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Solar Attic Fans: Cooling Your Home with the Power of the Sun

According to NASA, the temperature on the surface of the sun is 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The core has a toasty temp of roughly 27 million degrees.

With those unimaginable temperatures, it seems the height of irony to use the sun to cool your attic.

With solar attic fans, however, you can have energy-efficient home cooling by using the power of the sun. Thanks to advances in solar technology, this is an innovative, environmentally-friendly way to keep the attic space cool, which can bring greater comfort to your overall home.

solar attic fans

What is a Solar Attic Fan?

Solar attic fans are essentially traditional attic fans that are attached to solar panels instead of the home’s power grid. Attic fans are important for drawing cooler air upwards from within the attic space and releasing the hot air to the outside.

Generally, attic fans are installed on the roof of the home, creating a flow space between the attic and the air outside, above the house. By releasing hot air, an attic fan helps cool the attic temperature and provide ventilation, which in turn can help create cooler temperatures in the living space.

Most attic fans are simply attached to a power outlet, giving the motor the energy it needs to turn the fan blades. Solar attic fans, however, use solar panels to generate their force.

Solar panels are made of photovoltaic cells, which convert sunlight into electricity. They do this by taking particles of light, which are called “photons,” and knocking the electrons free from these particles. This creates an electrical charge that, once properly converted, can be used to power a wide range of mechanical processes. In this case, the process is simply turning the attic fan blades and creating ventilation.

There are many benefits to using a solar attic fan over traditional units. First, they are completely free to use once you have purchased and installed the unit. They don’t draw from the home’s power grid, so they don’t increase your utility bill.

Because there is no wiring to run to the fan, these units can often be easier to install compared to other powered fans. If you hire a professional, the fan can probably be installed in less than 30 minutes.

You may also have the chance to benefit from green-energy tax credits or rebates, which gives another advantage to these popular fans. This is not the case in all areas, (and tax codes often change) so be sure to check your state and local tax codes, or consult a tax accountant to see if you can get a break on your taxes by choosing these items.

More than anything, many home owners prefer solar fans because of the potential for an environmentally-friendly home. Solar power is an eco-friendly source of renewable energy that appears to become more dependable every year. If you are a homeowner who prefers leaving a smaller carbon footprint, you will likely find satisfaction from owning a solar power attic fan.

solar panel installation

Solar Attic Fans: What are the Costs?

It can be very difficult to measure the cost savings because it depends on so many factors, including the cost of the unit, energy prices, available tax credits, and how much you need to use the fan.

While the numbers will inevitably change, we’ll try our best to give you a reasonable estimate of the savings. Also, because credits and rebates are always changing and dependent on where you live, we’ll leave off any tax-related savings for now. (If you get a tax savings, consider it a bonus!)

If you look at Home Depot’s online listings for solar attic fans, you’ll find units priced from about $50 to about $550. (As of October, 2017) However, it appears that the typical price for a quality, mid-range-price unit is about $300. Wired units have a similar price range, but it appears the typical cost is about $150 to $200.

Roof installation of a powered attic fan can be less costly than installing a unit that is attached to the power grid. This is because you won’t have to hire an electrician to run wiring to the unit. This could save you roughly $100 to $200 on installation. Despite the relative savings, you’ll probably spend somewhere between $300 and $600 for professional installation, and the cost will be higher if you have multiple fan units installed.

The price of running the fan is completely free once it’s installed. This makes solar-powered attic fans a long-term investment. Some even come with lifetime warranties, so it could be essentially a one-time purchase.

Compared to powered roof mounted attic fans, you can find significant long-term savings with solar attic fans.

Finally, to further boost your energy savings and cooling ability we suggest also using a whole house fan to improve ventilation within your home and push the hot air into the attic where the attic fan can push it outside.

Using a Solar Attic Fan

So, once you have the solar attic fan installed, what needs to be done to use it?

It turns out they are simple to operate. Using the unit will largely depend on the type of fan you have purchased. Some run automatically, while others have controllers that allow you to turn the fan on and off from the comfort of your living room.

Most, however, will operate automatically to remove the attic heat and keep circulation in the attic flowing.

Learn more about what you should know about attic power ventilators.

Disadvantages of a Solar Attic Fan

The major drawback is their reliance on available sunlight. If it’s cloudy outside, or if it’s nighttime, the solar panel won’t have the power it needs to operate the fan blade.

Although many have a storage battery, a streak of cloudy weather could leave you without an attic fan. (Of course, the attic fan helps remove hot air; if it’s cloudy, it’s likely not as hot, but the point remains.) To overcome this problem, some are attached to the home’s power as a backup.

There is also a concern among some homeowners that solar attic fans may not be as powerful as units attached to the electrical system. This seems like a reasonable complaint, as solar technology is still being developed. However, it looks like most of the solar panels are within the range of 20 to 30 watts.

Installation of the fans can also be dependent on available sunlight. It will have to be installed on the side of the home that receives the best light, and any surrounding trees or other obstacles can reduce the effectiveness of these units. If your home has a lot of blocked light from trees or buildings, you may find that solar attic fans are not preferred.

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