual job.
Inspect for Solar Panel Damage
The solar panels on the solar vents are exposed to taking all sorts of hits. They might get cracked, scratched, or chipped and sustain significant damage. Minor damage reduces the unit’s capacity to operate. If the solar vents are left unchecked for long, they might break down completely.
Periodically check for damages to ensure the unit isn’t taking minor hits that might accumulate and wreck the unit.
Keep the Solar Panel Clean
Dust and pollen might accumulate on the solar panel. The unclear glass might reduce the area exposed to the sun’s rays, lowering the solar attic vent’s ability to operate at 100% efficiency.
Cleaning the surface of the solar panel is straightforward. Wipe with a damp towel until it’s clean. The wet towel should clean anything that’s stuck on the surface.
There isn’t a specific rule about how often you should clean. Still, you will clean more frequently if your area has plenty of dust.
Align the Solar Panel Directly to the Sun’s Exposure
Angle the panel such that the sun’s rays directly and fully impact it. Use the sun to its full advantage, especially in hot weather. Clean any trees that might obstruct the sun.
Control Rodent Damage
Damage is not always exterior. Rodents are notorious for hiding in attics. Rats will chew through wire and fan blades, especially if the fan is not working. Exposed wires put the house at risk if they caused a fire accident.
Make your solar vent rodent-proof from the inside. Place traps near the solar vent to reduce the chances of rats and mice attacking the unit.
Solar Attic Fan FAQs
Do solar attic fans really work?
Yes, the amount of heat removed by a solar attic fan will depend on the fan’s size and the sun’s intensity. In general, you can expect a solar attic fan to remove about 1,500 to 2,000 cubic feet of air per minute.
Do solar attic fans cool your house?
Removing heat from your attic can keep your interior temperature cooler. Solar attic fans don’t directly cool your house but indirectly by removing excess heat from your attic and keeping your air conditioning running efficiently.
Where should a solar attic fan be installed?
A solar attic fan should be installed in a south-facing location that receives direct sunlight for most of the day. The fan will not be effective if it is shaded for part of the day. Additionally, the placement of the fan should be such that it can easily vent hot air out of the attic space.
How many solar attic fans do I need?
The number of solar attic fans you need will depend on the size of your attic and the amount of current ventilation you have. You should have one fan for every 1,500 to 2,000 square feet of attic space.
Do solar attic fans save money?
Solar attic fans can save you money on your energy bills by helping to remove hot air from your attic. This can reduce the amount of work your air conditioner must do to keep your home cool, saving you money on your energy costs. They are a good replacement for old power-ventilation fans or passive box-style roof vents.
Additionally, solar attic fans can help extend your roof’s life by reducing the amount of heat that builds up in your attic.
Solar vents are a worthy investment if you’re replacing passive roof vents that are currently ineffective. While adequate ridge and soffit venting are sufficient for newer homes, older homes face unique attic venting problems that can be corrected by controlling heat with solar attic fans.